Ann Pedersen, Professor of Religion

“How can reason tolerate that the divine majesty is so small that it can be substantially present in a grain, on a grain, over a grain, through a grain, within and without. . . entirely in each grain, no matter how numerous these grains may be? And how can reason tolerate that the same majesty is so large that neither this world nor a thousand worlds can encompass it and say ‘behold, there it is’? Yet, though it can be encompassed nowhere and by no one, God’s divine essence encompasses all things and dwells in all.” Martin Luther, quoted on p. 122 of Elizabeth A. Johnson’s Ask the Beasts

Does God really encompass all things and dwell in all? Luther emphasizes this over and over, especially when he writes about the sacraments. The author of Colossians says that God was pleased to dwell. Might faith be the acceptance and realization that God not only dwells in all but is jazzed to do so? I’m not sure what it says about tornadoes or floods or lethal viruses (like Coronavirus) but this statement of faith simply astounds (shocks or surprises) me.

God doesn’t just hang around on the edges, or look on from afar, as in the horrible theology of “God is watching us from a distance.” I once heard a theologian remark that when I look into the mirror and I know that God is pleased to dwell in me and me in God – this is the posture of faith – to receive divine pleasure from recognizing that God loves and delights in creation enough to actually set up camp and hang out. This only reinforces the crazy theology of John 1, that God became flesh and dwells among us. Incarnation and creation are bound together in God enjoying God’s time with the whole cosmos.

So, if God loves the world, or really the cosmos as the text more accurately states, then loving creation means hanging out and dwelling in creation, finding pleasure in it. All things. That’s the rub and the difficulty for faith. All? From the oceans to the coronavirus? From my family to my enemy? Jesus includes all – from the care of the sparrow to the love of the enemy. You can’t love or find pleasure with someone or something if you don’t live into, dwell among, or maybe better said – hang out with. Spend time. 

God’s pleasure is rooted in God’s overflowing love for the world, God’s generous and gracious embrace of all. But surely God knows how insane and evil “all” can be … after all, God created all. (I will address the evil, vile, and insane later). For now, I realize that dwelling is much more onerous than I can imagine. It takes time and work. We are dwelling in uncertain times and in places and with creatures we’d rather ignore or even hate. What does faith say to this?

Lindsay Erickson, Associate Professor of Mathematics

The sermon on the couch.

We have hit that time in Lent when the season is starting to feel really long.  No, it’s not just what is going on in the world around us and the fact that we cannot leave our houses.  Lent gets long. We start out the season with our vows of self-renewal, sacrifice, and new beginnings. But by week five, we are tiring.  The readings at this time in the season speak to this directly. They give us great examples of how to be strong in our faith of the risen Lord, even in the tiring part of the season, and even in the unbelievable.  

Ezekiel reminds us first to be strong in our faith in the face of the unbelievable with the simple line, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”  It might sound like a snarky retort to an impossible question. Indeed, in this case, God asked Ezekiel if a bunch of dried up bones could live.  But God knew Ezekiel’s reply was pure of heart with the utmost faith in His design. And with this strength of faith, Ezekiel, staring at a pile of bones, is instructed to lead the resurrected people back to the Land of Israel.  His ultimate faith in the one true Lord brings flesh back to bone and breathes life into God’s people.

Next, Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that as long as we keep our faith, “. . . even though your body is subjected to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life . . .”  It is a heavy verse, but one that is meant to fill us with hope and strengthen our faith that the end of our journey will see a risen Lord. Just this week, my son received an email from his preschool teacher that contained, among other things, their morning prayer, which concluded, “The Spirit of God, that raised Jesus from the dead, LIVES IN ME!”  I imagine a classroom filled with 4-year olds half yelling that line, yet placing their faith in it fully. God lives in them, just as he lives in us.  And just like those 4-year olds, we don’t have to know what the future holds, we just need to have faith in the Word to be given life eternal.  

Finally, the Gospel of John retells the story of the raising of Lazarus.  It is one of the longer gospel readings, reinforcing the feeling of the season (ironically with what is in modern translations considered to be the shortest verse), while giving us that final nudge to Easter Sunday.  In it, we see multiple examples of the difficulties of placing one’s full faith in the resurrection of man. First the disciples question Jesus’s return to Judea. Then Martha and Mary, who both believe that Jesus is the Messiah but do not yet fully understand, tell Jesus he could have done something to prevent their brother from dying.  Then the general assembly murmurs, like the devil in the desert, ‘If he’s so great . . .’ Jesus continually tells them, ‘Don’t worry; I’ve got this,’ yet they experience great difficulty believing in what they cannot see. And as if to give them a big I-told-you-so, Jesus, unbelievably, raises Lazarus so that we may believe that He, too, will rise.  Jesus knows how hard full faith is for us. He provided us with the evidence we needed to take us to the resurrection.

