The small group that meets at the parsonage on Thursday evenings has been reading and discussing The Pietist Option, a recent book author by Covenanters Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie. Chris is a professor at Bethel College; Mark is the lead pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN.
The authors write about the distinctives that characterized the early pietist movement. Their thesis is that those early distinctives (which they characterize as pietist instincts) offer a positive way forward for the Church in these fractured and discouraging times.
One such instinct was a hopeful realism. Early pietism came to life in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War, the deadliest and most devastating war Europe had ever seen prior to the 20th century. During and following that war, the European church was fractured, bitter, discouraged and disparaged. The pietists countered this reality with a faith that embraced the transforming power of new life in Christ and the reality that no matter how discouraging the current times were, the Kingdom of God had taken root in the world and was growing, in both good and bad times. Even though God’s Kingdom would not be fully realized until Jesus returned, that hope empowered pietists to do the work of the Gospel and lead joyful, thankful lives.
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, we need to remind ourselves of our spiritual and historic roots. Covenanters are pietists. Even when our world is being roiled by scandal, hatred and absurd violence, we can live as hopeful, thankful people. And in doing so, find the strength to bless others, share the Gospel and work for justice. The early pietists took to heart Paul’s admonition in Colossians 2:6: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
To “overflow with thankfulness” is not to deny the brokenness and evil that is powerfully present in our world. However, it is to acknowledge that a greater power is also present in this world today. That greater power, the power of the resurrected Jesus, gives us hope and enables us to keep and live the faith, until the day of Christ’s return.
So, thanks be to God! Now and always. Amen!