Out and About

by Phil Johnson

Watching the Red

Many people know that University of Nebraska football is more than just a game. For example, in Minnesota there are Big Red sports bars where Nebraska fans can go to watch the Huskers in action. There is a radio channel that broadcasts the game in Minnesota. I’ve been to Big Red bowl parties several times at the Hawkinsons, a family influenced in its sports allegiance by Nebraska native, Susan. But, I had never been to a Nebraska game in Lincoln itself—not until Nebraska tangled with undefeated Kansas State, November 13, 1999.

I don’t know where I have seen such a combination of color and pride (maybe, on a different scale, the Falls Broncos). The scene was breathtaking. Every seat was filled with so much red that, except for a small section of purple Kansas State fans, no other colors could be detected. My friend and host, Ralph Sturdy, his son Pete, Jan Roberts, and I made our way to our seats on the 30-yard line about 15 rows up. Terrific seats, if your legs can take it. Nebraska fans are alert to every move on the field and the people in front stand to make sure they see it all. Seeing the game and standing were inextricably linked. To the delight of the faithful, the Huskers beat up on their opponent, the previously undefeated Kansas State Wildcats, 41 to 15.

After the game, Ralph and I joined the thick crowd of happy Nebraskans heading west on Interstate 80. We were making our way to Nelson, just north of the Kansas line, where Ralph, an ordained Covenant pastor, is interim pastor of a United Church of Christ (UCC) parish. In the early 1960s, Henry Gustafson, North Park Seminary New Testament Professor said something like this: "Maybe the mission of the Covenant Church is to renew other denominations by supplying pastors for them. Maybe that is the meaning, for the Covenant, of the seed dying to bring forth fruit."

A lot has changed since the 1960s. Many congregations of mainline churches, which appeared so powerful to some Covenanters then, seem to be in tougher condition than Covenant congregations are now. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of Covenant seed planted in other churches. Henry himself became an esteemed professor at United Theological Seminary (UCC). Upon his retirement, United Seminary established The Gustafson Lectures (several have been covered in this journal). This, in part, reflects the influence that Henry had on that fellowship.

Thoughts about this came to mind during my visit to Nelson. As their Interim Pastor, Ralph has brought the church a new breath of life. The sanctuary was filled with people from town and country for morning worship. Pastor Sturdy blessed them through every moment of the worship. They laughed and I laughed; tears came to their eyes and to mine; they were blessed and I was blessed. It was a special thing for me to be with that congregation and to see in person what a fine Pastor Ralph is. The love evident between that congregation and pastor and the maturity of the faith that was expressed in worship and sermon surely were what Henry Gustafson had in mind.

Well, I have returned from Nebraska to my beloved Minnesota, but the trip has changed me. I wear red more often.

New Freedom in Kansas

On the evening of November 19, Sandy and I headed south, driving more than 400 miles in the dark of night to the Missouri River Valley in the Kansas City area. The occasion for this trip was the wedding of Ingrid Anderson and Michael Potts, held in Community Covenant Church of Overland Park, Kansas.

The celebration exceeded expectations. Together Pastor Thomas Anderson and Arthur Anderson, father of the bride, successfully united the couple in marriage. In his meditation, Pastor Art Anderson remarked that marriage is a mystery, a mystery for Ingrid and Mike to live out. The mystery of their individuality would persist, said Art, as would the mystery of their identity as a couple. He asked why it is that we can not, even in marriage, fully satisfy each other’s needs; and he proposed that it is because there is a holy place in each of us where only God can be.

He recommended to Mike and Ingrid that they always say "Thanks" and "Please" to each other because when you say these words, "you are also saying that ‘the decision is up to you.’" This is a way to respect one another and to cultivate dignity in each one’s life. Art also warned against the wiles of the deluder, the Screwtape, who tries to make marriage ineffective. We are free, he said, to be forgiven and to laugh.

Those gathered to witness this wedding appeared to be taking these wise words of blessing to heart, as did the couple, Ingrid and Mike.

The reception at Longview Mansion in Lee’s Summit, Missouri was a delight. Chamber music played by an excellent string quartet graced the mansion. Conversation flowed, the food was great, and the dancing was lively. I was asked by a veteran pastor if all of the editors of Pietisten agreed on the Waldenströmian doctrine of the atonement. I answered glibly that I knew of nothing on which all of the editors agreed. But, as he spoke further about the blessing of that view, which emphasizes God reaching out to humans, I thought maybe we do all agree on that.

In any event, on this evening, blessings abounded. And now Pietisten adds its benediction to Ingrid and Mike. May their marriage be long and happy.