Post: Readers Respond

Thanks for the copy of Pietisten and the accompanying note.1 have read them both with great interest. You take notes very well indeed. A couple of comments. In the pentacontad calendar of post-exilic Judaism (there are at least three calendars functioning in the Bible), Jubilee would have fallen every fiftieth year=7x7+1, not49th.

When I say theologize first not moralize first, I mean on reading biblical texts—not generally in life. We all have to make moral decisions all the time; that is not the point. The point is that nearly everyone moralizes first on reading a biblical passage, in effect asking what we should do before celebrating what God has done. If we first celebrate God’s ability to work with human sinfulness we’ll get plenty of ideas on what we should do just contemplating it. Also, by moralizing first on reading biblical passages we tend to absolutize the mores of the Bronze Age to Roman period in the eastern Mediterranean cultures, which can be disastrous—and discounts the forward march of Holy Spirit.

Finally, I think the Greek of Luke 7:47 is purposefully multivalent. It was Metzger’s idea (New Revised Standard Version—NRSV) to choose one aspect of the ambiguity— precisely because he moralizes on first reading texts; most translations reflect it.

I hope this helps. Have a great new year. James A. Sanders.

[Dr. Sanders writes the above in response to our report of and reflections on his lectures “How Luke Read Scripture” (Out and About, Winter, 1991). These lectures were the second of The Gustafson Lectures at United Theological Seminary. In addition to the above letter to us, Dr. Sanders sent a copy of an earlier response to another person’s questions regarding Luke 7:47. That letter reads as follows.]

The Luke 7:47 passage is highly multivalent. . . . As I often point out, after we do the necessary exegesis, we should first ask what the passage indicates God did or does, and then ask what we should do (loving after forgiveness, or before). The fuller story about the uninvited woman would indicate an answer by analogy to the Jubilee story Jesus told Simon after which Our Lord asked Simon which debtor loved the creditor the more, and then approved of Simon’s reply, that it was the one forgiven the greater amount of debt. That analogy would mean that the woman’s love was in response to the forgiveness. That level of understanding would not depend on whether one is Methodist or Calvinist, it seems to me, but on the explicitly drawn analogy Jesus in the narrative clearly makes. But the framework story interferes with the analogy, since the woman showed great love for Jesus spontaneously before he had said anything to her, especially anything about forgiveness of her sins (v. 48).

This brings the focus once more back onto v. 47. And since the multivalency prevails, one cannot but notice that there is a word-play between pollai (many) and polu (much) undoubtedly intended by the narrator. The fact that the NRSV changed the sense that conveyed by the RSV is one indication of the inherent indeterminacy.

The question is whether or not one may discern in the manner in which she loved Jesus in the scene a genuine and honest reflection of her (earlier?) life-style; this was her personal manner of response to Jesus’ message of the radical depth of God’s grace, even before he (like the creditor in the Jubilee story) specifically forgave her debts to God (sins). The story matches a number of others, especially in Luke, that God’s grace is prevenient—coming before either repentance (which is explicitly not mentioned in this story) or expressing love of God after forgiveness (which in this story does not occur until v. 48). The radicality of God’s grace, which often offends those already in the fold (the three parables in Luke 15, e.g.), whether Pharisees, Presbyterians, or Methodists, is a part of the skandalon or scandal of the Gospel. I would say that whatever one does, the translation or interpretation has to be in terms of the larger context of Chapter 7, and of Luke generally. which steadfastly pursues the theme that in Christ God’s Jubilee, or Kingdom, has been introduced; and that is radical indeed. The grace is there before we act in any way whatever, all we need do is accept it. She obviously did or she could not have acted in the bold way she did, which means she had heard of Jesus’ message of radical grace in advance of the dinner and her bold intrusion. The radical grace draws from this woman a radical response beyond anything we have anywhere else in the gospels. It must have been a precious story to tell and retell by those Christians later whom Luke addressed who loved Christ radically enough to stay in the church and not give up because of persecution and rejection on all sides. James A. Sanders, Claremont, California.

Please find enclosed a check for the continuation of my Pietisten subscription. I certainly look forward to each issue and usually find myself engrossed in it the first evening it is in my home.

The connectional feeling it provides with institutions, fondly remembered professors, and North Park friends always warms my soul.

