05/07/2020

Dear church,

This week we had another wonderful announcement from our state government leaders about the easing of restrictions in various places and ways, but as you might have further heard, unfortunately there was no easing of restrictions for places of worship at this stage. 

Places of worship are still limited to a 20 person limit, or if we seek to adopt the COVID-Safe industry plan, we can have up to 100 persons, but requiring 7 square metres of space per person if we seek to have singing (to give you an idea – St. John’s would only be able to have 31 persons total). The plan also means that there can be no mingling pre or post service, and no morning tea.  

So, in order to foster community (because you can have more persons than is probably practical in your home!) I would like to encourage each of you to gather as you are able, and willing to, in groups (both small and large) to participate in our online worship services. 

Maybe you could reach out to someone who you know is only joining via the phone (which will still be continuing), so that they can see how much of a beard I have grown over this isolation period as you watch together. 😊 

Or gather with those people in your engage group, or your contact group, or invite a friend or neighbour or family member to join you. Maybe you will gather as a group of only a couple, or gather a few families, but as you do, please be mindful of the current government guidelines around physical distancing and continual hygiene for the safety of yourself and our wider community. 

Just because currently we are not gathering together as an physical community in our worship centres, does not make us any less the church, because the church is you and me, the people of God. Which is why we say we don’t ‘go’ to church, but we ‘are’ the church – you are the church! 

So over these coming weeks, I encourage you to continue to be the church, showing Jesus love and grace to those around you and following His call to love God, love others and go and make disciples! 

In time, we will be able to gather together, and I pray, when we do, be able to share stories of people that have come to know Jesus through the Holy Spirit working in and amongst His church (YOU). 


May God Bless you as you continue to be the church! 
Pastor Ben Hentschke

28/06/2020

Dear church,

Prayer is a wonderful and interesting thing, and if you are anything like me (and statistics show a whole lot more people who don’t normally), during this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic you are possibly praying far more than normal.  

I wonder what you might be praying for, and if that has changed over the past few months? 

Initially you might have been praying for the safety, health and wellbeing of your loved ones and those that are close to you. 

You might have been praying for the frontline staff who were having to ‘face’ the crisis head on, many in those initial times without the PPE that was necessary for them to protect themselves. 

Maybe you were praying for wisdom and unity for our church leaders as they prepared for a time where we would not be gathering for Holy Communion, or within our church buildings. 

Whatever those prayers were, maybe they have started to change, as we thank God for the success of our physical distancing measures and ‘lock-down’ protocols and the reduction of community transmission of the disease which mean that I will even be able to join in with thousands of others at the footy this weekend. 

But my hope is that any improvements and changes to your prayer life don’t get lost as we slowly return back to a sense of ‘normal’, because that time in prayer with God helps us to grow in intimacy with our God, our Saviour, our King and builds in us a wonderful spiritual discipline that will help guide us in the future. 

Maybe your prayers will now be directed to our church members as we patiently await for the opportunity to gather again in person; maybe your prayer will be directed to your family, friends, neighbours or co-workers who do not yet know the life, forgiveness and salvation that you have; maybe your prayers will be directed towards the unity and resourcing of our church as we seek to move into the new future paved by this pandemic. 

Whatever the future may hold, can I just encourage you to pray. Because as you through prayer get to more fully know Christ, we can’t help but want to go out and make Christ known, and in these times of uncertainty and anxiety – the message of hope and salvation is needed more than ever.

God Bless you in your ongoing prayer life.

In His service,
Pastor Ben Hentschke

21/06/2020

Dear church,
This week, one of our own, Pastor Roelof celebrated his 40th Birthday!! We pray that he had a wonderful day, and it is truly an honour and privilege to serve alongside of him.

And birthdays are often a time to be still and reflect on what has gone on in the previous year, as we are reminded of God’s hand of blessing working in all and through all to where we are today.

But we also stand on those days looking towards the future, and what God has in store for us to come.

 And if Pastor Roelof was to look back, and not to put words in his mouth, but I imagine that he probably hasn’t had a year like the previous one. Indeed, if any of us were to look back on the first half of 2020, we would say that this is not what we were expecting, let along even thinking about preparing for. I mean, who would have thought that we would be worshipping at Easter from our lounge chairs, maybe some people even in their pyjamas!

