What’s in a church birthday? ‘…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others’ – Romans 12:5.
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). Many of you, or at least your parents, grew up in churches overseas that are much older. 50 might not seem like much! Our bishop Rev John Henderson makes the same point in another way (see the bulletin insert) noting we are in churchly terms only really coming out of adolescence! Others see the LCA as a continuation of what came before – so something commonly thought to have its first major presence in Australia from 1838 (in Adelaide). And some of you probably wonder what the fuss is about – coming to church is after all, about hearing Christ, not celebrating earthly institutions.
None of the above is invalid. Indeed, Jesus Christ is eternal (John 1:1) and it is his church (Matt 16:18-19), which he has given us to receive the forgiveness of sins through (Matt 18:18 / John 20:22-23) and life eternal (John 11:25-26). In this way we are all part of something that is much longer than any human time frame. And its key business is Christ and the life he gives. That is the ultimate reason why we thank God for 50 years of the LCA!
But in doing so we also recognise that for many of us the LCA in all its earthly shapes, locations and forms is nevertheless a big part of how God’s life and our salvation has been mediated to us in Word and Sacrament. And strongly connected with this is the friendships, families, schools, community care, media, and fellowship that have supported us, brought us God’s joy and taught us discipleship. The ‘half century’ is also undeniably a decent ‘chunk’ of our mortal lives this side of eternity. And many of us find it inspirational that our church forebears wanted to do the hard work to settle doctrinal differences and therefore match the outward unity of the church with the inward unity that already exists as a gift of God (John 17:20-23)… and we feel inspired to do more of this ecumenically, while also making ‘every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ within the LCA on ‘lively’ discussions. All of these things are important, if not crucial, and so we say: ‘Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not all his benefits’ (Psalm 103:2).