24/10/2021

From the Parish Chair
 
At the September meeting of the Parish Council, I (Carolyn Ehrlich) was elected to the position of Parish chair. I am new to this role and new to most things administrative in churches. This is both a blessing and a challenge. I believe that it is a blessing because I do not know about the traditional/standard/accepted ways of doing things. I believe it is a challenge because I do not know about the traditional/standard/accepted ways of doing things. I can tell you that I do feel that Holy Spirit has called me to do this work. I can also tell you that some of you will feel that I am not doing things the way that I should or ought to be. I am relying on God and on your prayers to guide the actions that I take and that we take as a Parish Council so that we, the Ipswich Lutheran Church can, and do, do that work that God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Some of you know some things about me, many of you will not know me at all. I am the wife of Wayne, the mother of Darren and Mitchell, mother-in-law of Aimee (Darren’s partner), and Dani (Mitch’s wife) and grandmother of Phoebe (Mitch and Dani’s precious miracle). I grew up at Downfall Creek, near Guluguba, which is down the road from Giligulgul and Gurulmundi, and just before Wabbigul. More generally, it is between Miles and Wandoan on the Leichhardt Highway. I was a Stiller (and yes, I am related to Lee for those that know her, and more distantly related to Neil and Keith) and am the oldest of 10 children. My professional background is nursing, although I have not worked clinically since about 2005. I currently work in research at Griffith University.

For a long time, I was a lapsed Lutheran. But about 5 years ago, God started to call me back to His fold (or I started to hear Him calling me back, which is probably more accurate). I would sometimes walk past St Johns on a Sunday morning and wonder what would happen if I just happened to wander into the church (sweaty from walking up the hills around that area and in my exercise gear – you will notice that I am not that fit anymore). About 3 years ago God’s call was greater than my reluctance. I came back into Bethany – primarily because the service time seemed to fit better with my routine. I like a traditional service as much as a contemporary service. I could just as easily be a member of St John’s as Bethany – my apologies to Grace. I do know that I love our Lord, but no where near as much as He loves me. I am grateful that our Good Shepherd looks after His sheep. I am ever so thankful that Jesus came looking for me.

I am acutely aware that there are challenges ahead. I know that I will not get things right all, or even most, of the time. If I do not follow God’s direction and lead, I will definitely not get things right. I do want to hear what people have to say about where we are going as a Parish. I am willing to listen to solutions and things that we can do to build a unified church. I am not willing to listen to things that divide God’s people and His church.

If you need, or would like to contact me, email or text message is best. I am still working. I currently work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for the University and will not be able to attend to Parish matters (unless extremely urgent), during those times. If you do want to contact me, then chair@ipswich.church is the best way to do that. If you would like to text me, then 0439 622 852 is my personal mobile number. I do ask that you please respect my work times – this mobile number is also the number that I use for work, so I do ask that do not call me during those times.

Carolyn Ehrlich
Parish Chairperson

17/10/2021

Reading the Bible In Context
When I was in college, my friends and lecturers would sometimes joke that I was a ‘Contextual Christian’. The reason that they said this was that for nearly every discussion, essay or post that we did, I would raise the topic of historical and cultural context. For years now I have enjoyed learning about biblical history; I find it brings the world and characters of the Bible to life in my mind, I can understand the people and the messages of the Bible so much more clearly when I can understand the world that existed around them. I also like to understand the lens that we interpret the Bible through. I found an article this week that summarised and explained why historical context is so important, and I thought that it was worth sharing with all of you.
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Context is the way God gave us the Bible, one book at a time. The first readers of Mark could not flip over to Revelation to help them understand Mark; Revelation had not been written yet. The first readers of Galatians did not have a copy of the letter Paul wrote to Rome to help them understand it. These first readers did share some common information with the author outside the book they received.

We’ll call this shared information ‘background’: some knowledge of the culture, earlier biblical history, and so on. But they had, most importantly, the individual book of the Bible that was in front of them. Therefore we can be confident that the writers of the Bible included enough within each book of the Bible to help the readers understand that book of the Bible without referring to information they lacked. For that reason, context is the most important academic key to Bible interpretation.

Often popular ministers today quote various isolated verses they have memorized, even though this means that they will usually leave 99% of the Bible’s verses unpreached. One seemingly well-educated person told a Bible teacher that she thought the purpose of having a Bible was to look up the verses the minister quoted in church! But the Bible is not a collection of people’s favourite verses with a lot of blank space in between. Using verses out of context one could ‘prove’ almost anything about God or justify almost any kind of behaviour–as history testifies. People have misused the Bible to justify genocide, slavery, racism, child abuse… really any number of things that we would today agree is not what Christians are now called to do and be. But in the Bible God revealed Himself in His acts in history, through the inspired records of those acts and the inspired wisdom of His servants addressing specific situations. He took the imperfect world that people lived in and gave them guidance on doing better, being better within their times. We say that we live in a broken world today, but so did they.