But what about the future? What about what is next?

Here we are, still in the middle of a pandemic of COVID-19, and we are wondering what might the second half of the year bring for us?

 Each person will have made sense of the first half of the year from a position of your own narrative. So the reminder of the past two weeks to ‘Be Still & Know’ is an opportunity for each of us to reflect and look forward, and maybe ask ourselves questions like: 

What have been the positives over the past few months?

  • What have we missed?
  • What are some things that have stopped happening, that we don’t mind have stopped happening?
  • What are some things that we think need to happen in the future?
  • Are there ways we can continue to connect with our local community?
  • How can we use this opportunity to love God, love our neighbour and go and make disciples?

As you are still, and spend time reflecting on the past, and looking forward to the future, know that Christ has been, and will continue to be with you no matter what has been, and no matter what comes next for you individually, or for us as a church community, and I look forward to embracing (in every sense of the word) that future that God has in store for us together.

In His service,
Pastor Ben Hentschke

14/06/2020

I would love to share some wonderful treasures I have come across as I have been reading a book by one of my favourite authors, David Platt, called “Radical Together”. David points again to a significant, and foundational, truth of Christianity and then goes on to address another significant yet often lost implication of this most amazing truth.
 
Most wonderful truth: I would like you to remind you of the beauty of the gospel. That God so loved you that, despite your hopeless state of sin, he sent his Son to live the life you could not live and bore the penalty of your sin in his death. He took your place and your punishment, dying the death you deserved. Then he rose from the grave in victory over sin to give you, completely free with no terms and conditions, a new eternal life beginning as a new radical life now. What this means is that the starting point of this new radical life is your radical death in Christ through baptism – death to yourself and death to your every attempt to do enough for and before God.
 
In short, the gospel has saved you from your work, and you are free to overcome your guilt before God. You can stop working on your eternal life and start believing that God has gifted it to you.
 
Often lost or missed implication: The gospel that saved us from work also saved us to work. Right after Paul identifies salvation alone by grace alone through faith alone, he says that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” You no longer live to “impress God by works” but because of His amazingly selfless and radical gift of new life you now live “so impressed by God” that it leads to selfless living (or works of love) for those around you.
 
The reality is that when you are saved and believe in Christ alone for salvation, you not only are declared right before God as Father, but you also begin to walk with God as friend. In addition to new birth, Jesus also gives you new life: a life of joyful obedience and overflowing love. This is not “servant” language…this is “family” language. This is the language of discipleship. This is the life of a disciple of Christ. This is the life of the family of God.
 
May the God who has graciously given faith to you, begin to produce radical fruit from you as you gather regularly, maybe online for now, to be discipled and as you disciple others through your acts of love.

Pastor Roelof

07/06/20

Hi Church,

This week I had planned to be in Toowoomba, probably not enjoying the cold, but enjoying the company of fellow pastors and members from across the Queensland District of the Lutheran Church at our annual District Convention of Synod. 

Like many of you, this is just one of many ‘holidays’ or ‘trips’ that have had to be missed, postponed or cancelled all-together. While grateful that we are now able to travel freely within our state, it still leaves us with a sense of loss for those trips missed, and depending on your next steps, a time of waiting to go on those trips again.

I read an article last week where the writer longed for ‘precedented times’. We constantly are referring to the time we are in as ‘unprecedented’, and we long to go back to some sort of normal. And it appears we are on our way back there – but it is still going to take some time.

And this common bond that so many of us have to ‘go back to normal’ is what binds us together. Even relatively friendly strangers will share with you how they want things to go back to the way they were.

This week we are blessed to have Bishop Paul Smith share with us something else that binds us together. 

And that is our common baptism. The Sunday after Pentecost is ‘Trinity Sunday’ the day where the Pastor traditionally tries to explain the Trinity to the church in such a way that is not heretical, but allow people to understand the Godhead as ‘Three-in-one’. And one of the common expressions of the Trinity that we find is in the waters of baptism, as we baptise people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (The Trinity). 