Continued success in your efforts. John Bergstrom, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Les Johnson has been passing on his copies during the last six months or more—I’m hooked. Please do keep up the good work. I read even the fine print—though that is hard. Reading between the lines is easier. Blessings on you all. En utar dem gamle stamen. Raymond Johnson, Northbrook, Illinois.

I enjoyed reading Pietisten the past year although some of it I couldn’t follow. The sermon by James Widboom giving his tour of Nicaragua was revealing and touching.

I was a fellow classmate with Donald Frisk in the class of 1934, North Park Theological Seminary.

The gift of a year’s subscription was much appreciated. Since we are moving this spring, sorting books and much more, I doubt I’ll have the time to read, but I enclose a gift. C. Laverne Erickson, Belvidere, Illinois.

I was Jarred by a phrase in Elder Lindahl’s Christmas essay—“doppa på grissen (dip in the pot).” My memory of the expression as being “doppa I grytan” was confirmed by Margareta Schildt’s book, Trevlig Helg (Bonniers Junior Förlag A B, 1985) in the following quote: “Varför kallar man·julafton dopparedan? Jo, det kommer au den gamla seden att doppa i grytan på julaftonens förmiddag. För att spara sig till kvållens rikliga festmåltid tog man det enklare på föruddagen och doppade bara skivor au hembakt bröd—helst vörtbröd—I det uppuårmda spadet etter skinkkokingen. än tdag dan många inte tänka sig en Jul utan dopp i grytan.”

Eller hur, Tommy? Greetings to all! Helen Fredrickson, Chicago, Illinois.

[Ja Helen der är sannt. As children the countdown to Christmas was always dan före dan, före doppare dan, och doppet var i en GRITA. Sorry we did not catch that earlier but thank you for pointing that out to all of us. Perhaps Elder’s “confusion” is that the broth which was used was from the pig (gris). Thank you again. —Tommy]

Thanks for Pietisten!

I’m very happy to renew our subscription, for though I can no longer see well enough to read it, Betty is very happy to do so for both of us.

We especially appreciate Art Anderson’s and Elder Lindahl’s articles. Glen Wiberg’s funeral service for Judas was among the many thought-provoking writings.

Keep up the good work. John Carlson, South Bend, Indiana.

Your tireless effort has paid off! For three years you have been sending me Pietisten, which I have read, enjoyed, and passed on to several friends.

Now is the time to act! Please find a check for my subscription, plus two gift subscriptions for friends. Charlie Elowson, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finding only one copy of Bo Giertz’ pastoral letter upon his appointment to Bishop in the Church of Sweden, I decided to xerox it for you. I hope that’s ok?

Enjoyed the latest issue of Pietisten. Bob Bach is an excellent writer and speaker. I have more articles of his.

In striving as a “seed of survival” as the Pietisten appears to be, one must seek to distinguish what should be saved from our history and culture and what really isn’t all that important.

My prayer for all of us who seek to maintain certain realities from our tradition is that we may be given wisdom and taste to serve our heritage well in these specific matters and not just be irritants. Wilbur Westerdahl, Turlock, California.

It sems that Geneva is about the only comer conducive to getting off a word or two. This missive will hopefully find you already to face the big unknown of 1992. Let us hope that it will bring continued good health, money— baby—money, and lots of raucous laughter. The world is in desperate need.

It was a Considerable shock to see that Switzerland, like the rest of humanity, is knee-deep in a depression. There is a degree of morosity here in the population that frankly frightening. The cutbacks in the banking business taking place Presently are unheard of. There is an unstated fear that 1992 will not see an improvement.

The disappearance of the Soviet Union has all the politicos in this part of the world on edge. The hope that international business could move in and scoop up the pieces, put humpty dumpty together again and make a quick killing is fast proving high comedy. The pieces refuse to come together and stay. Boris Yeltsin 1s about as democratic as my left foot He has opportunism written all over him with little or none of the integrity of a Gorbachev. Yeltsin can therefore be expected to mouth the requisite Western vocabulary. Fortunately, he’s a transition figure and if things don’t come together this winter, he will be out quicker than planned. I would like to see Gorbachev make a comeback. Of the world leaders on the present political scene, he was the only one who struck: me as having substance.

The real tragedy in the events of Eastern Europe will clearly be the Third World, as I think I mentioned in a previous letter. Even the pittance habitually thrown towards development is being shifted to East Europe. The developing countries are rightly frightened at the prospects of being cut off from assistance just at a time when the socio-political upheavals, due to a return to democracy, make them extremely vulnerable. Without some type of financial base, these populations will not be adverse to a return to the old order.

