While preparing for my next sermon I read up on the text about the Magis or Wise men that visited Jesus in Bethlehem. The story reads like a legend, but if you read up on it, most facts in it can be verified. There really were such a thing like Magis – they were priests in Persia. At the time the ancient world really was filled with rumors about a coming universal king – even Roman historians wrote about it. There could have been a star – several celestial phenomenons occurred around that time. Herod was indeed very suspicious and capable of murder – he had already murdered his wife and two of his own sons. The only thing that is hard to verify is that children were murdered in the town of Bethlehem. Outside the Bible there is no mention of a massacre taking place. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The same thing is happening in our day and age. Every day thousands of children die without newspapers writing about it. Children getting killed is most of the time not headline news. If there is nothing else going on newspapers might write a few line about children killed by car bombs in Syria or land mines in Afghanistan. Most deaths go unnoticed. The shooting in Newtown were 20 children got killed was an exception. Because the massacre took place in America we got to know the children’s names and see their photographs. Had the massacre occurred in Congo that simply wouldn’t have happened. Don’t get me wrong. The response to what happened in Newtown was extremely appropriate. Every time children die as a result of violence it should be reported all over the world! Their pictures should be shown on every front-page and on every news channel. It should be head line news every time because children are not supposed to be shot or killed in explosions. Every time it happens it is a tragedy that concerns everybody. It shouldn’t matter where it happened – but it does. Sadly, the children of Bethlehem are not alone.
Please join us for Holy Communion Service in the Cathedral at 5 pm on Christmas day. We will sing a lot since I will try to squeeze in as many familiar hymns and carols as I can. Christmas can be the best time of the year, but it can also be the worst time of the year if you feel lonely and are far from home. That’s why I encourage all of you to be extra hospitable this season. The best Christmas gift can be the gift of fellowship! Merry Christmas!
Today (I write this on the 13th of December) the whole of Sweden is celebrating a saint. Sweden, being a protestant country (not to mention – very secular) don’t usually pay attention to saints. Not even our very own saint, Birgitta, is honoured with her own day. Still Lucia has a special place in Swedish tradition. How can that be? Well, first of all most Swedes have no idea that they are celebrating a saint. Lucia has become Swedish and taken on a life of her own. The Italian saint has been mashed together with Swedish traditions taken from a variety of places. The end result is something typically Swedish – a secular saint! The same is true of most Christian holidays. Swedes celebrate them, but only a few for religious reasons. Christmas, Easter, and so on, have all been filled with a new secular meaning – usually centred on food and consumption. From a Christian point of view only the shell remains – a Christian holiday by name only. It is my belief that this has something to do with the Church of Sweden being a national church. From the reformation and until the year 2000 the Church of Sweden was part of the state – basically a government institution funded by taxes. Being a Swede was the same as belonging to the Church of Sweden. You were actually born into the church, which meant that you could be a member of the Church even if you weren’t baptised. Being a Swede meant that you automatically were a Christian. All that changed 2000, but many Swedes still see the Church of Sweden as a government institution. During the centuries Christianity was mixed up in our national identity making hard for people to say which is which. That’s how Lucia became a Swedish secular saint. As a minister in the Church of Sweden it is a constant challenge to separate Christianity from what used to be a government institution. It is not unheard of people coming to the church asking for a church wedding, but at the same time asking if the minister could omit any reference to “God and such things” – I doubt that anyonewould ask a catholic priest that question. Anyway, to set things strait, Lucia lived in Italy around the 3rd century and died as a martyr when the Christian church was persecuted by the Roman emperor Diocletianus. Of all the different legends associated with her there is one about her bringing food into the deepest and darkest dungeons. To be able to carry more in her hands she was said to put candles on her head. In advent, in honour of her, we as Christians should also spread the light and bring food to those who hungers.
Please join us this coming Sunday for Holy Communion service at 5 pm in the Cathedral.
No, it is not too early to talk about Santa Claus. Today (I write this on the 6th of December) is the day we commemorate Saint Nicholas. The real Santa Claus lived between the years 270 – 343 AD; in a part of the world we now call Turkey. When his parents died he inherited a fortune. He was very generous and had a reputation for secret gift-giving. In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him, but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man’s house. Because his generous acts he was later elected to be the Bishop of Myra. Now why I’m I telling you this story? Well, right now most of us are running around buying, or planning, to buy Christmas gifts. Each year we spend an incredible amount Christmas shopping. Just here in Sweden we spend close to 60 billion Swedish kronor buying stuff to give away. Now it is nothing wrong to give gifts. But maybe we should let ourselves be inspired by Saint Nicholas. I our world it is easy to be like Saint Nicholas. We don’t have to sneak up to houses in the middle of the night throwing our gifts trough the window. All we have to do is to donate some of our money to a charity of our choice. There are many worthy causes out there. Children are still living in desperate poverty all around the world. Think what a difference it would make if each of us gave half our Christmas budget to charity! From Sweden alone that would mean 30 billion kronor towards helping people who really need what we have in abundance. So let us remember Santa Claus and spread Christmas joy in the same way he did.
