Spring/Summer 2020

Volume XXXV, Number 1

In this issue

A fellowship of generosity and joy by Denise Anderson

In the last few months we have witnessed many of our world’s leaders attempting to shepherd their people. Like any good shepherd they see a threat and try to keep the sheep away from it. Unlike a hungry wolf or a lion, this pandemic is an invisible threat making it an extremely difficult task for shepherds.

A normal worth going back to by Mark Safstrom

“Proximity makes the heart grow fonder” was the smart rebuttal that a friend made to me once years ago when I had blithely said the same about “distance.” We know this to be true after the many weeks this year spent physically distant. When this pandemic is over, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember how much of a toll this social deprivation took on us? How unsatisfying it was to do absolutely everything online: meeting, teaching, worshipping, and happy-hour socializing? Or how hard it was to tend to the sick, counsel those in distress or with mental health struggles, or attempt to mourn the dead? We are learning a lot about our resilience and interdependency, about who and what we value most.

The thirty-ninth day by Lindsay Small

Of all the high holy days throughout the church year, the one that really gets the short end of the stick is Ascension Day. It doesn’t really like to talk about it, but Ascension Day has a bit of an inferiority complex...I mean next to Christmas and Easter, who wouldn’t?

The hawthorn tree by Mark E. Swanson

I’ve been reading a book about a favorite painter of mine, Harlan Hubbard, an impressionist from Kentucky, who lived on a shanty boat. One of his paintings is titled “The Hawthorn Tree.” In the image, a lone hawthorn tree blooms among all the darker and taller trees in the woods. The river has recently flooded and the water is going down, leaving smooth mud. As the water drops, spring begins, and that is when this tree blooms.

Serving in love in times of crisis by Ryan Eikenbary-Barber

Jesus confronts our fear, our controlling behavior, and our desire to avoid suffering. In our text, a couple of Jesus’s disciples are struggling with power issues, namely James and John. They attempt to control Jesus: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask…. Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

Turning the world upside down by Steve Elde

Paul and his friend Silas went into Thessalonica, a bustling town on the coast of the Aegean Sea. When Paul showed up he started talking and he stirred up trouble. He did this wherever he went. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He went to the marketplace, he went to synagogues. It didn’t matter whether it was Jews or Gentiles, Greeks or Romans. He argued with them all. In Jerusalem he argued with the original apostles. They didn’t consider Paul a real apostle because he didn’t know Jesus personally, just in a vision on the road to Damascus. He argued with philosophers in Athens. He was kicked out of towns, his life was threatened. In Thessalonica some people were jealous of Paul, they felt threatened by him. So they stirred up a mob in the marketplace, made trouble, put the city in an uproar. They spread rumors, told lies, and looked for Paul and Silas. Unable to find them, they grabbed Jason and a few others and took them to the leaders in town. “These are the people who have been turning the world upside down!” they told them. Now they’re here! A better translation: “subverting the civilized world.” “They are defying the emperor, they say there is another king named Jesus.” Paul, like Jesus, is accused of treason. Paul would eventually be executed in Rome for this, beheaded. The leaders were “disturbed.”

More than we could ask or imagine: North Park and the flu pandemic of 1918 by Mark Safstrom

As North Park College President, David Nyvall, prepared to give his report to the Covenant annual meeting in Rockford, Illinois, on June 18, 1919, the church and the school, like the rest of the country, was still reeling from the terrible experience of a global flu pandemic.

God’s Parenting Experience by Penrod

Something snappy on the side by Bonnie Sparrman

A favorite side dish that frequents the menu at our house is a classic Scandinavian holdout. Very plainly, it is inlagda gurkor, or fresh pickled cucumbers. They are so simple, on first thought I doubted them article-worthy, but obviously, something changed my mind.

Shared loss, transformed into compassion by David Hawkinson

These verses are set in the epic sweep of John’s gospel. The chapters before are filled with rich teaching and a breathtaking diversity of encounters—healing, arguing and engaging in common talk. The eleventh chapter shifts into a long interlude initiated with the news of the illness of a man, a brother, a friend of many including Jesus. He seems unconcerned about the outcome. “The illness does not lead to death,” he says. But, in just a few days the illness takes the life of Lazarus. And so, family, friends, and community gather to mourn. Jesus joins them.

What’s at stake in the dying of the mainline church by Chris Gehrz

Last year my family started attending Roseville Lutheran, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in our neighborhood. This is my wife’s religious tradition, not mine, yet I have found a lot to love in becoming familiar with this church. So this past winter it was dismaying to hear two of our pastors repeat a statistical projection from the ELCA’s own research office, explaining that while the denomination currently counts over 3 million members, it expects to be down to just 67,000 by 2050 — with fewer than 16,000 in church on an average Sunday as early as 2041.

The legacy and work of the Francke Foundations, Halle By Thomas Müller-Bahlke, Tim Frakes, and Dustin L. Smith

As part of the filming for the documentary, ”God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good,” we interviewed Dr. Thomas Müller-Bahlke, director of the historic Francke Foundations in Halle, Germany. Interview by Tim Frakes, translated by Dustin L. Smith. May 2015.

The Second Coming and one pietist by Tom Tredway

I was born again at Camp Mission Meadows in the summer of 1950. I had been sent to the camp on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in western New York by the Buffalo Evangelical Covenant Church. That congregation, which was then at mid-century erecting a new church building (since shuttered and sold), met temporarily in a firehouse down the block from our home

Sports Prophecy by Eric by Eric Nelson

Who would have thought we’d get a March Madness for the ages, a series of records set during just the first week of the major league baseball season and a gallery at the Masters witnessing something that has never happened before in golf history?

Grace by Ann Boaden

Post: Readers Respond

Dorothy Balch by Sandy Nelson

Dorothy “Do” Lundstrom Balch was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to second-generation Swedish immigrants. She attended Minnehaha Academy, North Park Junior College in Chicago, and the University of Minnesota, studying for a career as a speech therapist. She served for many years as a public school special education teacher, focusing on speech and language therapy.

Tribute to James V. Sundholm by Glenn R. Palmberg

Many of Pietisten’s readers will know about the significant accomplishments of Jim – the positions he has held in the Covenant Church, the innovation he brought, about his inner city ministry, Sankofa, Sudan, World Relief, conference administrator and much more. In this tribute, I want to talk about Jim the person – who he was that made what he did possible.

The sound of a wooden bell by Dick Nystrom

One Saturday morning many years ago, I was having breakfast with Jim and another friend in a Chicago neighborhood restaurant, when suddenly a loud and alarming sound came from the kitchen. We looked at each other as if to say, ‘what should we do?’ when one of our number jumped up and dashed out the front door. Another of us simply remained seated. Jim however, leapt to his feet and headed for the kitchen. In the years to follow I would come to realize that this little incident was indicative of how Jim chose to live his life.

Web exclusives

Holy Week out of order: Lazarus, come forth! by Mark Safstrom

Already at the beginning of Lent this year the storm cloud of an epidemic was looming on the horizon. As in past years, ashes were imposed on my forehead in Ascension Chapel at Augustana, there was time for one Friday fish fry with friends at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, but then the regular rhythms of preparing for Easter came to an abrupt halt. Everything was rebooted in an alternate reality. My college went online, church went online, we “sheltered in place,” and then found creative ways to be physically, but not socially, distant.

Two Days by Ann Boaden

And then there was Jim by Doug Johnson