Lent is upon us! This coming Sunday we will read about how Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. When we talk about lent, we often talk about giving up something like alcohol, sweets or rich food. But Lent can also be about going into the desert. By this I mean spending time during Lent actively trying to distance ourselves from the hustle and stress of ordinary life in different ways. This can mean different things for different people. It can be about abstaining from Facebook, the internet or television for a while. It can also be about spending more time church – in the cathedral there are over 20 services each week. And – you don’t need to go to a service to spend more time in church. The Cathedral is open everyday from 8 in the morning until at least 6 in the evening. The part of the church where we hold our services is reserved for quite meditation and prayer during the day. Why not enjoy some peace and quite for a small part of your day. If you want go even further in this direction there is the Taizé service every Thursday at 6.30 pm and silent contemplation at Liberiet four times every week. If you like an introduction – just ask me, or just come on a Monday at 12.15. For those who really want to experience what it is like to step out of your life for a while there are retreats. During a retreat you go away for a couple of days to a monastery or a retreat centre to spend a couple of days in complete silence. You spend time with yourself reading or praying and take part in several small prayer services during the day. There are several places locally, in Sweden and Internationally where you can go if you want to experience this. If you are interested – ask me and I will point you in the right direction – into the desert!
I have always loved to go to the movies. My taste in film is very varied, but a really great film is a film that gets my thinking and stays with me long after I leave the cinema. The last two years I have volunteered at Kino here in Lund. It is a cinema ran mainly by volunteers that shows movies that otherwise wouldn’t be shown – European movies, independent films and other films from all over the world. These films often get the best reviews, but since they are not backed up by advertising campaigns, they are usually not blockbusters. As a volunteer I can see as many movies as I like for free and in the last year I have really taken advantage of this. I have seen many great movies, and some that wasn’t so great. Some have been interesting just because they exist at all – like a film from Saudi Arabia made by a female director. One or two movies in the last year have been real revelations – like Francis Ha, which we showed last time the Student chaplaincy had a free showing for students. The movie we are going to show on the 13th of March at 7 pm moved me to tears. Since I see so many movies it doesn’t really happen very often that films affect me that deeply – but this one really did. Based on a true story “Last stop Fruitvale Station” tells the story of the ordinary people behind tragic headlines like “Man shot by police at station”. As usual admission is free and you can bring as many friends you like. If you want to see a trailer of the movie go to – http://kino.nu/last-stop-fruitvale-station
Why is it Headline news when the Dow Jones drops 2 %, but not Headline news when 10 000 children die from preventable causes? This Question has been asked by Pope Francis in several recent interviews. So far I haven’t heard an answer to it. Maybe it is seen as a naïve question by the ones who decide what news is and what isn’t news. However, for everyone connected to a child who needlessly dies in our world from diseases which could be treated or from starvation – the question is of paramount importance. Since no one seems to be willing to give an answer the Pope has answered the question himself in a recent interview. “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose”. Strong words, but I wholeheartedly believe that he is right. Over and over again we see greed take precedence other human lives and the environment. Oxfam recently published a study showing that the 85 riches in the world own as much as the 3,5 billion poorest and, more alarmingly, that many of them use their money to influence policymaking and legislation in a way that allows them to make even more money.
So why is this an issue for Christians? Shouldn’t we just stay out if this and concentrate on the spiritual side of things? I believe it is an issue for us as Christians because of what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people”. Martin Luther King said these words in reference to the civil rights movement in the U.S.A. during the sixties, but I beleive these words to be just as relevant today. As followers of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to stand up for “the least of these”. To my mind this includes a firm stand against an economic system which thinks a drop at the Stock Exchange is more important than the life of a single child.
About a year ago I saw an English documentary about the history of Christianity. It described the development of the Church from its earliest time until today. The most interesting part was actually the one which concerned Christianity today. Where will the Church go from here? We live in a post-modern society where the Church has lost its authority. It used to be that the Church provided people with answers, but ever since the enlightenment the Church has been in retreat. In our post-modern society people no longer accepts answers as the definitive truth just because the Church says it is the truth. In people’s mind there is no longer such a thing as objective truth – everything is now relative. So has the Church lost its relevance? The journalist behind the documentary didn’t think so, even though he himself described himself as an agnostic. But the role of the Church has changed, and will probably change even more in the future. Modern people can ignore the answers given by the church, but they can’t ignore the existential questions that come with life – even if most people seem to try their best to do just that. In future, the role of the Church might be to remind people of these questions – to keep asking the eternal questions: Why am I here? What is the meaning of it all? What is wrong and what is right? What is my ultimate concern? Sure, the Church has the answers to these questions, but as long as people don’t ask the questions they won’t be interested in the answers that the Church has to give. As a monk was quoted to say in the program – to the modern agnostic man God isn’t first and foremost the answer, God is the annoying, ever-present question that won’t go away. So let’s begin by asking the questions!
