In December 2022, I had an opportunity to do some teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia with groups of Lutheran young people and pastors. I had previously taught Lutheran pastors from South-East Asia online, but this was my first experience teaching face to face in Indonesia, and through an interpreter. The Lutheran church in Indonesia is very […]
In December 2022, I had an opportunity to do some teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia with groups of Lutheran young people and pastors. I had previously taught Lutheran pastors from South-East Asia online, but this was my first experience teaching face to face in Indonesia, and through an interpreter.
The Lutheran church in Indonesia is very much larger than in Australia. Most of the Lutherans in Indonesia live in North Sumatra, however the people I worked with on this occasion live mainly in Jakarta. Jakarta is an extremely large and densely populated city. It is also much more openly religious than any Australian city. I was woken every morning, for example, at about 4 am by a call to prayer from the local mosque. On my last day in Jakarta, a Friday, I saw many men either praying in the open or returning from prayer, and the local mosque played a sermon on loudspeakers for about an hour. This, together with the wonderfully undomesticated traffic, delicious local food, and tropical weather, made Jakarta a truly foreign place to me.
On the first day I had two sessions teaching young people (mainly in their 20s) the basics of the Christian faith as it is summed up in the Small Catechism. In the first session I had to get used to the role of the interpreter, as well as the fact that the young people were not as immediately interactive as I am used to in an Australian setting. I wondered at first whether what I was saying was connecting, but by the second session things began to flow more freely. The third teaching session was on the following day and was with pastors from different Lutheran church bodies.
The Indonesian Lutheran Christians that I met know their Bible and live out their faith with courage, but evidently do not receive and hand on the Lutheran tradition in the same way as we have done in Australia. In a room of over one hundred pastors, for example, few had read the Formula of Concord, and many were not familiar with significant aspects of Lutheran teaching. My focus with the pastors was on the distinction between Law and Gospel as it is spelled out in the Lutheran Confessions. At question time there was a bit of discussion on things like the Lord’s Supper. Evidently in many (perhaps most) Indonesian Lutheran congregations the Lord’s Supper is celebrated relatively rarely – perhaps only four times per year. There was also discussion about church discipline, something that is perhaps exercised rarely in the Australian Lutheran church, but which is an important (and at times controversial) part of life in the Indonesian church.
One of the great blessings of being in Indonesia was making personal connections with the people. It was very encouraging to spend time with faithful Christian people from another culture, and to be mutually blessed by handing on and receiving the Gospel together with them. The people I met were eager to strengthen ties with us in the Australian church.
One last thing. I am tall by Australian standards (just under 6’4”), so by Indonesian standards I am extremely tall (see the photograph). Almost everyone wanted to have multiple photos taken with me. I have never been photographed more in my life (and that includes my wedding day)!
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