In these last few days of Lent, may we be reminded that as difficult as the season can be, we need strength of faith to overcome our trials and to see the risen Lord.  We will get over this, we will once again be together, and we, too, will see the glory of God.

Molly Schoenfelder, Class of 2020

Ephesians 2:4-8 ESV

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Over the past few years, I have struggled a lot with not living up to the person I thought I should be. I was acutely aware of what I “should” be doing, but yet I constantly felt short of this. I never thought I was reading the Bible enough, doing enough community service, or focusing on God enough. I was disappointed when I did not “get” anything out of my reading of the Bible: when I did not get any special flurries of emotion in my heart or feel that scripture was speaking to me. I was constantly comparing myself to others and thinking about all the ways they are better than me. All of these things relate back to one concept: that what I do here on earth determines whether I will go to heaven or not. I was not specifically thinking “okay if I do this, I won’t go to heaven” or, “if I do this I will be one step closer to getting to heaven”. Rather, instead, I was consumed with attempting to live up to the internal standards I had set by myself and based off of what I had learned. I always thought there were things that I needed to do because I was a Christian.

Then one day I was confronted with evidence of the exact opposite: I do not need to do anything to earn my righteousness or freedom. Instead, what brings someone to being right in the eyes of the Lord is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is Jesus Christ, dying for our sins, ultimately granting us eternal life. The Gospel sets us free from having to do acts that supposedly “make us righteous”. What we do in our life does not influence whether we will be saved. Rather, hearing the Gospel brings us faith. It is not that we have to do anything with the Gospel, rather God does it to us by bringing us to faith. So, take heart, these things you have done in this life do not define you. This is not to say one should do whatever he or she wants, whether it is good or not. Rather, this freedom allows you to be unconstrained with the task of living up to standards. This freedom allows for you to feel peace with yourself. Go in peace.

Tresse Evenson, Director of Financial Aid

Daniel 6:23 ~ The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

When Daniel was thrown to the lions, he undoubtedly prayed to God asking to be saved. God kept him safe. Daniel asked and God gave, making it easy for us to see he had answered Daniel’s prayer.  

A little over a week into corona-tine, I find myself wondering if God is using this situation to answer one of my prayers. Most days my prayer is for more time with my family. I’m constantly rushing my kids out the door to school, hurrying them to soccer practice, hustling them through their bedtime routine (YES! You brush your teeth EVERY night), only to do it all over again the next day. In between, I go to work, attempt to connect with my husband and try to maintain relationships with friends.

God is good. Therefore, He cannot create something bad. But because he is good, He can give us something good in the midst of something bad. I think He has answered my prayer for more time with my family.  

I’m spending time at home with my husband and kids. We’re not even filling our days with little league and trips to the zoo/pavilion/target. We are just at home, together. And we’re healthy and connected and safe.  

Further, I find myself connecting with more people. I’m checking in on my parents, my co-workers, my friends. Typically, I’m “too busy” to make most of these calls. Now, we’re all face-timing and zooming and hanging-out all over the place! I’m six feet to miles away from everyone and feel like I’m building and maintaining more relationships than ever.

Quarantine has made us slow down and scale back. I wouldn’t call this a blessing in disguise but I do think God is using it to give me just what I’ve asked for. And in His usual way, the answer to my prayer looks nothing like I thought it would.

Morgan Rothschadl, class of 2020

A New Calling

2 Thessalonians 2:14 “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 2:21 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Four years ago, something about Augustana called me to become a student there. I came willing and excited for what the next four years might hold—new friends, new experiences, a degree (hopefully). But as I look back on the past four years, I find myself most grateful for the multitude of other things that God has called me to do. Whether those were large callings, such as being on the track team or studying abroad, or small callings, such as getting coffee with a friend or professor, I look back grateful for all those events and experiences for which God had called me to take part.

Recently (pre-pandemic), however, I began to question where God was calling me. It seemed as though there were so many options, but none of them were correct.