And so Paul reminds us of something else we have together, for those who are a part of God’s Family, how we share a common Baptism in the Triune God, a bond in water (and God’s Word) that brings about unity and faith.

While I long for a ‘return to normal’, I continue to be amazed and excited about how God continues to work in and through His people. Because while worship and gathering corporately is an important part of our journey as a family of baptised believers in Jesus, it is as the church (the people) that we go out into our families, our neighbourhoods and our communities to serve others, love others, and to share Christ with them, that they to are led to baptism, and join in a bond that is ‘thicker than blood’.

God be with you and guide you this week,

Pastor Ben Hentschke

31/05/2020

Hi Church,

The classical concept of mission has been from God through the church to the world. 

Ed Stetzer puts it this way: “God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit to give guidance and strength to His people, to confirm in their hearts that they belong to Him. The Spirit gathers those who believe in Jesus into churches as the body of Christ that they may be one as God is one. The unifying work of the Spirit helps the members of the body become more like their Head—Jesus Christ.

If the Father sent the Son, and they sent the Spirit, then the one God is by nature a sending God. And if the church is to reflect her Head, then the body also will be sent, and indeed she is. Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). The church has been sent on a mission to “announce the gospel of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). This is what we do because it reflects who we are, and who we are reflects the One who made us — ‘The God Who Sends’.”

In a nutshell – our God is a sending God, and if we are to reflect our sending God (who we remember especially as we celebrate this Pentecost, that he sent His Holy Spirit), then we are also to realise that we are sent people!

Right now, many of you can see how essential churches are in communities. It is not the building is not important – it’s just another building (and these buildings have now been vacant for months). It is the church, the body of Christ with the message of hope, love, grace, peace, forgiveness, the Gospel – that is essential in our communities at this time. 

The church (you) are the missional agency in our community, and now is the time for us to be that in the most unprecedented ways both now and also as we move forward into whatever the future may hold for us as a society. 

My prayer is that as we seek to have a renewed missional focus, that we will be sure that we each see our part in the work of our sending God in this world, and what that means for us, as we seek to be the hands, feet and mouthpiece of God to those around us.

God Bless you as you are sent with the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Ben Hentschke

24/05/2020

Hi Church,

I’m not sure about you, but one thing I seem to have noticed more during these past few months is bird noise. I notice it on my morning and evening walks, and there was even a press event I was listening to on the ABC, where it was hard to hear the politician because of the bird’s chatter and song in the background.
After some actual research, apparently the birds are seeming to sing more loudly because the ambient noise of a normally busy population is currently lessened. Because we are quieter, we can more clearly hear God’s creation sing.

I think it is an important reminder for us, that as we face new situations each and every day, that we do so with an openness to listen. I remember growing up my mum always said that I have 2x ears and 1x mouth and I should use them in proportion. But how well do we listen to God speaking to us through His Word, through His Spirit and through others? Maybe it is helpful for us to be slowing down and spending time listening to God’s creation, and God himself.

The research also makes me think of the ‘noise’ that we might contribute to the world around us. Sometimes it might be the ‘good noise’ of the Gospel being spread to those around us, but so often we spread the bad noise of conflict, division, arrogance, hypocrisy or personal kingdom-building. But I think all that does it make it harder for the Gospel to be heard when we do speak it. 

Creation may be singing of God’s glory (through the birds), but our job is still to tell the story of Jesus and His life, death and resurrection to others, and in the days we are in, it is even more important that this is the message that we share. I believe that sharing the gospel (and much of our faith life) is easy when everything is going well, but when we are in the darker parts of our lives, that is when our trust and faith in God are all the more authentic and powerful, and when people will be more open to listen to the message we have, as we sing God’s praises.

Maybe you, like me, have been drawn to a number of ‘virtual choirs’ that have been formed and sung. My ongoing prayer is that those voices will continue to sing even more loudly into the future as we even out-sing the birds around us sharing the
Good News of Jesus!

Have a blessed week ahead, singing God’s praises!

Pastor Ben Hentschke

17/05/2020

Hi Church,

On Friday last week, our Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined a way forward for our country to begin easing restrictions following the lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Premier reiterated this easing of restrictions, and the QLD Government have also produced a roadmap to easing restrictions as our strong health response so far to COVID-19 means that we are well positioned for recovery.

