Christians, Covid-19 and Martin Luther

In 1527, the reformer Martin Luther was asked how Christians should respond to the plague. His response is gentle and challenging. You can download the whole letter from Lutheran Witness here.
His words are surprisingly relevant for us in 2020 as we face the upheaval of Covid-19. These are the four points I gleaned from his letter.

1. Trust God – not tempt God
‘Why bother with all this social distancing and hand-washing? God will look after us.’ It is disappointing to hear this from fellow-Christians. Luther claims to admire those who have such strong faith, but most of us need to do what we can to minimise risk to ourselves and to others. Christians who ignore expert advice and carry on hand-shaking and not taking precautions are ‘putting the Lord their God to the test.’ (DEUTERONOMY 6:16)

2. Love your neighbour, which is loving Jesus.
This is a time to look out for your neighbour, particularly your vulnerable neighbour. We should be ‘caremongering’ and not scaremongering. Caring for neighbour, even if that somewhat elevates the risks, is the way we show love for God. ‘Even as you did not do this to the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (MATTHEW 25:45)

3. Don’t run from responsibility
There are people who are loading their vehicles with stores and heading out to farms where they plan to live ‘off the grid’ for as long as the pandemic runs.
Luther begins his letter by addressing ‘Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague’. In itself he can find no sin in running from the plague. Luther’s concern is that people with responsibility in both spheres of life, preachers and politicians, should not run away from their duties.
Clergy need to stay in their post to accompany their parishioners on their journeys through illness and death. Even if they cannot be physically present with their people, they should devise means of encouraging them in a time of fear. Our age has the internet, and churches are using email, Skype and live-streaming to maintain Christian connection as well as possible.

4. Choose life – not resign yourself to death
We Aussies sometimes say, ‘If your number is up, it’s up’ in a fatalistic acceptance of death. Christians, however, should ‘choose life’. (DEUTERONOMY 30:19)
Death is part of life, and we should not fear it. We should approach the possibility of our own death through this time of plague with the assurance that whatever we think follows this life is better than we can imagine. (I CORINTHIANS 2:9) On the other hand, we should honour the life that we have been given now by living it to the full, in self-giving to our neighbour and in gratitude to God.
To me that means living mindfully and choosing to find and share joy where we can.
– Ted Witham tssf
– 21 March 2020

Prepare the Way of the Lord

ADVENT CHALLENGE

1. Christmas Unshopping: BUY NOTHING THIS CHRISTMAS!
? Give no gifts this Christmas
? Explain to your family that you are using your economic power to help the poorest by giving no gifts. Often, the gifts we give are useless or unwanted.
? Instead, make gifts or cards which are so much more personal.
? Join the Advent conspiracy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0o3C5yH77A&feature=related)
? Give Christmas gifts directly to the poor through Oxfam Unwrapped, Christian Blind Mission Gifts of Life, or the Tear Fund.

2. Give to the needy, for example:
? Christmas Bowl,
? Mutunga Partnership,
? Christian Blind Mission ,
? Oxfam, or
? Anglicare.

3. Pray differently. Maybe:
• More silence
• More meditation
• More reflective reading of Scripture
• Fewer words
• Different symbols (candles, ikons, etc.)

Comment on the “Advent Challenge” here. Is it Franciscan enough? Is it too idealistic? Will you try to do some of it? All of it?

DINGHY APPEAL ALMOST TO TARGET
Our Appeal to raise money for a dinghy to transport Tertiaries and others in PNG was launched in January of this year. We are almost there, with over $9,000 in the bank; almost another $2,000 is needed.
Nearly $3,000 of this was raised by John Clarkson (Minister NSW-B). The Province congratulates John for a terrific effort, the centrepiece of which was a bikeathon on the Eve of the Feast of St Francis.
Read on to be inspired, encouraged and challenged. Click here for the rest of the article.

THE POVERTY AND JUSTICE BIBLE

Our JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) group recommends this anthology, which gives more than 2,000 verses from the scriptures on poverty and justice.
Word bookstores have this on special at the moment.

ADVENT WITH FRANCISCANS INTERNATIONAL
Each week during Advent, Franciscans International will post a letter to help us journey towards Christmas. The letter for Week 1 is here .
Franciscans International seek financial support for their work. Please add your donation when paying your subscription (there is a space for this), or send it directly to our Treasurer Geoff Jordan, marked “Franciscans International”.

CHRISTIANS AND LESBIAN, GAY, BI- AND TRANS-SEXUAL PEOPLE
The group charged by Chapter with sensitively creating studies to help us explore non-heterosexualities and the Church has begun its work. We are finding out that the task is complex, and we are currently reading a challenging book edited by Stephen Hunt, Contemporary Christianity and LGBT sexualities. A summary of the book is on Ted Witham’s blog. If you are interested in reading this book, please ask to borrow it from one of the committee (Ted, Tony Hall-Matthews, Glenys McCarrick, Esmé Parker and Colin Valentine).

