Trendy coffee and Lutheran education – a mix getting in the way of heaven?

The following is a brief excerpt from a profound presentation given by Anglican Rev Philip North:

“Why [is the church] struggling so much?

“I want to suggest that the answer is quite a straightforward one. It’s because we have forgotten the poor.

Every effective renewal movement in the whole history of the Church has begun not with the richest and most influential, but with the poor and the marginalised. ‘I have come to proclaim good news to the poor’ Jesus said in the synagogue at Nazareth. How often have you seen those last three words ‘to the poor’ omitted or re-interpreted or spiritualised? But when Jesus said ‘poor’ he meant ‘poor, and he demonstrated that in the way he lived the rest of his life.

In order to found a movement to transform the world, he called not the wealthy, the articulate or the powerful but a ragtag, chaotic bunch of third rate fishermen, busted tax collectors and clapped out rebels. He chose the poor and the weak and the powerless, he chose those who knew their utter dependency on God because they quite literally had nothing else to depend on, and with these keystone cop disciples he blew apart the whole meaning of what it is to be human.”

[Recently, in a poor area of England] it was over two years before the Bishop could appoint [a new priest]. Clergy didn’t want to live in that kind of area, they didn’t want their children educated alongside the poor…”

Click here for the full speech

I love my Lutheran Church and would call no other church my home. But time and time again, I feel that we haven’t taken our call to the live of radical socially just service demonstrated by Christ seriously.

It has been written of our spiritual father, Martin Luther:

“[He argued that] God’s justice is a life-giving justice for all persons regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, social or economic status – a justice that should underpin human relationships and the education of future leaders in society. Indeed, he was among the first of his generation to protest business, banking, and religious practices that favoured the wealthy few and impoverished the many. And yet…Lutheran history is marked by the refusal to heed the ancient call to act with justice, exchanging that more difficult task for charitable endeavours or stoic silence in the face of oppression.”

The schools of the Lutheran Church in Australia originally served marginalised German migrant communities. What made the schools ‘Lutheran’ were the Lutheran students, parents and staff. What made the schools ‘Lutheran’ was the strong desire to preserve German language and culture as well as to educate children in a manner that would uphold and continue Confessional Lutheranism.

When our Lutheran schools  began to be blessed with government funding  in the last quarter or so of the last century, our system grew and took in increasingly large numbers of non-Lutheran families. This too was a blessing and a ministry opportunity.

I can’t help but suspect that as we needed to start attracting families and increasing enrolments we allowed ourselves to focus too much on those things that attract some non-Christian families. I suspect our marketing was more often ‘Come to our school, we’ll set you up for success using our world class facilities’ than ‘Come to our school, we’ll introduce to Christ our saviour who will call you to reject the trappings of our consumerist world and align yourself with the poor.’

The shortage of Lutheran pastors in our church is mirrored in a shortage of Lutheran leaders in our schools. Perhaps in a situation akin to what Rev North writes of above, many of our suburban Lutheran schools serving more affluent families find it easier to find staff than our schools serving more marginalised communities or schools in regional and remote areas.

I recently heard of a primary teaching position being advertised at the same time in our system at two distinctly different schools: School A is in an affluent suburb serving a majority of affluent families while School B is in an area with a high level of socio-economic disadvantage. School A received in excess of 100 applications while School B received 4. There are complex factors at play here but I feel there is a message sitting with these figures.

Rev North put it so well:  “If you feel called to [ministry] we need you in those areas where the trendy coffee shops and artisanal bakers are hard to find…[go] there if you really want to make a difference in Jesus’ name.”

I encourage us as schools of the Lutheran Church to consider the following:

  • How well are we following Christ’s example of care for the poor?
  • How representative of Australian society are our schools? Do our fee structures prevent those families most needing a transformative education from receiving it?
  • What role does a loss of focus on the person and work of Christ have in our increasing difficulty to staff our schools?
  • Are students in Lutheran schools being acculturated into having a Christian responsibility of lifelong service to others?

 

 

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Learn

Learn. Care. Achieve

We learn as a community of learners.

We care for ourselves and each other.

We achieve beyond what we believe possible.

We do all this to give glory to God and serve the world in love.

 

“…only fools despise learning”

Proverbs 1 (Brennen translation)

 

As a community we have developed a new vision statement for the College and it is the outcome of a collaborative approach by students, parents and staff. Our vision is summarised in three simple yet significant words – learn, care, achieve. In chapel this week our community reflected on what it means to learn. We asked ourselves “What makes a good learner?”

Do good learners:

  • Complete all homework?
  • Turn up to class on time?
  • Wear their uniform correctly?
  • Remember their diary?
  • Avoid picking subjects that they find ‘easy’?
  • Have neat handwriting?

