Last spring an international student from France talked with me about having an ecumenical Taizé meeting here in Lund. She had been in Taizé several times and used to attend services in the spirit of Taizé here in Lund. Herself a Catholic, she found it odd that the people who participated in the two different Services (there is one in the Catholic Church and one in the Cathedral) never met. She used to go to both services. So, she approached me and Brother Björn, who works with Domino – the Catholic student group, with the idea to have a Taizé meeting where everybody met. Last fall we had the first one in St Thomas Catholic Church. For me it was one of the highlights of last fall. There was about 50 people present from different backgrounds and different nationalities. We worshiped together, shared a meal and talked our life and our faith in God. It was a truly great experience. The 16th of March between 3.30 in the afternoon and 9.30 in the evening we will have a second Taizé meeting in Lund Cathedral. This time we are also joined by the Pentecostal Church here in Lund. If you have never attended a Taizé meeting before this is a great opportunity. I can really recommend it. There is more information on Facebook – Taizé day in Lund.
Starting on Sunday we will try to make our Holy Communion Service more welcoming for children. We know that there are parents who want to bring their children, but hesitate to do so because we up until now hadn’t done anything special for the children. So starting Sunday we will start to make an effort. We will begin with some simple material to talk about and for the children to color in. With time we plan to expand things with more material and activates. This will be an ongoing process during spring. Very soon there will also be a special table for children at Domkyrkoforum for children where they can “fika” and play with different toys while their parents drink coffee. We have a group of volunteers working with this project. Most of us are ourselves parents and would like for are children to feel more at home in church – maybe you would like to help out? Our goal is to have a fully functional Sunday school up and running before summer. Also -as I have written before on Facebook – there will two baptisms in our Services during spring – a true blessing!. As Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”.
Tonight there is going to be fireworks over Lund. Three Universities are going to compete trying to determine who can put on the best firework show. If you are interested it all starts at 6 pm at AF-borgen. From a Christian point of view the fireworks can be seen as part of the carnival season leading up to Ash Wednesday this coming week. Now is the time to party! Saying farwell to meat (the word Carnival means exactly that) and other earthly pleasures. A very Swedish tradition is to stuff yourself with “fastlagsbullar”, or as they incorrectly say up I Stockholm “Semlor”, this coming Tuesday – Fettisdagen. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent – a period of 40 days leading up to Easter (40 days because one doesn’t count Sundays – resurrection day – which always a day of celebration). It is not all that common to observe Lent these days. I myself have however found it helpful to mark this time in some way. It can be done in lots of different ways. Of course you can do it in the traditional way by fasting, but there are also other ways. Abstaining from treats like candy or cakes. Taking time out from Facebook or staying away from TV. You can also do things you don’t usually do – spending more time reading the Bible, volunteering for different causes. Lent is time for reflection and preparation leading up to the events of Easter. Next week is also Valentine’s day. From Wikipedia we learn that: St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D, a time when the church was enduring great persecution. His ministry was to help the Christians to escape this persecution, and to provide them the sacraments, such as marriage, which was outlawed by the Roman Emperor. He was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household(family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. In addition to this, Saint Valentine is said to have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. According to legend, in order to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians,” Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine’s Day. There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which was added centuries later, and widely repeated. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine. This expression “From your Valentine” is still used to this day. Like so many other Christian days, Valentine’s day have been secularized. Maybe we as Christians should try to re-conquer it – turning it in to a day when we remind people of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians! Please join us for Holy Communion Service in the Cathedral tomorrow at 5 pm.
When working as a minister these days you often work with marketing. To be heard in our day and age you have to know how to “market” your product. So if I want people to come to our Holy Communion Service and other activities I have to spend a lot of time getting people to know about them. In the beginning of every term I produce leaflets to hand out, print posters, visit different people to make sure they know about us, blog on our webpage and update Facebook. I also greet students at the General Information Meeting, organize a table at the General Information Market and guide international students in the Cathedral handing out information about our Holy Communion Service. Standing in front of 500 students I often know that less than 10% will listen to what I say. Still, I know from experience that what I have to say is regarded as very important information by some of the students. Reaching people with information about our Holy Communion Services is an important job, because every now and then people who come to our Services say that they have been looking and looking for months – not finding a place to worship until now. So I spend a lot of time trying to reach people with information. However I also know that the best way to spread information is the ancient way – by word of mouth. People telling friends and inviting them to join them – that is how Christianity grew from the beginning. I believe it is the best way even in our high-tech world. So please – help spread the word and bring a friend!
We all need prayer in our life. Sometimes we also need someone to pray for us or for someone close to us. Every year over 100 000 candles are lit in the Cathedral. Each candle represents a prayer or a person close to someone. During my 20 years as a minister the requests for intercession prayer have increased steadily. When I now work nights at the pastoral care hotline, people asking me to pray for them make up roughly 25% of the calls. Because of this, from now on there is going to be a possibility to write down prayer requests at every Holy Communion Service in English. We are going to put a table in the middle with a pen and paper and a box to put the requests in. The table is going to be there before, during and after the service. I’m also going to ask before we begin our intercession prayer if there are any prayer requests for the day. A third possibility will be our new e-mail address email@example.com. Using this address you can write to us asking us to pray for you of someone else. If you want the prayer included on Sunday you should write – please pray for this on Sunday. If you write a prayer request someone will pray for you. Would you like to belong to the group with the responsibility to pray? The Lord has given us all different gifts – maybe it is your gift to pray? If you would like to be part of our group of people who pray for others – please write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!