But let’s be positive. Let’s think that the world is not as bad as it appears, and that George Bush really is a president receptive to the needs and the requirements of the man-in-the-Street. Amen.

P.S. I was unable to mail this masterpiece from Geneva because the [post office] was closed over the New Year period. I took it along to Albania, hoping to mail it from Rome during the transit between Albania and Yugoslavia The Italian boycott of Yugoslavia (for having shot down the EEC helicopter, killing four Italians and one French) leading to the cancellation of the Rome-Belgrade flight and my being rerouted via Vienna, meant that I had other preoccupations!

Albania: a Never-Never land in the heart of Europe. Completely sealed off for 48 years, it was the Albanian discovery of Italy, via improved television reception two years ago that sparked the revolution. A very beautiful country of high mountains and narrow valleys ruined by a brand of communism that permitted the construction of steel mills, etc. right in the middle of all this. Having discovered that they were conned for 48 years, the Albanians are out to get any way they can. US dollars is the means of exchange. “You want it? Dollars please.” The only problem is that they have no concept of money. So, a haircut might cost five dollars or seventy dollars depending on the individual. The Albanians went on a rampage last year and smashed everything from schools to industrial factories to greenhouses. Result: no jobs. Nothing is functioning. Yet, the government has guaranteed 80% of the salaries and hopes to get people back. One tragedy: to have fuel, thousands upon thousands of umbrella pine and oak trees have been cut down. Huge public park, decimated!!! And the economy has collapsed bringing crime of all sorts. Robert Thompson, Geneva and New York.

Tell Elder to have hope! We sing, to the best of our ability, Lyssna on Christmas morning at our 6:30 am Julotta. However, Var Hålsad was plodded through too many times—so it is on the shelf for a while.

Thanks for your vision and ministry. Tim Heintzelman, Thomaston, Connecticut.

Thanks so much for sending me Pietisten, a refreshing magazine for today with nostalgic echoes of the past Glenn would love it—Tim and I enjoy it.

I’m enclosing a check to pay for another year’s subscription as well as a gift subscription to Glenn’s brother in California.

Thanks again! Jeanette Anderson, Chicago, Illinois.

My sincere thanks for the Rose Bouquet you printed in the Winter 1991 Pietisten about me and Cindy Hawkinson (whom I have never met) concerning the presidency of the Covenant. Having been Church Chairman twice at the Haddam Neck Covenant Church is enough! Let Larsen keep the job. I really don’t want it. But thanks for the ink. I appreciate what you are saying and thinking.

Sure do enjoy your magazine. Keep up the good work. Isaac Leyden, Haddam Neck, Connecticut.

Lest Elder Lindahl think he is alone, I too remember the singing of Lyssna as part of our Christmas celebrations at the Mission Covenant Church in Negaunee, Michigan. By the time I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, the Julotta service was gone, but every Christmas Eve the infectious strains of this anthem filled the air. For me, it became an important signpost pointing to Jesus’ birth.

Yet, Like Elder, I have gotten many blank stares over the years when I mention this anthem as part of my Christmas celebration. I served two Lutheran congregations in Illinois with Augustana backgrounds, and neither was familiar with Holstedt’s music. As well, a recent check of both Lutheran and Covenant friends from Lower Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and California produced no one familiar with the song.

Now, I don’t pretend that my sampling was either comprehensive or scientific, but it has led me to a couple of speculations. Could it be that the singing of Lyssna was a tradition localized to the Covenant churches of Upper Michigan? Perhaps, as the congregations gathered for larger celebrations, those who first sang the anthem mentioned it as a favorite, and in time more congregations developed the same ritual. Yet, due to the relative isolation of Upper Michigan, the anthem’s popularity remained small. Or could it be that many of the people who came to work in the mines of the Upper Peninsula came from the same area of Sweden, where again the song had a local following? It came as part of a larger spiritual baggage carried from the old world to the new, and each year Covenanters and possibly Augustana Lutherans from this locality brought out L yssna LO remember the birth of the babe.

Indeed, these are speculative notions, and I’d be curious to hear if they are supported or disproved by the experience of other readers. At any rate, Elder, you are not alone! As I close this letter, I am humming the tune that we both know so well. Again, it reminds me that, for Christians, there is no salvation without incarnation. For unto us a child is born . . . Åra vare Gud!” (Thanks be to God!) Roger Helgren, Ottawa, Illinois.