One of the things you may have noted in this roadmap is that in Stage 2 (proposed to begin from the 15th May) there could be gatherings of people in places of worship.

There is also planned continued easing of restrictions planned for after that also – with the potential of gatherings up to a maximum of 100 persons in early July!

But this easing comes with a few specific instructions. Physical distancing needs to be maintained (ie. We keep at least 1.5m apart from others, no handshakes/hugging etc.), we allow 4 square metres per person when indoors and ensure good hand & respiratory hygiene and cleaning practices are maintained.

As much as I would love to gather back in worship again with you, at this stage, we continue to stay patient and follow the instructions of our government to ensure that when we do gather, we do so safely and in a way that ensures the health and protection of our most vulnerable members.

We are in the process of establishing a team that will help lead us to transition back towards physical worship, and so please look out for further communication over the coming weeks.

I believe that our corporate worship life is going to continue to look different for some time yet to come, but I ask that you please keep myself and our Leadership Team in your prayers as we seek to show that we are a place, a people, ‘where love comes to life’ by keeping the whole health and safety of our community at the forefront of all that we do.

Pastor Ben Hentschke

10/05/2020

Hi Church,

This weekend is Mother’s Day and it is a special time to remember the women in our life who have blessed us!
I know that I have an amazing mum, through who her passing on of the faith to me has led me to where I am today, and for that I will always be truly thankful.
But maybe this is a time to question who it might be that you are passing your faith onto or sharing your faith with?
In a time in our world where people are searching and reaching and looking for hope more than ever before have you taken the opportunity and followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to share about the life, forgiveness, salvation and HOPE that you have in Jesus with someone else?
Often the place that this is done is in the family unit, but depending on our relationships with those in our family, maybe this could be the hardest place to do it.
Does that mean we should stop, give up and not bother trying? I would suggest that maybe our eternity, and the eternity of those who we love matters more than that!
But always remember that people are not going to care about what you know, until they know how much you care. So following the example of Jesus, care for those people around you. Those in your family, those in your neighbourhood, your work colleagues, your friends and others. Care for them, but care for them so much that at some point you share with them the eternal hope that you have in Jesus so that they don’t have to live in a spirit of fear or timidity, and instead can know Christ and live as a son or daughter of the King.
This weekend I have asked Danielle Robinson to share with us again. Many of you might remember when she joined us last year to share, and it is great to have a mother sharing God’s Word with us on Mother’s Day.
So again, a happy and blessed Mother’s Day to all the mums, and I pray that you care enough to share the good news of Jesus with someone else this week.

Pastor Ben Hentschke

03/05/2020

Hi Church,

One of the many things that the COVID-19 Pandemic has taught us is that the church is not somewhere we go, but the church is who we are.

As a church, our call is to step up to serve our community during this fearful time of unprecedented disruptions and long-term lockdowns. We want to show the world what it means to BE the church, because the call to serve and love our neighbours remains amidst any and all chaos and crisis.

Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry reminding us of the importance of service, and he didn’t include many caveats. In fact, you could easily argue that the call to serve during a crisis carries even more weight, which just means we need to be a bit creative.

What might that look like? Supporting local businesses, continuing to give generously, checking-in on your community, celebrating those around you and making the most of your outings: See a need, meet a need. 

I am thankful to the amazing volunteers who have taken our Bargain Shop and Caring Corner ‘online’ as www.ipswichthrift.store so that even though the stores might be physically closed, we are still able to provide this service to our community via online order and socially distanced pickup facilities! WOW!

Thank you to the over 20 people that made this possible!

Everyone is coping with this crisis differently. Some are going crazy and trying not to over-function, while others are struggling to get out of bed. So let’s be gentle with each other, and remember there is no perfect way to survive a crisis, we are all walking through it together.

But staying safe during the pandemic doesn’t have to make us selfish. Let’s continue to be people (the church) who look for continued opportunities to serve. Let’s be the church to our community and show that we are a people ‘where love comes to life’.

Pastor Ben Hentschke