“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,…”
In the summer of 2008, my father, Rev. Carroll Norlin Anderson, and I made a pligrimage of sorts. The occasion was the 150th anniversary of my great-grandfather’s congregation, Spring Garden Lutheran Church, near Cannon Falls, Minnesota. My dad and I drove up from Madison, Wisconsin and joined in the celebrating along with many relatives who belong to that congregation. It was moving and inspiring to be in a place where the Good News of Jesus has been proclaimed from the time the first Swedish settlers met in a small log cabin – which now sits on the church grounds. My great-grandfather, John Norlin, served as pastor there from 1911 to 1928. As we sat in the service on Sunday morning, I imagined him at the pulpit those many years ago, proclaiming the grace that has set us free, keeping his watch in the time God gave him.
One hundred and fifty years ago, those Swedish settlers set up their church in what was essentially a wilderness. They had little or no competition from alternative religious communities. Today, we have no such comfort zone. Like the first century church, we face the stifling demand for tolerance of a ‘live and let live’ pluralism and a variety of competing belief systems. In this kind of environment, where it is intolerable to be intolerant, we are tempted to mute our witness to Christ Jesus and His Gospel or abandon it altogether.
The message that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world is intolerable to many. But the witness of our forebearers challenges us in this time and place, as in theirs, to present unequivocally the person, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the motivating factor of Christian life and missionary incentive in our homes and churches and society. What is intolerable is for us not to do so.