While the above are healthy learner habits, they are not the fundamental actions that make good learners. Studies completed by some very gifted researchers, educators, governments and leaders have found that the most crucial action of a successful learner, is the learner themselves expecting to do well. The second most crucial action is the learner listening to and acting on the feedback given from others.

Successful learners may not get ‘A’s all the time, they will make mistakes and they usually don’t ‘get it right’ the first time’ – but they always commit to getting better.

We learn as a community of learners and as such the staff, parents and guardians of the College have a role to play in being successful learners ourselves. We need to model to students our commitment to learning, that making mistakes is ok, and most of all, showing that learning comes from effort, not from being ‘born smart’.

Take a few moments to consider how a child learns to talk, walk and fend for themselves. God created human beings to learn and it is truly an awe inspiring process. Our job is to humbly walk alongside one another and support each other to commit to get better.

Why bother learning? For me, that question is answered in our new vision. We learn so that we may know how to care for each other, ourselves and the wider world. In doing so, we give glory to God and serve his people.

I am excited about a new term at Lakeside College, and I pray that this excitement for learning will be seen across our community.

May God bless our learning community richly this semester.

Blessings

Tom

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Wise advice

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24 – 27

Back in South Australia, my wife and I continue to slowly (very slowly!) renovate and restore our old cottage. I cannot lie – it is a bit of a mess. The roof leaks, the masonry is falling down, the floors are uneven, the mice have well and truly found a comfortable winter home, the skirting boards are broken, you can put your hand through the rotted wooden back walls…and I could go on.
Our friends thought us to be crazy. They said: ‘Why didn’t you a buy a nice new
home in a housing development. You could have had beautiful carpets, lovely
appliances, 5 bedrooms and a pool!” Even the building inspector who compiled a
report for us rang me and said “Mate, I’ve looked at a couple of houses for you now, and I look at houses for a living, I reckon you have rocks in your head if you take this on”.

Our house is in a country town called Langhorne Creek which is situated on a flood plain. The surrounding grape vines survive on regular flooding. In a recent flood however, our house was one of the few houses in the town which was not flooded. Several new houses in the new development in town were inundated by water and severely damaged. All the while, our old ‘wreck’ was high, dry and undamaged.

What our house has is wisdom and firm foundations. It was built in the late 1800s by people who knew where the flood waters went. It was built by people who saw houses as needing to stand for centuries, and not just for the decades that it seems current houses are designed for. It has a proven ‘track record’ – it has stood firm against the world for over 120 years now.

God gave us some pretty helpful instructions as a people. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be jealous, love other people…just to name a few. In my experience, I’ve found my suffering to be caused when I don’t follow the wise advice of God.
In our world today, listening to what God may have to say is seen a bit like my old house. From the outside, it looks old, rundown and irrelevant. When you open the door and have a look, we find how relevant and valuable God’s wisdom is to us today.

If you haven’t had a look before, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and see for
yourself. There is an abundance of solid advice!

May we be open to God’s wisdom and seek to build our house on his foundation.
Let us also not forget that God is with us, even when we ignore his advice, go our own way and find ourselves in rough situations.

Blessings
Tom

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More than words

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am
with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:16-20

When asked what the worst part about being a principal is, I suspect many of my fellow principals would join me in saying, ‘The paperwork!’ I’m pretty sure the students know when I’ve got a large pile to work through as they’ll see an increase in my wandering around classes, seeing what students across the school are getting up to, desperately looking for a reason to not get back to that ever present pile! But try as I might, I cannot escape my duties as a Principal. There are less-than exciting parts of my job that need to be done in order for our school to run smoothly and for students to receive the blessings of a great education.

Being a disciple of Jesus, means to be one that follows his example. Some Christians make this concept far complicated than it needs to be. Put simply, Christians are people that follow Christ and seek to share his teachings with the world.

World affairs this week again highlight that Christ’s message of love, care and compassion to all nations, is one that is sorely needed. Christ’s command written above reminds us to not just be a people who talk about doing the right thing, but to show the world who we are by doing the right thing. My grandmother would often remind me ‘What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular’.

May our community seek to support the young people in our care, to be like Christ, and to seek to share his message of peace, love and mercy with everyone. For in doing so, they become disciples of our Lord. Just like paperwork, this job may not be present, but it needs to be done so that the world may become just a little better each day. This is often not the popular choice, but it is the right one.

Blessings

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Faith

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you…[stand] firm
in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:6-11

Our Business Manager, Chris McMillan, commenced a staff devotion this week with a wonderful question, “What do you have faith in?”
We place our faith in many things both knowingly and unknowingly. When we get in our cars and drive the kids to school or head off to work, we have faith that
our mechanic has ensured that the car is in safe working order. In Australia we have faith that when we go to the tap, stove or light switch, that water, gas and
electricity will flow to provide for our needs.