EDITOR STILL NEEDED
Ted Witham has been editing the newsletter only because no-one in our community has come forward to take on this important ministry of communication. If you think God is calling you to this task, please talk to Ted or your Regional Minister.
You need to be able to work with Microsoft Word (a template is provided), and gather material from the many areas of our community. There is a laser printer available to print copies, and someone else can organise the postage and distribution of copies.
Please pray about this. The need is great.

Peace, joy and love
Ted Witham tssf
Provincial.minister@tssf.org.au

International Third Order is now on Facebook!

At their meeting in Western Australia in August this year, the Ministers-Provincial and the Minister General decided to experiment with a Facebook page.

The page is primarily for people wondering about a vocation to the Third Order, and it directs people to the web-sites of each Province.

It also encourages Franciscans [and all Christians] with short quotes from St Francis, the Scriptures and other places.

You can visit this new page here.

SSF Video on YouTube

I have uploaded my first attempt at doing a video to give people a brief overview of our community onto Youtube. Please visist YouTube and comment, rate, the video. Also if you use a social networking site such as MySpace, Facebook etc, or have a website or blog, please consider either embedding (the best option) the video in your site or linking to the site at YouTube. If you’re not sure how to link or embed the video to your website, blog, MySpace, Facebook etc, or to link to it at YouTube please email me and I’ll try and help.

You can view the video at YouTube here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhfkeAj37fU

Pax

Br Nathan-James SSF

Please feel free to send comments, thoughts suggestions to me also if you don’t want to post to this site, or YouTube. Email Br Nathan-James.

Friends of the Monastery

The ‘Friends of the Monastery inc.” is a non-profit organisation which was formed to care for the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stroud, after the Second Order Sisters vacated the premises and it’s future was uncertain.
We aim to preserve it’s Franciscan ethos, promote Franciscan spirituality and provide an oasis of spiritual and physical refreshment for weary souls and bodies who seek respite there; and a sacred space for parishes and other groups to hold retreats or workshops etc. We are committed to praying for the future of the Monastery. We work closely with the First Order Brothers, whose Hermitage is on the same piece of land, and who care for the grounds; and the Society of St Francis Association, Inc. who own it. We rely on income from hiring the Monastery out and on our ‘Friends’ membership fees to maintain it.
The unique mud-brick buildings of the Monastery, including the beautiful Chapel with it’s hand-made stained glass, rock and camphor laurel altar and Sister Angela’s woodcarving, are resonant with the prayers of the many hundreds of spiritual pilgrims who have found solace and strength there.
A labyrinth has recently been constructed, and everything lies peacefully in a natural bush setting. Please find a membership form below!
God’s peace be with you.

Pirrial Clift, tssf,
Chairperson of the Friends of the Monastery, Inc.
Friends of the Monastery Brochure

Live Help Trial

I am trialling a Live Help chat program. If you are having difficulties with this site, or have any questions click on the Live Help icon in Members > Live Help or click here. If I am online then you will be able to chat live. If I am not online you will be able to send an email with your question and I will return you email as soon as I can. Pax Nathan.

Franciscan Blogs

A blog is short for web log (or journal, diary etc). A blog is a means of sharing your thoughts, opinions, feelings, reflections etc on topics of interest. They range from travel blogs to more profound and philosophical discussions. Authors can post material and visitors can add comments, opening up a series of discussions on the topic of question.

A list of related blogs on a person’s blog is often referred to as a blog roll. On the right hand menu you will find a blog roll, or series of links, to blogs authored by members of the Third Order, First Order and SSF Companions. Why not check them out and participate in topics which interest you. If you find a topic (post) which interests you simply click on the comments link at the top of the post and add your two cents worth.

An extension of this method of content management has been used on this web site to allow visitors to not only view information on the Third Order, but to participate in discussions on St Francis, St Clare, Franciscan Spirituality and religious life. Feel free to explore this site and participate in discussions.

Archbishop Philip Freier tssf Talks on Being a Franciscan

The Most Reverend Philip Freier tssf, Archbishop of Melbourne, was recently interviewed by the ABC Radio National’s Religion Report. In the interview he was asked about his active interaction with the public by being ‘out and about’ on the streets of Melbourne. The interviewer then asked him if this new approach had anything to do with him being a member of the Third Order Society of St Francis. + Freier was very open in his response about how St Francis had been an infuence in his life and what it meant to be a tertiary.  

Bear