One of my absolute favourite movies is” Dead Poet Society” with Robin Williams. In it he plays a teacher at a traditional boarding school for boys. The boys are under extreme pressure trying to live up to their parents expectations. They are expected to become the leaders of tomorrow – being accepted to the best Universities and having successful careers. Their path is laid out by their parents and teachers. Robin Williams plays a teacher who instead encourages the boys to be themselves – to follow their own path through life.
I have always viewed Robin Williams’s character as being Christ like. Someone once said that we, as humans, are born as originals, but to often die like copies. As humans we are moulded by our parents, by teacher, by friends and by society. Too often we are forced into “roles” that we are not comfortable with. But it is my firm belief that God wants us to be unique, because he created us like unique individuals. None of us are the same, so why do we try so hard to be like each other? We will see the movie on Thursday at 7 pm at Domkyrkoforum. Afterwards there will be coffee. Welcome!
A while back a few of us took a pilgrimage through Lund to visit Holy places. Until the 16th century Lund had no fewer than 27 different churches and cloisters. After the reformation 25 of these were torn down, the stones used to build the castle in Malmö. However most of these churches and cloisters can still be found today. If you walk around in Lund you will notice signs on walls marking the place of a church or a cloister. Sometimes the churches have also been outlined in the streets using cobblestones (look behind the store “Din sko” – if you look carefully on the ground you will see a church outlined). The town is filled with places where people have worshiped and prayed. As Christians we are part of a big movement going through centuries. In a way we have a connection with the ones who has gone before us. On Sunday we will have our Holy Communion Service at Bosebo Kyrka which is part of the exhibition at Kulturen museum. It is an old Swedish wooden church that originally stood on the Swedish countryside. The ones who attended the church every Sunday were most likely poor farmers and woodsmen. Thinking about this adds to the experience when were, several centuries later, celebrate our Holy communion service in the same church. Of course, working in the Cathedral this is part of my everyday life. I am one in a long row of ministers and bishops who have served in the Cathedral since it was completed in 1145. and after me will follow still more ministers and bishops. In that way we are all part of a Christian fellowship that transcends time. So, please join us this coming Sunday for Holy Communion Service in an old wooden church. Let’s make history come alive!
Taizé is an ecumenical convent in France that attracts a lot of young people from all other the world. There special, much-loved, form of worship involves a lot of songs where you repeat the same words over and over again – sort of like a mantra. The music is very beautiful and the setting is very peaceful. It also involves an introduction or a sermon followed by a section where the participants are divided in to small groups sharing thoughts with each other. A pot-luck meal is also part of the concept. If you haven’t been at a Taizé meeting before this is a great way to experience what it is all about. The meeting will be at St Thomas Catholic church here in Lund. The meeting starts at 3pm and ends around 9 in the evening. If you don’t want to stay the whole time you are welcome to just drop in for a while.
It gets dark in Sweden in November – I’m sure most of you have noticed this by now. When we turn the clocks back when summertime ends, all of a sudden it gets dark already at 4.30 pm. November is a difficult month for a lot of people and a feeling of melancholy affect lots of people. Summer is definitely over, the leaves are falling and it is starting to get really cold. Christmas is still a long way away and so are all the Christmas lights that make the dark a little more bearable. To compensate for all of this lots of Swedes start lighting candles inside their houses. Candles are sold by the box at IKEA and other places and you can practically see these boxes flying of the shelves now in November.
Right in the middle of this comes All Souls Day – the day when we remember and honor the loved ones who are no longer with us. Here in Sweden almost everyone will visit the graves of loved ones this weekend to light candles. Even if Sweden is a very secularized country this religious tradition is still a strong one. If you walk by a cemetery you will see hundreds of candles flickering in the dark. All of them symbolizing the life of someone who is now dead. So why not take a walk through the cemetery this weekend? See the lights flickering on the graves and remember the words of Jesus: ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Tuesday the 6th of November at 7 pm we will have our very first international pot-luck. Since the people attending the Holy Communion service in the Cathedral come from over 40 different nations, each with a different culture when it comes to food – this could turn out to be an interesting experience. The idea is that all of us bring something with us – an entre, a main course or a dessert enough for several people. When we put all of these trays on a table we should get a really interesting international buffet with lots of opportunities to sample food we haven’t tried before. We will start organizing this coming Sunday when you will be able to sign up and tell us what you plan to bring to the table. Ideally it should be something typical from your country, but of course you are welcome to bring whatever you like – even Swedish meatballs!
The life of Oscar Romero has always inspired me as a Christian. This is what Wikipedia writes about him. Oscar Romero was bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. On 23 February 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador. His appointment was met with surprise, dismay, and even incredulity. While this appointment was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed. On 12 March 1977, Rutilio Grande, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero, who later stated, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path’”. In response to Fr. Rutilio’s murder, Romero revealed a radicalism that had not been evident earlier. Traditionally, the church had been complicit in the aims of the state and military to privilege the wealthy and powerful while the majority of the population remained in abject poverty. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. Romero was shot on 24 March 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite.
After his assassination a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The canonization process continues. He is considered by some the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” by Catholics in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism, Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, including the Church of England through the Calendar in Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, a testament to his wide respect even beyond the Catholic Church. In 2008, he was chosen as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy by the Europe-based magazine A Different View.
This coming Tuesday (23/10) we will se the film “Romero” followed by coffee and a discussion. You are most welcome.