Post: Readers Respond

The latest Pietisten arrived and I sat down and read it from cover to cover in about two hours. For the three days since, I have been thinking about what I read and decided that I needed to write down some of my thoughts. I want to reflect on the common theme presented by several of the writers.

Various passages in Ephesians were cited. In Ephesians Paul tells us that Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciles us to God. We are undeserving, but salvation is ours through God’s grace. It is free, but, as Bonhoeffer said, it should not be cheap. In response to what God has given us, we are to be reconciled with one another and to be agents of reconciliation in the world. This is the main work of the church and if we cannot have reconciliation within the church, the church really has no reason to exist. The many labels we use to define ourselves and others are secondary in importance to our being disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul says elsewhere that what should define us as Disciples of Christ is the love we have for one another. If we don’t love, what we do doesn’t count.

We can understand this at a couple of different levels. We can read what Paul says and agree that it makes sense and defines a good way to live our life. It is an intellectual understanding. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, emphasized the importance of knowing these truths experientially as well as intellectually. He struggled with doubt and uncertainty about his faith for years as an Anglican at Aldersgate, as he was listening to a reading of a commentary by Martin Luther on Romans, he said he had a “Strange warming of his heart” and that he knew for certain that he was saved. He said later that before Aldersgate he had the faith of a servant, but after he had the faith of a son. We cannot create these experiences. They come to us unexpectedly, quite often when we are being obedient despite doubt.

Earlier this year I had an experience that enabled me to really see what this idea of community means. I was in Kitwe, Zambia, at The New Life Center, a Methodist mission, where I had gone to spend seven weeks teaching Zambian high school students chemistry and physics. I had the opportunity while I was there to take part in many of the other ministries New Life offers, such as church development, help for the handicapped and feeding programs for undernourished children. At the end of my stay there I took part in a three-day conference they have every year for Zambian pastors, their families and key lay persons, called Holy Spirit Encounter. You can sense from this name that the conference was more Pentecostal than you would expect from the Methodists. I am not real comfortable with Pentecostal worship or theology, but as I went into the first service of the conference I prayed that God would make me open to receive whatever God might want to give me. At the end of the service, I looked out into the audience and saw all these faces —and all of a sudden it struck me that I wasn’t there just to do good, but I was to love these people as well. Loving is a decision and I decided that I would love them. I left my seat and started going up to as many as I could and hugged them and told them I loved them. I felt like I had an understanding about the Kingdom of God that I never had before.

I am relating this experience because I had much same feeling as I read this most recent Pietisten. It felt like I was with not only the writers but with all those that were reading it as well. I had a real sense of community and again, a brief glimpse at the Kingdom of God. I suspect that I am not the only one who felt this and would be interested in hearing about other readers’ reactions.

Carl Bergeson, Ocala, FlA.

The fourth Pietisten Premise (as I’m sure you well know, be it memorized or written on the dashboard of your car just above your glove box in case you pick up a hitch hiker and need a quick conversation starter) is: “To engage with friends in an open conversation and to expand our friendships.” Thank you so much — we feel our friendship with you has expanded. I look forward to getting to know the writing and the writers.

Marcus Reese, Anchorage, Alaska

I have received the Fall/Winter edition — wow, Jeffrey HansPetersen’s illustration of the [front page] article was amazing — I could see old Route 66 stretching above the old ranch house. Please express to him my appreciation for his talent.

Bob Bach, Angels Camp, Calif.

My thanks for the issue of Pietisten that I received today. It is always a högtidsstund [festive occasion] — a drop-everything-and-sit-down-and-read moment when it arrives!

Mariann Tiblin, MinN.

I found the last issue of Pietisten full of inspiring items, not least of which was the lead story by Bob Bach. It was a marvelous illustration of how we can communicate wordlessly sometimes. Arvid Adell’s unusual tale of Adam the atom provided an intriguing introduction to process theology and its hope of a personal life after death, always an intriguing subject but especially these days as we sense our vulnerability to life’s dangers. Still, it was the stories of Sandy Johnson’s life and death that were the most moving, and I’m sure it made every reader wish they had known her better.

MarilynN Ford, Spring Park, MinN.

It is interesting to hear about Pietisten…and see that there are people in the United States who are dedicated to preserving the classic Swedish free church tradition, or who are cultivating an interest for something that people sometimes dismiss as “old.” Unfortunately we tend to forget that there are a lot of good things in our tradition. The core of our faith is indeed timeless, but sometimes it seems to me that even in church circles, people chase trends in a desperate pursuit of success. Being secure in our heritage and culture is an important foundation for our congregations. It is from there that we can grow.

Karl-Markus Uhrbom, Tibro, Sweden