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.
Well, there are several options! One close to my heart is to take a guided tour of the Cathedral. I do these for International Students in collaboration with the University, but they are of course open to every one attending our Services at 5 o´clock. The history of Lund and the history of the Cathedral are interlinked and there are many great stories to be told. This summer Trip Advisor named the Cathedral no 3, after the Castle and City hall in Stockholm, of things to see while in Sweden. This, of course, made us very proud. Adding to this, we already have three stars in the French guide “Guide Michelin”.
Another thing you can do is to walk the labyrinth in the square between the Cathedral and Domkyrkoforum. Labyrinths like this can be found in many Cathedrals in Europe. To walk in them is a spiritual exercise linked to contemplation. Before coming to the Holy Communion Service at 5 pm you will have the opportunity to try under the guidance of our minister in charge of pilgrimage – Anna Alebo.
If you like movies you will have the chance to see the film “Francis Ha” for free at Kino. The student chaplaincy is working together with the organization Folkets bio on this. This is an organization run by volunteers to show films from all other the world that otherwise wouldn’t be shown in a movie theater. Francis Ha is an independent movie from the USA about a 27 year old woman trying to find her place in life. For those of you who have seen Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” – this could be seen as a modern take on that story. Tickets are free and will be handed out at coffee after the HCS in the weeks before the showing. There might also be other movies coming up. Check our Facebook page for updates.
Come December we will be baking Swedish Christmas cakes with our expert baker – Carina. For those of you who have tasted the things she has baked for coffee after the HCS – this is an event not to be missed. We’ll be baking Swedish “pepparkakor” and “Lussekatter”.
Speaking of Carina, we will try to get a cell group going this fall. Lots of people have expressed interest in this. If you are interested talk to Carina, who have said that she be willing to coordinate this. If you are interested, but haven’t met Carina, send me an e-mail and I will forward it to her.
Also in December – two traditional Events – first, when it comes to Services, the Christmas carol Service in Helgeand Church and of course, apart from our regular HCS on Sundays, our Christmas service on Christmas day at 5 pm. Also, our traditional Swedish Christmas party – a crash course in celebrating Christmas in Sweden!
If you want to add to this list of things to do – you are more than welcome to do so. If you have an idea , starting a group, doing something together or what ever – tell me about it and we might be able to make it happen.
6/10 14.45 Guided Tour of the Cathedral
21/10 19.00 Movie night at Kino “Francis Ha”
27/10 16.00 Walk the Labyrinth.
17/11 16.00 Walk the Labyrinth.
24/11 14.00 Guided Tour of Cathedral
2/12 19.00 Christmas bake-off.
15/12 18.00 Swedish Christmas party
Ps. Christian Sturesson, a talented musician who played a one of our Service this spring,
will give an concert in the Cathedral in November. More details on our Facebook site. Ds
A couple of weeks ago our cathedral had its 868th birthday. It is of course a privilege to work in a church that old. Just thinking about all the people who have worshipped there before us makes the head spin. Anyway, on this particular day a Korean couple who has been with us almost every Sunday for the past two years were there for the very last time. They were going back home the following week. This is the one thing that I don’t like about my job. Working with students, you often get to know people, and before you know it, they are leaving. It always fills me with sadness. I could fill this entire page with names of people I have gotten to know in our church, that have now gone home, and that I still miss. Anyhow, after the service the couple came up to me and gave me, or rather the Cathedral, a gift – I like to think of it as a birthday gift. It was a beautiful Korean bible. Following this I have been thinking:
1. In our Cathedral we sometimes have a ceremony to send pilgrims on their way. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a ceremony like that for members of our congregation that are leaving? – A short prayer wishing them good luck and thanking them for their presence among us? It should of course be voluntary to participate, but we could have it as an offer. It would also give the congregation a chance to say goodbye.
2. What if we could build a library with Bibles from all over the world that people have donated to us? Besides the map, that would really be a symbol of how international our congregation is.
So what do you think?
That is probably the most common question I get as a minister in the Cathedral. The simple answer is that the Church of Sweden is a Protestant Lutheran Church. But even knowing this you might get confused when you visit the Cathedral and the Holy Communion Service in English. If you are a Methodist you might for example recognize the first part of our order of worship as taken from the Methodist church. If you are a Catholic you might notice the statue of Mary in the corner. If you are an Orthodox you immediately see the Icons in the middle of the Church. If you are an Anglican you are probably familiar with the way ministers dress. Visiting the Cathedral you might even come across the smell incense and see service that follow the Liturgy of the hours the same way it is done in convents. So what is going on here? There are several answers. First; when the reformation came the Swedish king decided that the whole of Sweden would follow the teachings of Luther. There was no Catholic opposition. In other places, like Germany and Holland, the Lutheran church met constant opposition from the catholic church and therefore felt the need to distance itself from everything Catholic. In Sweden, and the same goes for England, there was no such need, so the Church of Sweden keep certain things that Lutherans in for example Germany associate with the Catholic church. That is why protestants from mainland Europe often find the Church of Sweden and the Anglican church to be slightly “Catholic” when it comes to how ministers dress and other things. Another part of the answer is that our Church is a Cathedral – a building that by definition is “All-Christian” or ecumenical if you will. We like to bring in many different parts of our Christian heritage into our church to point out our connection with all of Christianity. That is also why last summer I had a wedding together with a Catholic priest and this summer together with an orthodox priest. So the best answer to the question – what kind of Church is this – is probably; We are a open church welcoming everyone!
About two weeks ago I stood in front of 2000 International students during GIM – the General Information Meeting that Lund University arranges for the newly arrived. Afterwards I got to hear the usual reactions – most where surprised, some even chocked, that a religious representative was present at this event. What does the Church and the University have in common? But from experience I also know that for a number of students my presence at this event was very important. Out of those 2000 students hundreds come from backgrounds where faith is an important part of everyday life. For some of them finding a community to belong to and a place to worship is very high on their list of priorities. As a student chaplain it is my job to help those students to find a spiritual home away from home regardless of their faith. Most are Christians from different denominations but I also get e-mails from Buddhists, Hindus and Jews looking for places to worship. I help everyone to find a place. Some of the students wind up at the Holy Communion Service I have every Sunday at 5 pm and that is of course very rewarding, but when it comes to my work at the University that is not my first priority. Working with the University it is necessary for me to be multi- faith, even though I myself am a Christian. Recently the Student chaplaincy in another town here in Sweden was thrown off Campus because the University was supposed to be independent from all religions and political ideas. My colleagues there hadn’t misbehaved in any way – the University had just decided that they didn’t want to have anything to do with religion – any religion. I am extremely pleased that Lund University has taken a different approach – they invite all religions not favoring anyone. That’s why, at my presentation during GIM, there is contact information to all denominations and religious bodies that can be found in the region. At a meeting the Vice Chancellor of Lund University has said that the University wishes to help students with every aspect of their life during their stay here, and since many students have a faith, the University want s to help those students to find a place to worship – regardless of faith. To me that is the best possible way to handle religion in a secular context – favor no one, but let everyone in. It is not a question of churches or religions doing missionary work. The students in question already have a faith when they come here. Helping them with information so that they can continue their spiritual life in Lund is not evangelizing, it is just providing them with a service, just like telling them how to contact the hospital if they need to is a service. Like the Vice Chancellor said in an interview – “Lunds universitet står heller för mångfald än för enfald”. It is hard to translate this into English – but he is basically saying that it is studip to ignore the fact that for many people religion is a part of life . I agree!