For Chris, he has faith in his beloved Collingwood while many encourage him to place his faith elsewhere, perhaps in a team of far greater prestige, such as the
Adelaide Crows perhaps…

We are often surrounded by those who encourage us in faith and discourage us in faith. Some encourage us to change the football team we support and others
encourage us to question our belief in the positive capacity of people. In my own past, despite what a misled teacher told my parents, they had faith that despite
being told I would struggle to learn to read and write, that I was indeed capable of doing so.

What do I have faith in? I have faith in a God who grants hope and new beginnings. I have faith in the capacity of young people to change our world’s attitude to our planet and seek to repair the damage already done. I have faith in the ability of all people, regardless of age, to learn new things.

Across the world, Christians are persecuted for their belief in a God who loves all and gives hope to all. Their suffering and refusal to lose the faith in our God, is an inspiration to all.

This week I was blown away by an exhibition of Year 8 artwork based on discarded milk bottles. You can see from the photo what beautiful work one our students did to take something considered ‘rubbish’, see past the encouragement to discard it, and turn it into a work of art. What a wonderful example to us all.

This student had faith in new beginnings. What a blessing to us all.

Blessings

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Plans

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I
am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
-John 14:1-5

As I reflected on this week’s verse, I got to thinking about how amazing it is to be able to plan. I’m not a Zoologist but I suspect that our ability to plan in the short, mid and long term is a skill that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Plans are so commonplace. For instance, I plan to pick up some milk on the way home from school today and then I’ll make dinner. Plans give us a logical set of events that lead us to believe that if all goes well we will achieve an overall outcome.

Plans don’t always go well. Sometimes this is due to the plan not matching with the goal and sometimes this may be due to the plan being poorly executed. I like to think that watching my beloved Adelaide Crows lose pitifully to North Melbourne last weekend was an example of a plan being poorly executed. The Crows game plan led to several wins in a row and suddenly stopped working! What changed?

God has a plan clearly revealed in Jesus’ death. Christ’s resurrection forever restored the relationship between God and humanity. Fixing this relationship was
God’s plan from way back and it was a plan perfectly executed. The problem was that God’s people weren’t, and often still aren’t, completely on board with his plan.

In the reading above Thomas asks a direct question about the plan to clarify his understanding. Thomas was a man that wanted to follow the plan…he just wasn’t
quite sure what it was. So often we forget that God does have a plan for us all. It is a plan that calls us to care for each other in community, to provide for each other, to support and care for each other. Elsewhere in the Bible, God calls this ‘practice for the world to come’.

Christ’s life gives us a perfect model to follow revealed in great detail in the Bible. Among our setbacks, frustration and confusion, let us remember and seek God’s plan for our lives. I find it no accident that often the lowest points of our lives find us furthest from God’s plan.

Blessings

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Hope

“Jesus of Nazareth…was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

-Luke 24:19-21

We all have hopes don’t we? I had hoped to spend a few days of leave over the
holiday break catching up on my reading and enjoying some time with my lovely
wife.

In reality, I spent 4 days spreading 200m2 of mulch to avoid a possible local council fine for a house my wife and I are restoring in South Australia. When I realised that my few days of rest would be taken away from me, my wife can attest, I was little bit of a cranky bear.

I had hopes and they were crushed. I’m sure you’ve had a situation of far greater import when you had hoped events would go a certain way and they didn’t.

In our gospel reading for this week we hear the disciples of Jesus refrain “We had hoped that Jesus would redeem the people.” What they meant was that they were hoping that the Son of God would come to earth, overthrow the rulers of the day and restore God’s justice to the world. They had their hopes crushed.

What they got however was what was really needed. The relationship of humanity with God needed to be restored and that is what Jesus’ death achieved. The mission that he left behind is, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, is to go Father’s business which is, to ensure God’s ministry is carried out – the ministry of love, grace, forgiveness and service.

As it turned out, my 4 days of shovelling mulch turned out to be exactly what I needed. Many hours of simple physical work in God’s beautiful creation allowed a restoration of my soul beyond what I had hoped. Sometimes when our hopes are dashed, we receive a real hope that brings much greater joy. However, it is hard to feel that when you are in the midst of  disappointment, hurt and suffering.

In my role as principal it is core to my work to encourage our community at all times to remember that we are not our mistakes, errors and failures. Schools are in the business of learning and teaching lifelong learning. We believe that things can progress and improve. We believe there is always hope and seek to install this in our students.

As we go into another term, I leave you with a blessing from the Apostle Paul. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15.13

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