Jan - June 2017, DistrictThe Study of the Main Theme
and 3 Sub-ThemesSalvation - Not for saleHuman beings - Not for saleCreation - Not for sale
22-23 July 2017
Johann Sebastian Bach :
B Minor Mass Concerttime ：7.30pm
venue：Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya
25-27 Aug - 28 Oct 2017Christian Spiritual Painting Exhibitiontime ：9.00am - 5.00pmvenue：Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya
21 Sep 2017Joint Seminar (Roman Catholic & LCM)From Conflict to Communiontime ：to be advisedvenue：Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya
28 October 2017Common Prayer - From conflict toCommunion Combined
Prayer Servicetime ：2.30pm - 4.30pm
venue：Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya
Liberated by God's Grace
Theme of the Assembly
The Assembly will gather around the central theme, Liberated by God’s Grace. This theme also frames the LWF’s approach to the 500th anniversary of Lutheran Reformation in 2017. It articulates two pivotal insights of Lutheran theology: the prevalence of God’s grace when it comes to justification, and the gift of freedom that results from God’s transformative action.
Liberated by God’s Grace is the overarching theological key, highlighting the concept of the freedom of the Christian which was so important to Martin Luther and is relevant at all times.
These words go to the heart of Jesus' gospel and to the soul of the Lutheran Reformation. They are linked to Luther’s insight that helped trigger the Reformation – that Christians attain salvation only by the grace of God. We call this justification by faith alone.
The theme tells us that the gracious love of God, through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, opens up opportunities for us as faithful Christians to reach out as healers and as people able to reconcile to a world torn apart by strife and inequality.
So, we are liberated by God’s grace. But from what? For what? Your response will reflect the reality of life where you live, but we believe we are called to be responsible citizens in God’s world and good steward’s of God’s creation. We are freed by the grace of God to engage in this Christian ministry.
Read the Reformation booklet, Liberated by God's Grace Salvation, Human Beings and Creation - Not for Sale
Taking the central theme as the starting point, the Assembly will structure its work around three sub-themes:
Salvation - Not for sale
Human beings - Not for sale
Creation - Not for sale
The threefold “not for sale” captures a key insight that triggered Luther’s public opposition to ecclesial practices of his time. Unbeknown even to Luther himself, his powerful enunciation of protest – that grace is a gift and not a good that can be exchanged for money – paved the way for the emergence of the Reformation movement.
By focusing on the three sub-themes the Assembly will offer a space to critically reflect on the attempts to subjugate, control and trade what ultimately cannot be defined as commodities - salvation, human beings, creation - and should therefore never be subjected to trade or monetarism. Hence, the emphasis will be on a contemporary reflection and articulation of the core insight that the Reformation offers to the world today.
Three sub-themes address the contextual challenges the Christian community faces in today’s world. They help to identify certain concepts, attitudes and global policies that people “liberated by God’s grace” reject since they are incompatible with the gospel.
Salvation - not for sale
The gift of salvation confronts not only the pride that assumes God’s gifts can be acquired for personal status, but also the deceiving spirit seeking such free gifts for egoistic purposes.
When Simon, a magician from Samaria, heard the gospel and believed in the preaching of Peter and John, he was baptized and followed them (Act 8:14-23). He however he felt compelled to pay them some money so that he could participate fully into the life of salvation; “he offered them money,19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” To this Peter answered harshly, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money.”
Was Simon of Samaria not grateful that he had just been delivered from the bondage of the demonic oppression and could now live a free life? Or was his past public life, characterized by being appreciated and honored as a “great” person, still dominating how he understood himself? In other words, salvation for him did not mean total surrender, dependence and trust but only a means towards further self-exaltation? Is it this that really constituted the demonic from which Simon of Samaria needed salvation?
Indeed, the gift of salvation confronts not only the pride that assumes that the gifts of God can be acquired into one’s personal social, economic and political status. Salvation also confronts the deceiving spirit that seeks to receive the free gifts of God for egoistic purposes. Such egoism can manifest itself in many self-centered agendas accomplished as if for or in the name of Christ. Salvation that is totally dependent on the accomplished act of Christ has its beginning and end in John’s confession about Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). That this salvation is not for sale does not mean it is cheap; for “you were bought with a price…” (1 Cor 6:20) in order to be free from all forms of slavery (1 Cor 7:23).
Human Beings – Not for Sale
Seeing in the stranger a gifted person and ‘a gift for me’ makes dignity possible and holds others in great value.
“Human beings not for sale” brings to mind the strange and sad history that accompanied humanity from early times; the broken condition in which one took power from the other by degrading their living conditions and denying them the same rights and opportunities as others. Failure to respect the dignity of other human beings makes them appear as objects; as something that has a value, but a value related to financial and commercial purposes, which might result in exploitation. With this view of other human beings the community is no longer complete.
The image of God works as lenses that once and again help to restore the value of people but it also sets in struggles. These are struggles and fights to alleviate the condition of human beings who are treated as non-humans (bruta animalia or infidels) in view of their legal, religious, socio-anthropological, philosophical, political and economic, aspects. But fights can be beautiful; it is beautiful when people whose rights were suppressed learn how to rise above suppression and fight for their own rights hand-in-hand with others.
All efforts to secure abundant life are sacred. It does not mean having all but the necessary basics to serve others. This is the beauty of living in grace, to share from what is received; be in contact and promote healing communities, engage in networks that nourish trust and free from phobia. As human beings we are far from being holy. But community gives us the opportunity to belong and to continue following life that is preached in liberating words and actions. In community we have the gift to contribute to the many values that affirm life. One of them is being deeply sensitive and respectful. It is seeing in the stranger a gifted person, a gift for me. That is what makes dignity possible; that is what upholds other beings in great value.
Creation - not for sale
Rapidly changing climate is threatening ecosystems and societies. This is a wake-up call to critically assess consumer driven lifestyles in order to safeguard creation.
Does nature have a price? It is a fact that it is all there to buy: land, islands, minerals, water, fruits, vegetables, trees, fish, birds and animals of all species. There seems to be no limit to trade. Nature in its diversity has become a commodity.
And those wealthy enough are buying ever more. Accumulating. Longing for the newest. Discarding. Replacing. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, ever more countries have entered a seemingly never-ending process of economic growth and turned into consumer societies where money and possessions are believed to make the good life.
But nature is already presenting us with the bill. Grounds are drying and crops cannot grow without inputs. Water and air are polluted and our health is suffering. Biodiversity is declining and we are at the eve of the sixth great extinction of species. Climate is rapidly changing and is threatening our ecosystems and societies. In a word, we have entered the “Anthropocene”, or the “era of the human being,” our species having become the main driver of nature’s state. And we know the wheel to be pointing in the wrong direction.
The time has come to rediscover the significance and implications of the first article of our Creed: our confession of God as the almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth. We do not own the earth and all that is in it, but are creatures ourselves. We are not the masters of nature, but God’s children entrusted with the wellbeing of God’s creation. We cannot possess and exploit, but shall cultivate and guard.