Last year I had a program talk about consumerism being an implicit religion. Not very many people came, but somehow what I said took on a life of its own. To date I have done three interviews with journalists who somehow found out about this and found it intriguing. In a recent article a former Swedish bishop writes about the same thing, using Martin Luther’s definition of faith as tool to understand today’s society. What is a God? Luther answers – a god is anything you put your trust in and expect everything good from. Theologian Paul Tillich uses the term ultimate concern to answer the same question. So what is your ultimate concern? Where do you place your hope and where do you go when you need help? Answer these questions and you will find your true god. We live in a world and a society where we put our trust in economic growth, technology and science. This is the new trinity we hope will save us in the end – facing climate change and other problems. This is where we place our hope for the future. In the same way our ultimate concern is often our own self – what’s in it for me? According to the former bishop the new world religion is a self-centered materialistic atheism. In this context shopping can seen as the main ritual of this new world religion. This is what drives economic growth and creates an eternal demand for new technologies to amaze us. It used to be people would go to Church on Sunday – now they gather in the shopping malls. So what is your ultimate concern?
Ok, so it is still cold and dark outside. A lot of people in Sweden have a hard time with January, but for me November has always been worse. The difference between the two is that whereas in November it is still getting darker and darker, in January things have turned around – it is getting lighter and lighter everyday – in January there things to look forward to! A local tradition that will effect all of you this spring is Lundakarnevalen – festivities held by students in Lund every forth year. Prepare for an invasion of partygoers in May …and everything is taking place around the Cathedral! If you are a student at the University you can be a part of it all if you volunteer as a karnevalist – roll call is on the 9th of February. In our congregation there are also things to look forward to. Besides our Holy Communion Services every Sunday at 5 pm there are other activities. Below you will find them listed. To start things of there is our Meet `n` Greet pot-luck this coming Monday at 7 pm. Hope to see you there!
Spring activities 2014
27/1 19.00 Meet ´n´ Greet pot-luck, Domkyrkoforum
23/2 14.00 Guided Tour of the Cathedral – learn about the Cathedral and the history of Lund
23/3 14.00 Guided Tour of the Cathedral
16.00 Walk the Labyrinth. Curious about the Labyrinth on the Square between the Cathedral and Domkyrkoforum? Find out more and walk in it.
13/4 14.00 Guided Tour of the Cathedral
15.30 Pilgrimage through the historical Lund.
7/5 19.00 International Pot-luck, Domkyrkoforum
10/5 13-17 Into the Wild! More info to come.
1/6 14.00 Guided Tour of Cathedral
Still to come: Movie nights at Kino, Cell groups, Bible study.
It is really interesting how words can have slightly different meaning, but still almost mean the same thing. To wait and to anticipate describes almost the same thing but from to different sides. To wait is often associated with something boring or something we dread. We wait in line at the grocery store wishing that we were somewhere else. We get caught in traffic and are delay – all we can do is to wait. We sit at the doctor’s office and wait for test results dreading the outcome. We are in custody awaiting trail.
In comparison we often anticipate something nice. Children are filled with anticipation waiting for Christmas. When it is dark and cold we anticipate the coming of spring. The word anticipates is almost neighbor with the word longing.
So when we listen to the gospel readings where Jesus talks about the end of time when he will come back – is this something we are waiting for or are we filled with anticipation for this to happen? Is this something we are dreading or is it something we long for to happen? And why is something we sometimes long for and sometimes dread?
It has been crazy weeks after our bishop Antje was chosen to be the next Archbishop of Sweden. A lot of people were happy about the decision, but others immediately started to accuse her of being vague and for marginalizing Christ. Some of the critique centered on the motto that Antje had chosen when she was ordained as a bishop in 2007 – “God is greater”. Suddenly there were a lot of conspiracy theories going around. Was Antje a Muslim? After all “God is greater” translates into Allahu Akbar which is a common Islamic expression. The whole thing reminded me of what happened when Barak Obama was elected president in the United States. Suddenly there were a lot of rumors going around that he wasn’t born in the USA and that he was a Muslim. Seems to me that whenever controversial decisions are made – a black man is elected president or a woman chosen to be the Archbishop of Sweden – some people feel a need to come up with alternative explanation as to why this could happen.