And now (in the midst of a pandemic), it seems as though that calling has become even more blurred. What on earth (literally and figuratively) could God call someone to do during a global pandemic?

Well, you might want to be sitting for this one because I am about to blow your mind. Drum roll please.

*dadadadadadadadadadadada*

God is calling me (and you and everyone else on this earth) to be a neighbor.

And the crazy part about this calling is that it isn’t new, for anyone.

My entire life I have been worrying and stressing about what my next calling will be while God was just sitting on a beach (tanning, I presume, with a coconut in hand) waiting for me to realize that my calling was right in front of me all along. I guess I just needed a global pandemic to occur for me to realize it.

So, during these uncertain times, and certainly after we recover, forever and ever, remember that God calls you each and every day, regardless of where you find yourself in life, to first and foremost be a neighbor. And if you can remember that, I truly believe that every other calling in life, even the one we find ourselves in right now (yes, it’s a calling), will be easy to see and rewarding to fulfill.

And P.S. Don’t dwell on what might have been this semester, and don’t worry about what it might become. Instead, be grateful for the experiences that God has already given you, and trust that through it all God will be right there with you—supporting you, cheering you on, and providing unending love. Amen.

Joel Johnson, PhD, Department of Government and International Affairs

Dear Augustana Community,

Crises such as the one we’re living through cause confusion and division.  We struggle to gain an accurate sense of what the danger is and what we can do about it.  We evacuate public places and distance ourselves from each other.  Fear and distrust reign.

But crises can also clarify and connect.  I’d like to pose a number of questions, each of which uses the current crisis to prod reflection upon what truly matters and how we can better engage with humanity past and present.

1. Where is our treasure?  Is it a stash of toilet paper and hand sanitizer?  Or does our treasure lie elsewhere?  Read Matthew 6:19-21 for some advice.

2. In a disease-ridden world, what responsibilities do we have towards the suffering?  This question is not a new one, so read up on how thoughtful people have addressed it over the centuries.  One place to begin is Martin Luther’s letter on “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague.” 

3. What is the moral significance of the people of this world focusing on a common problem and working together (albeit remotely) to address it?  This is, I think, unprecedented.  See here, here, and here, for starters. 

4. What does this crisis teach us about what is vital and what is superfluous?  Remember Henry David Thoreau’s reason for moving to Walden Pond:  “I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  We are learning to live deliberately right now, but we should reflect upon what we’re learning. 

5. Our normal lives have been disrupted.  We are compelled to act and think differently.  We might be stuck in places we’d rather not be, facing dangers we’d rather not face.  But it’s usually at these times that humans get some of their best ideas.  Consider, for example, that when young Isaac Newton was sent home from Cambridge University because of a plague outbreak, he used his free time to develop his understanding of gravity and of calculus.  So, what will WE make of our disrupted lives

I have more questions, but this post is getting too long.  I must return to preparing for my newly modified courses.  Fortunately, because of the creative offerings of others, I realize that even we professors will survive this crisis. . .

Stay safe and well!

Joel Johnson

Professor of Government

Pastor Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, Interim Campus Pastor

Ephesians 5: 8:  “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light…”

This Ephesians verse is from one of the lectionary readings for this Sunday, 3/22, in most churches.  Isn’t it interesting that these words come ‘scheduled’, so to speak, to us as we struggle for our vision, or for light on our path in this uncertain time around the Coronavirus?  

Paul’s word to the church at Ephesus is a word of encouragement and reminder, and that is something each of us can use today, too.  Paul reminds that early Christian community that Christ has come that we may have life, and have it abundantly.  He reminds them that our fears and experiences of ‘darkness’….meaning feelings and experiences of being lost or without direction….are not things we travel through alone now, for we have Christ, the Light of the World to light our path,  and to walk it with us, as well.

Paul reminds the young church of who they are, and whose they are:  ‘Children of Light’ means they (and we) have Christ within us.

The promise of our baptism is that Christ will be with us always.  There’s a story about Martin Luther, theologian and campus pastor in the 1500s, that tells of Luther looking in the mirror each morning and reminding himself of his Baptism by saying: “I am baptized; I am baptized; I am baptized.”  It reportedly centered him at the outset of a new day for whatever he would encounter.  He was reminded of whose he was:  child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the Cross of Christ forever. ” as our Baptismal service says. (ELW p. 231)

Luther’s pattern of how to begin the day in faith that Christ was with him no matter what may be a good model for us to follow in these days. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you:

Make the sign of the cross on your brow each day, and remember that you are Baptized; that God loves and claims you as God’s own; and that Christ walks with you in whatever you encounter through the coming hours. 

