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.
As a minister I spend a lot of time talking to people. The circumstances can be very different. Sometimes it is over coffee after the Holy Communion Service on Sundays. It is a great time to get to know people from different countries and background. At other times the circumstances are more serious. Sometimes I called to the hospital to talk to someone who has just gotten some very bad news. I also spend some nights every month working for the pastoral care hotline connected to the emergency number 112. There I sometimes talk to people who don’t want to live anymore. I also spend several hours every week talking to Swedish and International student who come to me for counselling. No matter the circumstances, I always find talking to people very rewarding. I feel very privileged when people share their life stories with me. At the same time it is a great responsibility which I take very seriously. To be able to do this, I myself, regularly visit a college to talk about my own life. For me to be able to be a good listener, it is important to sometimes be the one who is listened to. The first time I went to someone to talk about myself, I was very nervous. It is not easy to let your defences down and share your innermost thoughts with someone on the outside. Because I have been there myself I know what it is like for the people who come to talk to me. This is valuable knowledge. Nowadays I don’t feel nervous anymore, but instead look forward to my sessions with my college. It is a luxury to be able to talk about your life and get feedback from someone with experience who listens.
If you need someone to talk to my door is open for you! It is free of charge and totally confidential. You can talk about anything between heaven and earth. Welcome!
People from more than 50 different countries visit our Holy Communion service – every continent is represented! Christians from a variety of backgrounds meet and worship together. There must be a lot of stories to be told! That was the idea behind “Meeting without borders”. One of the things that drive me as a person is curiosity. I’m always intrigued by others and want to know more about them. So when I was offered the job as minister for the English-speaking work in the Cathedral I jumped at the opportunity. Here was a chance to get to know and talk to people from all over the world. I haven’t been disappointed. One of my absolute favourite moments of the week is fellowship after the Holy Communion Service when I get the chance to sit down and talk to people. I feel very privileged, because during my two years as an English-speaking minister I have met fantastic people and listened to some truly amazing life stories. Now I want to give the rest of you the same opportunity. Meeting without borders can be seen as an extension of fellowship on Sundays. We meet, sit down and drink tea or coffee and get to know each other. The only difference is that sharing one’s experience and life story as a Christian is more pronounced. The first time we meet I think it would be a good idea to divide us into groups of 4-5 persons and get to know each other. Where are we from? Why are we in Sweden? How is it to be a Christian in our home country? How is it to be a Christian in Sweden? It is my hope that there are others out there who are just as curious as I am. If so I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday (10/10) at 7.15 pm at Domkyrkoforum.
The 7th of October is going to be a busy Sunday. We will start already at 3 pm with a pilgrimage through in Lund. We start in front of the Cathedral and will then walk to different sacred places here in Lund. During the Middle ages there were more than 27 different Churches and Convents here in Lund. All monastic orders were represented. During the Reformation 25 of these Churches and monasteries were torn down. During our walk we will visit the sites of these holy places and learn about their history. So, the walk is a pilgrimage through the historical Lund, but it is also a spiritual exercise. During we walk we will stop and pray and also walk a short stretch in silence. The two ministers working with pilgrim walks in the Cathedral, Anna and Agneta, will guide us through the pilgrimage. If you are interested in doing more pilgrimages they will tell you about other opportunities to do so.
At 5 pm we will return to the Cathedral for our Holy Communion Service. We will be visited by the International Student’s Choir of Lund so there will be lots of music and singing. The sermon will be much shorter though since the pilgrimage is the sermon for this Sunday. Afterwards we will all be ready for coffee.