Among the many holy clergy characters of my childhood and youth, I am remembering Glen V. Wiberg (1925-2017) today. Glen was a teacher, translator, author, leader in the development of worship books and hymnals, and wrote confirmation materials. More than anything else, though, he was a pastor who preached with deep passion and love for Christ and the Church. During my growing years, I experienced the love of Jesus through the love Glen had for Jesus and for me.
In these challenging times, as always before, the church has its struggles. Tension fills the air as we wrestle with ideas about this Holy love. As always, the threat of what divides us threatens to undo us. Many are disenchanted with the Church for all kinds of reasons, some of which make sense, we must confess. We must not be blind to our many failures. Yet through the stresses, strains, and sorrows of each generation of its existence, the Church endures, and with it the Good News of God’s love for us all.
These words of pastor Wiberg come back to me, and ground me in hope yet again:
The church, with the pail and dipper, is still the bearer of God’s invitation–good news for the thirsty. There is a meeting place with an address where you are not only welcome but where your thirst can be quenched. There is a word. There is a font of life. There is a table. There is broken bread. There is a water pail and dipper. “In, with, and under” these earthy things is the presence of the Living Christ, God’s Chosen One, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The One who offers the gift of eternal life freely to all who thirst says, “Come, the gift is yours, without money and without price.” There is no better menu any place. The source of life is not a concept, nor a theology, nor a ritual, nor an organization, nor even an experience how ecstatic. The source of life is a Person–Jesus, the living One who speaks and with outstretched hand says to you, “Welcome!” (This Side of the River, 1995).
I am left to reflect on the blessing of the church, and wonder if you’d join me. The song goes on.