Teaching, Learning, and Saying True Things: Faith Formation as an Ongoing Adventure

Jun 17, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by Marc Olson

Daniel Erlander, the author-artist-theologian who created Manna and Mercy is a retired pastor who served many calls and communities, including congregations in New Mexico and Washington state as well as the campus community of Pacific Lutheran University and the remote center for study and community called Holden Village in the North Cascade mountains. In each of these places, in addition to the central elements of word and sacrament, Dan’s ministry was centered in teaching and storytelling.

A lover of the Bible, Dan used his gifts to welcome people of all ages to learn and know the story of God and imagine their place in that story. A student of theology, Dan helped his congregations think about and give words to their faith in ways that were honest and made sense. A lover of liturgy, Dan opened the church’s sacramental treasures to young and old alike, teaching us how to claim and celebrate the living promise at the heart of baptism into Christ and how we arrive at God’s table of forgiveness and grace with empty hands and hungry hearts. Pastor Erlander’s ministry of faith formation was and continues to be both deeply intergenerational and profoundly theological. It’s rooted in the assertion that our lives (and our deaths, too) are carried in the ongoing and unfolding life and love of God.  

In this way, Manna and Mercy, with its slightly sly and deeply hopeful subtitle, “A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe,” is Dan’s magnum opus. It’s a resource for study and discussion of the Bible, a set of theological lenses that expand our imagination about the God who meets us in the stories of scripture, a playful-and-serious celebration of the promises at the heart of Christian belief, and a confession of his personal faith. And, like his in-person ministry, it welcomes each of us—no matter our age or ability—to engage at whatever level of sophistication we need.

Manna and Mercy is one person’s attempt to say some true and compelling things about the passionately active God who is revealed and described in the Bible. It’s a faith statement that has been built in a way that invites us to learn from its content (what it says) as well as its form (how it says these things).

Topics: Daniel Erlander

Marc Olson

Written by Marc Olson

Marc Olson lives and works in St. Paul, MN, where he is an editor, author, and catechist. Marc has written alongside Daniel Erlander's work in the Lutheran Welcomes series of booklets, and is the author of the adult session leader guide in the recently published Manna and Mercy Leader Sourcebook. Marc is also the author of The World Jesus Knew: A Curious Kid's Guide to Life in the First Century, The World of the Old Testament: A Curious Kid's Guide to the Bible's Most Ancient Stories, and The World of the First Christians: A Curious Kid's Guide to the Early Church.

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