People in our culture now value everything ‘instant’: from two-minute noodles to fast food to schemes like Afterpay and so forth. Similarly, we too often take short-cuts to understanding the Bible by quoting random verses or assuming that others who taught us have understood them correctly. When we do so, we fail to be diligent in seeking God’s Word (Proverbs 2:2-5; 4:7; 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:15).

One prominent minister in the U.S., Jim Bakker, was so busy with his ministry to millions of people that he did not make time to study Scripture carefully in context. He trusted that his friends whose teachings he helped promote surely had done so. Later, when his ministry collapsed, he spent many hours honestly searching the Scriptures and realized to his horror that on some points Jesus’ teachings, understood in context, meant the exact opposite of what he and his friends had been teaching! It is never safe to simply depend on what someone else claims that God says (1 Kings 13:15-26). Hear what others have to say, their understanding can help inform your own. We can learn from other people, but don’t just assume that their knowledge (or your own) is completely correct. Always keep learning. It’s okay to admit that you were wrong about something and change your mind because you have learned something new. It’s called growth. We do the best we can with the information we have.

I discovered this for myself when, as a young Christian, I began reading through the whole Bible, repeatedly. I was shocked to discover how much Scripture I had essentially ignored between the verses I had memorized, and how carefully the intervening text connected those verses. I had been missing so much, simply using the Bible to defend what I already believed! After one begins reading the Bible a book at a time, one quickly recognizes that verses isolated from their context nearly always mean something different when read in context.

We cannot, in fact, even pretend to make sense of most verses without reading their context. Isolating verses from their context without attempting to understand them, or to justify our pre-determined beliefs disrespects the authority of Scripture, because this method of interpretation cannot be consistently applied to the whole of Scripture. It picks verses that seem to make sense on their own, but most of the rest of the Bible is left over when it is done, incapable of being used the same way. Preaching and teaching the Bible the way it invites us to interpret it (in its original context), both explains the Bible accurately and provides our hearers a good example how they can learn the Bible better for themselves.

If we read any other book, we would not simply take an isolated statement in the middle of the book and ignore the surrounding statements that help us understand the reason for that statement. If we hand a storybook to a child already learning how to read, the child would probably start reading at the beginning. That people so often read the Bible out of context is not because it comes naturally to us, but because we have been taught to read books beginning to end, except when it comes to the books of the Bible. We read almost everything else as a whole, but with the most important text we’ll ever read, we think the parts that are quotable are the only parts that matter.

Many contradictions some readers claim to find in the Bible arise simply from ignoring the context of the passages they cite, jumping from one text to another without taking the time to first understand each text on its own terms. To develop an example offered above, when Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Romans 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Romans 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined.
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So, a fun activity for you this week. Try to read the Bible without going in and assuming what it means from what you have learned. If a verse doesn’t make sense, don’t just skip it until you find a nice quotable one. Do some research, try to find out if you’re missing something that could help you understand. And if you think you understand it well, research the verses you think you know, find out about the world that they were written in. You will find that your understanding of the Bible may not only deepen, but maybe even change.

Introduction, conclusion and edits by: Lauren Mead
Sourced from: Dr. Craig Keener, The importance of context in Bible study, viewed 15 October 2021,
https://craigkeener.com/the-importance-of-context-in-bible-study/

10/10/2021

Christianity and the Environment
If you didn’t already know, I’m an environmentalist. I don’t pretend that I’m perfect at this, or that it’s something that everyone is passionate about. I don’t judge people for forming different opinions of these things to me, or think that my behaviour is inherently better than others. When people hear that I believe in a cause, I often find that a lot of varying assumptions can be made about what that means. Or they think because I believe in one thing, it is mutually exclusive to other beliefs. I once told someone that I was a vegetarian, and they looked at me and said, ‘But I thought you said you were a Christian?’

It got me thinking that maybe it would be fun to write about how a belief such as this can stem from Christianity. The Bible can be interpreted in many ways, but as Christians our worldview is largely shaped by our interpretation, and the teachings of our church and the Christians around us.

Since just about the beginning, human beings existence has been intricately entwined with the environment. If you’ve read through the creation story, you will have read through this passage:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”… God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:26+28-30)

This passage is, you will find, fundamental to most Christians who are also passionate about the environment. I see caring for the world around me – people, animals, nature – as an expression of my faith. In this passage, some translations use the word ‘responsibility’ in place of the concepts of authority and ruling over. In some ways, this word provides a more nuanced understanding of the relationship we have with the environment. We have been given the ability and authority to use the earth, to eat food from it and live in it, produce other goods. But we have also been given the responsibility to take care of it, to not act in ways that will do it harm.

I’m not saying that this is easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I could do more. Has anyone ever tried to buy spinach not contained in single use plastic? It’s hard to find and inexplicably twice the price, something that both time and money mean that I just can’t justify. And we’re in a global pandemic… having single use items is incredibly useful, as we don’t need to worry about whether items have been sterilised properly before use.

