How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!
I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity.
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely. And where should I go?
This poem perfectly captures how ambiguous our feelings towards the church can be. Believe me – even though I work in the church, I have felt the same way plenty of times. A case in point – during the last year I have been trying to find a way for the church to make a difference when it comes to the beggars we see on the streets here in Lund. To me this is a question of credibility for the church. Again and again Jesus urges us to see and help those who are in need. In Matthew 25:31-46 the ability to see Christ in those who need our help is what defines us as followers of Christ. So imagine my frustration when every attempt to make a difference have been put on hold due to church politics and bureaucracy. I mean, when Jesus was going to feed the 5000 he didn’t call board meetings or called in lawyers to do so. He didn’t talk about helping – he acted. Now I’m sure most of you have similar experiences in your lives as Christians. Being a part of a church can be really aggravating when the Church you belong to holds on to views or do things you yourself consider to go against the gospel. But this is when it is important to remember what the church is. It is so easy to view the church as an impersonal institution, but the church is actually us – you and me together. This is why it is important not to leave the church when we are disappointed with it – for this is when the church needs us the most. So stay in church even if you are frustrated with it and change it from within. Again – thanks to Leisa for the inspiration.
How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!
Last week’s gospel reading was about the man who found a treasure while plowing his field. Like all parables this one can be interpreted in different ways.
In last Sunday’s HCS I gave you one interpretation – here is another one. Most of us lead ordinary lives. We get up in the morning, get off to school or work, come home in the afternoon, make supper, watch TV and go to bed. Day out and day in it is pretty much the same routine. This is something advertising often use when they try to sell us that trip or that produce that will get us away from it all. But what if our everyday lives is the greatest treasure of all?
A treasure that is always there right in front of us. Before I became a minister I worked a couple of years as a nurse’s aid at the hospital here in Lund. It was a real eye-opener to me, because there I got to meet people who had suddenly lost that which most of us take for granted – our everyday lives. I met people who dreamt of one day be able to brush their teeth by themselves. How many of us appreciate the simple act of being able to brush our own teeth – right, very few.
In my work as a minister I have continued to meet with people who dream of everyday life. Like the drug addict whose biggest dream was to be able to stay at home eating candy, watching a movie when it rained, instead of constantly having to be out there looking for money and drugs.
My point is this, in my experience as a nurse’s aide and as a minister – the thing that people miss the most, when it is not there anymore, is ordinary, often boring, everyday life. Maybe this realization is the treasure we might one day stumble upon – that everyday life is a great gift, and something you should savor every day.
So here is a spiritual exercise that will forever change your everyday life. In your evening prayer or before going to bed – give thanks for three ordinary things in your life. The fact that you have a roof over your head, the fact that you can brush your teeth by yourselves, that you have a bed to sleep in. If you right these things down every day and at the end of the year you will have a treasure chest filled with everyday pearls.
A while ago I was sent a video link by a member in our congregation. When I followed it I came to a short video with the title “Ministry Still Matters”. The content is kind of hard to describe – it is a song/poem with the purpose to recruit new ministers/ pep those who are already ministers. If you want to see for yourselves you can see search for “Ministry Still Matters” on Youtube.
I found the video very inspiring – so much so that I forwarded it to three young people I would like to see in ministry. Ministry matters – I was reminded of this last Thursday when during the course of one day got to comfort someone who was grieving, sat in a meeting with the expressed purpose of finding new solutions to help the beggars on the street and finally was called to hospital to help a family in need. Not all days are like this, but days like this isn’t as unusual as you might think – ministry still matters! Now, I feel really privileged to be in a position that makes me able to sometimes make a difference in people’s lives. But I’m not the only one. According to Martin Luther all believers are ministers. I like this teaching! Not everyone gets to do the things I get to do as an ordain ministers, but everyone can do the things that really matters – console those who grieve, do something to help a beggar, bring comfort to a family in need. So look around – where can you make a difference? And be aware – I consider our congregation to be a community of ministers. Thanks Leisha for the inspiration!
The best part of my job is meeting so many different people.
Being a Student Chaplain for International students you meet people from all corners of the world and people from very different backgrounds. I’m also privileged to work together with the good people at the External relations office at Lund University.
These are the people handling all contacts with foreign students and contacts with Universities abroad. Twice a year they organize the General Information Meeting where newly arrived International students come to get information about Lund and the University. My job at these gatherings is to help Students with information about places of worship in Lund and around Lund. I’m a minister in the Church of Sweden, but since Students come from all over the world and have very different backgrounds when it comes to religion I help the University by being an “all religion consult”. What this means is that whenever the University needs information about religion in Lund or get questions from students regarding religion I help them out.