And no, Antje isn’t a Muslim. Her motto is taken from the New Testament – 1 Joh 3:20. It is true that if you translate this into Arabic it says Allahu Akbar simply because the Arabic word for God is Allahu. If you are an Arabic Christian and believe in the Christian God you believe in Allahu – it is as simple as that. So why did she chose this motto? She chose it because she wanted to underline the fact that God is always greater than anything we can perceive or imagine. For her it was a statement of humility. Of course some people found this to be offensive. Why couldn’t she give clear answers about God? Why was there always room for interpretations in everything she said? Wasn’t it the future Archbishops job to provide easy to understand answers about God and Christianity? But isn’t humility our only approach when it comes to God? After all there were plenty of people who missed out on the fact that Jesus was the Messiah they had waited for, because Jesus didn’t fit in with their picture of how the Messiah would be. To my mind, whenever we try to box God in and capture God in simple statements, we run the risk of losing sight of God. We start to believe in our own image of God instead of believing in GOD. And when we judge others because of their faith, we are really judging ourselves – if we are to believe Jesus. Just as Antje, I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior, but I also believe that God is greater, and because of that I try to be humble and not to judge others.
I know I have talked about this before, but the new Pope continues to give me hope. After years of turning the back on the world the Catholic church, headed by the new Pope seems to open up to discussion. Most exciting of all, however, is that Francis is has shown the world that it is possible to hold a position of power while maintaining a humble attitude. In certain situations the Pope is seen as infallible – still Francis in an interview called himself naïve and worried that he’d been rash in the past. Instead of commanding people to follow him, he invited them to join him. When asked about gay priests he answered with a question of his own – “who am I to judge?” When did we last hear something like that from the leader of a church that in the past decades been so judgmental? Impressively, Pope Francis doesn’t only talk – his words are followed up by action – choosing simple dress over regal costumes, a Ford focus over a limousine and modest quarters over the presidential suit. Don’t get me wrong – I am not converting to the Catholic Church. I just think that Pope Francis is exactly the kind of world leader we need just now. We need more humble people in positions of power and more humility all over. The last couple of weeks we have seen lots of the opposite. In the USA the politicians held the country and the whole world hostage refusing to listen to the other side. In Sweden the process of electing a new Archbishop got really ugly – one sides accusing the other side of marginalizing Christ. In a whole range of scenarios it seems we are getting more polarized – unable to agree on anything – which is bad news for everyone. Because to solve the problems we are facing we need to be able to work together – inside the Church and outside the Church. That is why Pope Francis makes me optimistic – I just hope that others will follow his example. Maybe we should all begin by looking at ourselves – praying for the Holy Spirit to bestow us the gift of humility.
Today’s blog is not written by me, but is instead a letter written by Carina who has volunteered to be in charge of coordinating our cell groups – great job!
welcome to cell groups
The small groups are called ‘cell groups’. We call them ‘cells’ because cells are the basic unit of the human body. Without cells the human body would not exist. Just as the Church is called the ‘Body of Christ’ in the Bible, the cell or small group is the basic unit of the Church. Also, as with our human body, the health of the individual cell is vital to the health of the whole body! Cell groups can also be named home groups or prayer groups.
We will start with two cell groups in our congregation this fall. We meet in each other’s homes every two weeks. We meet at 19.00 and it will last 1-1 1/2 hours. We will pray together and have a short Bible study. Sometimes Jan will come to have a longer Bible study with us.
One of the groups meets on Mondays at weeks with even numbers and the other group on Tuesdays in the weeks with odd numbers. Except for the first time when both groups meet in week 44. You can choose which group you want to join. Tell me which group you want to be in and if it works with both days for you, please write that so I can place you in the appropriate group.
The Monday Group has its first meeting on Monday, 28 October at 19:00/7pm.
The Tuesday Group has its first meeting on Tuesday, 29 October at 19:00/7pm.
Both groups have their first meeting at my house at the address Hällestadsvägen 146 in Dalby. Take the yellow bus to the bus station (Busstorget) in Dalby. Let me know if you need help finding the way. My phone number is 0705 18 65 14.
After the first meeting, I will only be in the Monday group, and we will take turns to meet at each other’s homes. It’s fine to be in the group even if you do not want us to meet in your home because you live in a small apartment or room.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Please let me know if you like to be in the Monday or Tuesday group.