It’s Sunday, but Monday’s Comin’

by Rev. Jim Sundholm

Sermon delivered at the annual Pietisten Picnic on Vashon Island, Wash., Aug. 13, 2011.

Preamble: I would like to begin with a word of gratitude for the Pietisten herald, to its founders, including Phil and Sandy Johnson, as well as three friends and sojourners in particular. First to Tommy Carlson, a thoughtful friend, breakfast partner, church treasurer, reader, translator, skilled with hand and mind. We shared many meaningful exchanges over his translations of Paul Peter Waldenström’s commentary on the New Testament over the years.

Then to Peter Sandstrom, a friend who spent a season as chair of Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis, where I was pastor. Peter is a good fellow student of theology, with whom I have spent many formative and disciplined conversations. One time when I was sick and could not preach on a certain Sunday, Peter filled in and covered for me, preaching my sermon in a record time of 17 minutes – much shorter than I usually took. A few congregation members afterward said that they liked that arrangement, and commented that I should write the sermons and that Peter should preach them!

Also, to David Hawkinson, a most engaging friend, a sojourner in the truest sense, who welcomed me into a deeper relationship with the Bible. I would reference him as one of my mentors and a patient reading companion.

Then to you, the new editing team. What a thoughtful, provocative, engaging, and just well done “herald” you are putting out. Thank you!

Text: Luke 14:25-34

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“It’s Sunday, but Monday’s comin’.” Author and speaker Tony Campolo preached on several occasions a memorable sermon titled “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” Among the places this was preached was at the Midwinter Conference hosted by the Evangelical Covenant Church a few years back, which I attended. Some weeks in the recent past, in speaking with Glen Palmberg (ECC president emeritus), I joked that as a Pietist, someday I ought to preach a sermon titled “It’s Sunday, but Monday’s comin’.”

There is a connection to be made between worship and work, between the celebration of God’s love and grace, and our life beyond and outside of worship. At the risk of over simplifying, the stereotypical Pietist is famous for being conscious of two things: new life in Christ and personal holiness.

As “readers” – the early name that Pietists bore in Sweden – as readers of God’s word, we respond with grateful actions that are the fruit of the reading of the Bible, and of the encounter with Christ that we find therein.

In the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Pietisten, Mark Safstrom translated for us an article that Pastor C.O. Rosenius wrote as Pietisten was launched in 1842. This article was essentially an apologetic and explanation for using the term “Pietist” for the title of the journal and a program for a movement. He stated, “People praise Jesus and grace and faith with their mouths; yet deny him with deeds. For it is no more possible for a high-minded love for Christ to exist without a glad and willing obedience to his will, than for a fire to exist without warmth.”

On several occasions, I have referred to a stream of Pietism that has run through the history of the Evangelical Covenant Church, witnessed in a woman nicknamed “Mor i Vall” and her reader friends.1 Mor i Vall, or “the Mother at Vall Farm,” has become a legend in the Karlskoga area in Sweden for the community that she built at her farm. Their worship, praise, reading of scripture and singing compelled them to notice the plight of certain children in the area, who were being sold in the local marketplace – essentially being sold into indentured servitude to the highest bidder, as their parents could not afford to take care of them. The “Sunday” of Mor i Vall and her friends was prompting a “Monday” of service to humanity, as they began buying children, taking them into their home and basically adopting them into their family for affirmation, health, nurture and education.

It’s Sunday, and Monday’s comin’!

Pastor Waldenström, in his writing on the doctrine of the atonement, summed up his own personal response by exclaiming “when I see the grace and love of God active on the cross of Christ for us – I fall to my knees in gratitude and say, ‘My Lord and my God, what might I do for you!’”

It’s Sunday, and Monday’s comin’.

The text from Luke, read for today, has a repetitive pattern, as the phrase “cannot be my disciple” appears three times. This actually feels quite harsh to the listener. This is a call to die to self and to all that one possesses. The passage then concludes by saying that as good as salt is, if it has lost its taste, it is unfit and ought to be thrown away, not even good for the manure pile. “It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” This is a fun image to preach at a picnic!

Interestingly, the list of who “cannot be my disciple” does not speak of playing cards, types of dress, types of beverages, make-up – outward marks. But instead it is a list that is concerned with relationships, carrying Christ’s cross, which I read here to be a symbol of death to status and earthly fame and glory. It has to do with thinking deeply and thoughtfully about matters one would enter into.

My work with Covenant World Relief has brought me into close contact with the Evangelical Covenant communities of Southern Sudan on many occasions. I will never forget hearing the amazing account of one community in particular. When local authorities had warned this community not to celebrate Christmas one year, and threatened to bombard their village with mortar fire, these people had decided that they could do nothing other than proceed with their plans, celebrating and sharing their meager resources for a Christmas celebration and multiple day march. All this occurred, with mortar shells exploding all around them. Not one single mortar landed on them.

It’s Sunday, and Monday’s comin’.

Becoming salt on Sunday – full of grace and wonder, full of a sense of fulfillment and essence – this must be a taste that lasts into Monday. Dying to self – this does not mean self-loathing or loss of self-worth, but is an entrance into our true nature, where it is more blessed to give than to receive.

As a note of caution: I am not an advocate of attempting Monday if you haven’t experienced Sunday.

Jesus invites us to lay aside a selfish life in order that a better life might arise. In order that our own parochial interests might give way to a discovery of God’s desire for a fuller, better humanity. The good that God has given us is not just a potential, but a reality to be lived out in unselfish service for the good of others.

Mor i Vall’s famously self-consumed husband decided to try to chain her to the stove in an attempt to get her to stop going to the market to buy up more children; in effect, to stop her from letting the taste of love and grace move through her and be poured out on these children. It didn’t work – she and her companions could not stop doing good for these oppressed, demeaned and impoverished children.

By the way, the legacy of Mor i Vall continues far past the boundaries of her home town of Karlskoga, Sweden. One of her sons, C.J. Nyvall, would later become a lay preacher – a colporteur – and a founding father of the Mission Covenant Church in Sweden. And her grandson, David Nyvall, would also become a student of the Bible, teacher of New Testament and first president of North Park College in Chicago, a school founded with the priority of training good pastors. The salt of grandma just couldn’t stop workin’!

It’s Sunday, and Monday’s comin’.

Evangelical Covenant Church President emeritus, Dr. Glen Palmberg, is committed to hosting his family today, so he’s not here at this picnic as he had intended…so that means I can talk about him. Glen has spent his post-academic life consumed by “Sundays” – pastor of two congregations, Dean of Students at North Park Seminary, conference superintendent and then a decade as denomination President. He championed lots of “Sunday” stuff – lots of preaching, seminary scholarships, Department of Compassion Mercy and Justice, Alliance to End Hunger, and on and on. Now Glen is deeply involved in and committed to shelter ministries for the homeless – for Glen, it’s “Monday” now. If you ask him to preach, he’ll probably respond – “sorry, I did that already – for me Monday’s come.”

Since I spoke of Glen, I should say with the privilege of serving as pastor of Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis and then as director for Covenant World Relief, I was prompted a long time ago to take up a life of “Mondays.” Now retired, I guess I am here doing Saturdays on Maury Island!

But it is my hope for all of us, that in the way we talk, the way we treat one another, the way we prompt our communities and nation to respond to the challenges that we are faced with, that we would live out the wonder of Sunday in our lives each and every day of the week.

Amen.

1. Maria Nilsdotter (1811-1870)

Jim Sundholm has served as a pastor and as director of Covenant World Relief for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He now resides with his wife on Maury Island, Wash.

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