For some Student I act as a religious detective. Say you are a Quaker looking for a community to belong to or are a Muslim wondering where to pray – if you study at Lund University I am your man. I am myself a Christian and work as a minister in the Cathedral, but as a Student Chaplain working in collaboration with Lund University I am a Multi-faith consultant.
Sometimes standing in front of 2000 students it is hard to know if someone is listening – in the beginning I felt out of place. This has changed however, as Students have helped me to understand how important my job is in this respect. First there was the Student from India whose first priority was to find a Church to belong to while she was here in Lund. Her whole family was praying for her, that she would find someone to guide her right, and she was herself quite worried. How on earth was she going to find a religious community to belong to in this strange land? Later she told me how happy she had been to see me at the General Information Meeting.In her eyes I was an answer to her own and her family’s prayers. It is not a bad feeling to be the answer to someone’s prayer!
Recently another thing happened. A few days after GIM I was walking in Lundagård as a young man from China called out to me – Excuse me Sir! I recognize you – you are the one in charge of religion – I have something to ask you. Yes! I am the one in charge of religion!
All my colleagues working with Swedish students are jealous of me! Working as a Student Chaplain with International students is so much easier that working with Swedish students. As a Student chaplain working with Swedish students you are often met with suspicion. What is a religious person doing here amongst us normal people? Faith is almost regarded as a dirty word and religious belief as a contagious disease. I know, I have written about this many times before, but I am always reminded of this at the beginning of the term. I meet International students and am greeted with curiosity or gratefulness depending on if they are religious or not. I have never been treated by International Students like I am a strange creature from outer space. When it comes to Swedish students however, it is a different story. At hälsningsgillet tomorrow at AF borgen I know from experience that some students will avoid me like I am a dangerous madman. Why? – Because Swedish students are among second or third generation secularized Swedes. Their parents and even grandparents were secularized and all their friends are all secularized. They often don’t know a single person who believes in anything. So what they know about religion comes from what they have read about it in school and in newspapers. They have no first hand experience of what it means to believe in something, because they don’t know anyone who has religious beliefs. This opens up for a lot of prejudice when it comes to religion. It is also a growing problem since more and more people living in Sweden are religious – people like International students or immigrants. What can we do to bridge the gap? Start talking to each other, which, of course, is much easier if we all treat each other with respect.
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
This parable always comes to mind around this time of the year. The last couple of weeks I have spread lots of information about our Holy Communion Services in the Cathedral. I have visited and e-mailed all the different International Coordinators at the University. I have stood in front of all 1800 International Students at the General Information meeting. I have guided 250 Students through the Cathedral telling them about the Service at 5 pm. Paula, Abi and Martina did a really excellent job helping me reach out to students at the Lund Information. And finally tomorrow, me and my colleagues will greet 600 students to the Cathedral during the University Treasure hunt. I really believe that every single International Student who has come to Lund this term has been reached with our information. So the seed have been sowed. Now all we can do is to wait – or not really. I know from experience that some students won’t be interested at all, others might seek out other churches, but over the next couple of weeks quite a few will come to our services to check them out. And here comes the most important part. They will all be looking for a spiritual home and a community to belong to during their stay here in Lund. If we, as a congregation can make them feel welcome, chances are that they will stay with us. So let’s do our very best to welcome them! Greet them, see them, welcome them and involve them. It is good for us and really important for them!
The last couple of weeks or so, we have noticed more and more tourists visiting the Cathedral. Tourist season is once again upon us. I still remember the chock when I first started working in the Cathedral. In June, when I left for my vacation, I left a Cathedral. In July, when I came back, I came back to a tourist attraction. The whole Cathedral was flooded with tourists – everywhere you looked it was just tourists, tourists. Even when there was a Service in progress there were tourists milling around. The attendants have a tough job trying to keep the tourist at bay so that we can actually use the Cathedral as a place of worship. Sometimes it borders in the absurd – like the time when I was preparing for the Midday Holy communion service only to find that a tourist had used the chalice on the altar to prop up his camera!
