Glen Wiberg arrives in Heaven, sends report to Pietisten

The journey wasn’t hard at all. Suddenly, here I am, welcomed by folks of every kind and color, the majority had been poor. I think of Marion Anderson singing “The Gospel Train.” “Get on board little children – there’s room for many a more. The fare is cheap and all can go. No difference in the fare. There’s room for many a more.”

And who do I see right away? Chief White Feather! “Chief,” I call out. For those who don’t know, Chief White Feather, a grandson of Sitting Bull, was a musician evangelist – a great person.

“Glen,” he responds. We last saw each other in Kansas City about seventy-five earth years ago. At first I am surprised that he remembers me. Then, I realize that here we recognize all the people and remember the names of every person we have ever met.

“Chief! Are you still singing?”

“Sure am,” he answers.

“Do you still have your magnificent Chief’s head dress and feathers?”

He smiles a huge smile. “I do. Jesus likes them so much he says to me, ‘Bring ’em.’”

I chuckle. “Please sing for me, Chief.”

“Okay, but I rarely sing without Marion.”

“You mean Marion Anderson?”

“I do.”

Let me tell you, that was something. They sing “The Old Rugged Cross.” As their singing fades away, I hear the Erickson Brothers from the Upper Peninsula. My delight has no words. After listening to them, I see a group up ahead and hear more music. It is Bob Dvorak leading a Brown Hymnal sing-a-long. Then, Marlene Bach begins to sing, “O How Blest to be A Pilgrim,” accompanied by Bob Bach. This puzzles me greatly because none of these folks, neither of the Bobs nor Marlene, are here yet. Lovely mysteries persist even here – a heavenly preview, perhaps?

Really, Dear Readers, this place is grand. I walk around bursting with joy, laughing all the time.

“Hey, Dad!”

“Carl!” I am overwhelmed with joy.

“It’s been a long time for you, Dad, but it’s been no time at all for me,” says my son, as we embrace.

We head off together. Walking is so easy here. I love it. Everybody says the same. What next? I wonder what – even if there really is no next.

“Glen!” It’s Sandy Johnson – ironically, I called her my “angel” on earth. She’s with Elder Lindahl, Bruce Carlson, Curtiss Johnson, Art Anderson, and Tommy Carlson. “We are reading what you and Jane wrote in the last issue of Pietisten,” Sandy says, adding, “We love it.” We raise glasses in joy and friendship, and chat for an eternal moment. Then –

“Carl Olof Rosenius,” I call out in delight, seeing the venerable Churchman.

“Glen Wiberg! Welcome. Thanks for remembering me in your columns” [“Sightings,” Pietisten, Fall 1998, for example].

“My pleasure – I quoted this from one of your hymns.” I recite the last verse for him:

To your presence–for this life is fleeting–

take me, wash my garments in your blood;

and with Thomas may I, at your meeting,

cry with joy, ‘My Lord and God!’

“I know you quoted that!” says he, giving me a delighted smile. “And that is exactly what happened when I got here, Brother Wiberg.”

Maybe Rosenius smiled like that on earth, too, being not as somber as often thought. I remember Dean Eric Hawkinson concluding his lectures, “Steps of Wisdom,” at the East Coast Ashram in 1953: “We have come out of ecstatic living, often hidden but something in our forebears that never wore off” [“Sightings,” Winter 1999]. I believed him then, and witness it myself right now, in the presence of Carl Olof, the first Swedish editor of Pietisten.

The moment I think this, I run into Nils Frykman, who is singing one of his great songs that he adjusts for tense and place:

With joy we walk[ed] with Jesus

[t]here, how great a Friend is he!

But think what joy [surrounds] us here, [as] heaven’s light we see.

Our hopes and dreams [are all] complete, [as] at the heav’nly feast we meet.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, amen!

“Brother Nils! You prove the point,” I exclaim. “Will this constant ecstasy wear me out?”

“Let not your heart be troubled, my young Brother,” he says with affection. “Bliss takes different forms, but never wears out here. Thanks for keeping the ball in the air down there with those ‘Sightings in Christian Music.’”

Oh my! I don’t know how much I should tell you friends. Of course, there are people from everywhere, many are Christian, but by no means all. The former Dalai Lama, John Wesley, Heloise and Abelard, Saladin, Isaac Watts, Arnold of Brescia, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates, Nathan Soderblom — endless. But, I’m writing for Pietisten and thus relating adventures of particular interest to you. I hear Lina Sandell singing, “I Can’t Count Them All.” I did not know she has such a lovely voice until I hear her sing — in my honor, no less:

I’ll never count all of God’s mercies,

But, O, I can give God my praise!

For all of that love, my thanksgiving

And love to the end of my days. [“Sightings,” Winter 2003/04]

“You know by now, Brothers Glen and Carl,” says Sister Sandell as she finishes, “exactly like in my song, no one here ‘counts’ things. It’s so pointless.”

William Warfield brings tears to my eyes as he sings, “Shall We Gather at the River” [Fall 2004]. Then George Beverly Shea belts out, “How Great Thou Art” [Summer 2002], in Swedish that everyone understands. Brother Carl Boberg sits close by, enraptured. I discover that here we understand each language from Icelandic to Bangala and can enjoy the flavors and nuances of each.

“Glen! Wonderful to see you. Here’s my mother, I didn’t think she would be here. She was the first to greet me.” It’s Bill Sandstrom.

“Hello Mrs. Sandstrom. Bill,” I say, “I am happy to say, ‘I told you so.’”

There is so much more to report. I haven’t yet mentioned Caedmon, Pelagius, and other ancients — who, of course, are no more ancient or modern now than Carl and I.

Whatever you do, don’t pine for me or Carl.

With fond love,
Glen V. Wiberg