When my family offers blessings to each other at special times together we make the sign of the cross on one another’s brows with the words:  “God loves you, and so do I”.  Let those words be a blessing to you today, as we remember our Baptism, and live as children of light.

Annemarie Fisher, Class of 2020

Jeremiah 29: 11-14 “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. I will be found by you”, says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.”

Right now, It’s a crazy world out there. I’m sure a lot of us are feeling out of place. Away from friends, family, co-workers and everything that resembles our daily lives and schedules. Fear, uncertainty, loneliness, boredom, and anxiety may be feelings circulating during this strange time. But during these trials, we must put our faith in God. Only God knows when this will end. It’s hard to see past the disaster of these moments, but there are good things coming. We might not know what they are or when they will come. But they will come. God promises that if we pray, He will listen. When we search for Him, we will find Him. Even in the darkest moments, God is there for us. Even if we feel like we’re going crazy because the only social interaction we’ve had in the last four days is with our dog, God promises to pull us out of captivity and restore our fortunes.

A Pastoral Letter regarding COVID-19

Dear Augustana Community,

I pray this note finds all of you safe and well, washing your hands vigorously, and leaning into new rhythms of life and learning. 

This note surely also finds you, like me, facing new challenges and stressors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear and uncertainty seem to rule the day. We’re anxious about our classes, our jobs, our parents, our kids, our money, our health. And with no clear end of the outbreak yet in sight, it’s hard to know the best next steps to take as we try to live faithfully and carefully into the future.

The biblical image that keeps coming to my mind is of the disciples in John’s Gospel, after Jesus had been crucified, locked and huddled in a room together, paralyzed by their fear. They were practicing their own kind of “self-isolation,” knowing that what was “out there” would be too much for them to bear. They were safer locked away. 

The pandemic that plagues our world is both different and not-so-different from what the disciples faced. We can all relate to being confined, isolated and worried. Like the disciples, we feel that so much is out of our control. It’s not simply the virus that is contagious, fear is, also.

Alone in our homes or offices, we are now safer from the coronavirus. But are we any free-er from our fear? I dislike the term “social distancing.” Physical distancing is our goal in this pandemic. Social connectedness (online and six feet apart) is what we need and crave. Indeed, our social connection will be what ultimately keeps us grounded in the coming weeks.

At Augustana we must continue to nurture the strong community that has buoyed us through the challenges of the past and will now reliably sustain us again. Community will look different in these days, and yet it is more important to care for one another than ever before.

To that end, Campus Ministry is committed to helping support and center our university community. Like the rest of you, we’re trying some new things and trusting your patience as we discover what works and what doesn’t. Beginning next week, we’ll launch these weekly rituals:

  • A devotional blog featuring posts from scheduled senior speakers, faculty preachers, and campus pastors.
  • Facebook Live, Mondays at 10 a.m. In lieu of an in-person worship experience, Pastors Ann and Andrea will offer a brief moment of reflection to begin your week. “Follow” the Campus Ministry Facebook Page to stay connected.
  • Viking Huddles, Wednesdays at 10 a.m., via Zoom. For anyone in the AU community simply looking to gather (online) with others. A half hour of social connectivity focused loosely around a question or topic. Look for weekly email invitations to this event that will help us be together in spirit when we’re not together physically.

Physical distancing and other kinds of isolation can take a toll. Be gentle with yourselves. Be generous with others. The Campus Pastors continue to be available for pastoral care, with email or phone being the best way to schedule an appointment over Zoom or Google Hangout.

Even as the disciples huddled fearfully inside a locked room, something astonishing happened. Jesus appeared! In the midst of their anxiety about death and loss, their Lord came and stood among them in a new and resurrected form. And the first words he spoke to his disciples were balm for their anxious souls. “Peace be with you.”

God is with us, even when we are not with each other. God enters into our fear and isolation and offers a word. Peace. Do not be afraid. You are not alone.

We are not alone. Thanks be to God! I look forward to connecting digitally and seeing you at our weekly Wednesday Viking Huddles in the coming weeks!

Peace,

Pastor Ann

Pastor Ann Rosendale at her installation as Administrative Campus Pastor (March 2, 2020)
Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started