It is easy to get irritated at everyone sightseeing in the Cathedral. Can’t the show some respect? Why are they here in the first place? I think it is important to focus on the latter question in our attitude towards this. What drive people to visit Churches as soon as they go abroad? Because it is the same everywhere, where ever you go people flock around the Churches – in Prague, Paris and London. What drive people to do this? Well, to some degree historical interest and the beauty of the architecture. But to some degree, I’m willing to bet that, there is also a spiritual side to this. Somewhere deep inside there is a yearning, a hidden connection, that drive people to visit churches. These buildings represent something different, a side of life that is there, but not always recognized. Swedish Nobel prize winner Thomas Tranströmer captures this beautifully in his poem “Romanesque arches”:
Inside the huge romanesque cathedral
the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle-flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
“Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.”
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething
piazza together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones,
Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.
As usual we will hold Holy Communion Service in English all through summer at 5 pm every Sunday. The order of Service is shorter during summer, but it is still a opportunity to meet God and other people every week. Just follow the tourists and you will find us!
The worst time of the year is upon us! This is the time of year when many members of our congregation leave us to go back home. Many of you have been a part of our lives for a year, two years or even longer. We have seen each other on Sundays, we have had coffee together, and we have talked and laughed together. We will be sad to see you go and we will miss you! As a minister I really hate to say goodbye. Since I started as a minister for ministry in English in 2010 I have lived through this time of year 3 times – this will be my fourth. It does not get better with time! As usual my end of term/beginning of summer depression started already in the beginning in May, as I started to tally up people who were going to us leave soon. But starting this year it will be different. If you are leaving to go back home – please tell me – because we would like to give you a little something to help you remember us and we would really like to send you on your way properly. From now on everyone who has been with us for a time and who is leaving will get a small wooden cross which is the cross of Lund’s cathedral. As I hand over the crosses at the end of the servicewe will also sing this traditional Irish blessing together: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine upon your face, may the rain fall softly on your fields until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand”. Hopefully this will ease the pain of having to say goodbye a little bit.
The Student Carnival is upon us!
It is a tradition going back to the beginning of the 20th century that this occurs every 4th year. The amazing thing is that it is run entirely by volunteers – 5000 students that do this just for fun! You might have seen them queuing up to volunteer early this spring. This is a major event in Lund. It will attract visitors from all of Southern Sweden and student from all of Sweden.
Police estimate that close to 500 000 people will be here during the weekend – that is 5 times the population of Lund so it will be crowded. So what is it all about? Well the thing most people come to see is the parade on Saturday and Sunday. It starts at 12 o clock and goes on to 15. People will start lining up from 11 – so be there early to get a good view. The parade is filled with trucks with different scenes – all of them humorously commenting on current event in Sweden or in the World. Sometimes the message can be hard to understand – so concentrate instead on students having fun, being dressed up singing and laughing.Also student bands from all of Sweden will play in the parade – and there are lots of them.
Other things that is going on are the Carnival fair – an area in the middle of town surrounding the University building. Here you can go to listen to music (free concerts all weekend) and visit different tents with different activities – all of them with a humorous twist. If you are lucky enough and have gotten tickets – you can also go to Spexet, Revyn, Circusen or some other main events. Basically shows put on by students with lots of jokes in them.
So what about security? Well it will be crowded, but the atmosphere is very friendly. The aim is that everyone, even small children, should feel welcome and feel safe. There is hardly ever any trouble, but just to be on the safe side the Police are out on force during the weekend.
Also the Students themselves take security quite seriously. There are over 50 doctors and nurses at hand – all of them volunteers. There will also be security guards and fire fighters all over the place. The security detail of the Carnival has even asked for the Student chaplains to be on hand – should anyone need counseling for some reason. So look for the Student Chaplains in their bright green jackets. We will be walking around the Carnival fair from midday to midnight all three days! All in all the Carnival should be the safest place to be this weekend.
When I last wrote something about lent I wrote about going out in the desert.
Often we associate lent with abstaining from things. We say no to cookies or chocolate, don’t watch TV or stay away from Facebook. But really Lent should have much more to do with things we do. Lent should be a time when we focus less on ourselves and more on God and the needs of others.
To give some examples: If we decide to give up cookies, the money we save not buying cookies can be given to charities instead. So, we give up things in order to give our money to people who need our help. If we don’t watch TV or spend time on Facebook we have time to give to others instead. Is there someone who needs a visit? Is there any volunteer work to be done? Also if I don’t spend time watching TV – I have more time to spend with God, reading the Bible or praying.
To me this is the true meaning of Lent. It is not mainly about not doing thing, but about doing different things!