What I do believe in is making positive changes where possible. For me, I choose one thing each month that seems doable for my household, and make a small change that either has a positive impact or reduces the negative impact. Some of the easiest changes I have made include: 
– switching to biodegradable/recycled plastic bin liners
– choosing an ethical supplier of eggs (as opposed to buying the cheapest caged eggs).- using reusable silicon zip lock bags and plate covers (instead of disposable cling wrap)
– using washable bamboo cleaning cloths for my dishes and other cleaning (these cloths are white, and I can clean up after spilling tomato based pasta sauce and the colour rinses out completely, they look so much better than the blue cloths and they can just be thrown in with other laundry)
– using home-made or tablet cleaning products (so many recipes for home made cleaners online, or there are now versions of traditional cleaning products that come as a tablet that you dissolve in water in a re-usable container. It saves the transport of larger heavier bottles and single-use plastic containers)
– changing toothbrushes to bamboo or biodegradable corn-starch toothbrush (I don’t like the feel of the bamboo for a toothbrush, but they make ones that feel like plastic but are instead made of corn-starch, and Woolworths even now sells them!)
– which toilet paper, tissues and paper towels we buy (made from recycled materials/bamboo, which grows faster and can be produced more sustainably);

When we made each of these changes, it was odd at first, washing re-usable silicon rather than just throwing the cling wrap away. But eventually it became normal. And not all the changes have worked… reusable paper-towels (more like a thin absorbent cloth you can throw in the wash) are great in theory, and I’m sure that they work for food spills. But not so much for cleaning up after cats…

What started me thinking about this was an email that I got this week. I subscribe to a newsletter that sends out positive things that have happened in environmental news, and I read about Victoria’s ban on helium balloon releases and the ‘Blow Bubbles, Not Balloons!’ campaign (if you would like to read this article, please click here). Despite the environmental impact of releasing balloons, it’s not something that I had known about before. Because of this, I thought that I would share a little bit about what I have learned about and changed in the past two years, and how my faith was the starting point for this journey.

I hope that some of you will consider if there are things that you could change to have a more positive impact on the environment. Change can be annoying at first, but eventually it becomes part of normal life – like when single use bags were removed from stores. With so many issues it can be hard to know how to help or where to start. But it’s not too difficult to spot ways that we can make choices that are good for the earth that we were given.

Author: Lauren Mead

03/10/2021

Hi Church,

As you may know, Pastor Roelof has been away on leave this week, and he has given me the opportunity to write this section of The Pulse. So I wanted to take this chance to write about something I have been thinking about recently… forgiveness.

It’s a topic that comes up regularly at church. At this point I think we all know that God forgives us, and we are called to forgive others. Both are concepts that I have struggled with at times, but neither is what I want to write about right now. I want to talk about forgiving yourself.

You see, when someone does something that hurts me, I have no trouble believing that I should forgive them. It can take me time to get to that point, to move through the hurt and forgive, but I can usually get there within a reasonable amount of time.

And when I do something wrong, I know that God forgives me. And more often than not, when I have hurt someone else and apologised, they have accepted the apology.

But this is where I get stuck. I replay over and over what I have done, what I should have done differently. If I forget something, I tell myself that I should have written it down, set an alarm, done something to make sure that I remember. If I say something that hurts someone, I replay what I said over and over, wondering why I couldn’t have phrased it differently, or held back words said in the heat of the moment.

Even things that don’t make sense… I struggle to call people, because I worry that I will interrupt something important, or take up their time. I worry that this action is a misstep, and so I avoid it. It’s an ironic problem to have given the work I do, but irrational though it may be, it’s in my head.

The thing is, I don’t hold other people to the same standard that I hold myself. It’s good that I know that others won’t be perfect and don’t expect them to be. It’s good that I can forgive them. What isn’t good is that I don’t give myself the same courtesy… really, I don’t allow myself the same grace.

Possibly one of the most well known verses (after John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11) would be Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

You will often hear variations of ‘love your neighbour’. The part that gets left out is the ending… ‘as yourself.’ I think that Jesus said it this way for a reason. Loving yourself matters.

It isn’t good, healthy or helpful to anyone for me to expect perfection of myself, and then punish myself when I fall short of an impossible standard. If God loves me enough to extend grace to me, should I not honour that by allowing myself to be imperfect, make mistakes, and have that be okay?

I don’t have some quick fix on how to cope with this. It’s something that I’ve been aware of for years, and have to continuously work at. It’s a problem more some days than others. What helps most times is stepping back. If this happened the other way around, if the person I hurt hurt me, would I be able to forgive and move on? Or if this happened to another person, what would be a reasonable course of action?

By taking myself out of the equation, it helps me see perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I can still get caught in a loop of blame and guilt over any mistake, big or small. But taking a step back and slowing down can help.

So, what I would like to say is ultimately this. Love yourself as you would your neighbour. 

Bye for now…
Lauren