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Immanuelskyrkans blogg

Immanuelskyrkans blogg

Reflections on those moments when faith and the nitty-gritty of daily life intersect

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Hanna Zuring Peterson

Hanna Zuring Peterson

Born and raised in the Netherlands. Great interest for foreign cultures and languages. A local in Stockholm, The Hague, Tokyo, Utrecht and perhaps even Lisbon and Vienna. Baptized and continuously saved by grace. Analytical, slightly introvert, mother of two, wife of a pastor.

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Fourth Week of Advent

Join us this Advent as we take time to read scripture, meditate, pray and welcome Christ in our lives anew. This is the first of four devotions written by a couple in our church. God bless you as you journey through Advent.

Marana tha dawn

Just one more day! We are almost there! Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

A long period of waiting and expectation is almost over, but on this very last day of Advent two more serious questions need to be addressed:

  • In the book of Revelations 3:20 we read: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” This sounds wonderful, but the rest of verse 20 suggests that opening the door will have consequences. Prior to his knocking, it is really up to us how to live our lives. Once we open the door, Jesus says he will come in and share a meal with us.  This is still great until we realize its implications. In the Gospel of Luke there is a story of two disheartened disciples on their way to Emmaus following the crucifixion of their master. Jesus joins them on the way and they beg him to come to their home and share a meal with them and Jesus concedes. Luke writes:  #now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened” (Lk 24:30-31). When we open the door and let Jesus come into our lives, our eyes will be opened to a great number of things we failed to see or succeeded to hide. The question to each of us is: are we willing to take the risk of exposing ourselves to his nearness, revealing a lot of unlovely things, shortcomings in us, trusting his loving-kindness to forgive us and accept us as we are?
  • The disciples and the early church lived with the expectation that the promised return of Jesus was at hand, remembering his sayings about vigilance and preparedness. They were together praying and “breaking bread” (Act 2:42). As months and years have passed, partly due to persecution, they had to adjust their behaviour without abandoning their fervent expectations. In due course they expected to be mocked: “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet 3:4), yet they prevailed. Today, almost 2000 years later, we pray every Sunday “may your kingdom come”, probably without fully realizing the consequences of what we say. Imagine that actually it is going to happen tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that. Would we live our lives differently if that was the case? If so, in what manner? We are called to radical discipleship and it means also to pray wholeheartedly and joyously “Marana tha - Come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20) and fervently hope that our prayer will be answered very, very soon.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Let us therefore live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:12-13).

 

 

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Third Week of Advent

Join us this Advent as we take time to read scripture, meditate, pray and welcome Christ in our lives anew. This is the first of four devotions written by a couple in our church. God bless you as you journey through Advent.

Sar Shalom White PoppyThe concept of ‘peace’ has often been misrepresented as the absence of war or turmoil. The Hebrew word shalom, however, means wholeness, harmony, quietness of mind, freedom from fear and anxiety. The emphasis is on attitude and character, rather than outward circumstances.

Throughout the Bible the relational dimension of ‘peace’ is emphasized in a threefold way:

  • Peace with God. In his letter to the Christians in Rome the Apostle Paul writes: “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).Peace with God is a gift; Jesus brought this peace and paid the price for it once for all. It is, however, up to us to maintain this peace with God by focusing on our commitment to follow Jesus. This is easier said than done. In our busy lives that focus can be blurred or lost entirely. In this Advent season an honest assessment of our commitment to Jesus may reveal that repentance is called for. If that is the case, there are wonderful promises in the Bible. The prophet Joel said: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, and abounding in love” (2:13); and in the book of James we read: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8). Let us act on these promises!

  • Peace with others. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom 12:18). One way to make peace with others is to start with those we encounter most frequently (family, neighbours, colleagues, classmates etc.). Living in close proximity means that different personalities collide and conflicts are inevitable. Having made peace with God, it may be easier to adhere to the words of the Apostle Paul: “even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col 3:13b). Jesus himself laid the foundation for making peace with others: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). The Prince of Peace himself challenges us to make this Advent a time of making peace with others.

  • Peace within. There are literally hundreds of books in the field of DIY popular psychology offering advice how to find peace within. There is, however, no quick fix. The Bible offers a different road to inner peace:  “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord” (Isa 26:3). Let us this Advent season turn our thoughts often to the Lord and experience “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phi 4:7).

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. (2 Ths 3:16)

 

Let us therefore live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:12-13).

 

 

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Second Week of Advent

Join us this Advent as we take time to read scripture, meditate, pray and welcome Christ in our lives anew. This is the first of four devotions written by a couple in our church. God bless you as you journey through Advent.

A Christmas Gift Kupelwieser
Most people associate the Christmas season with presents and gifts. It feels good to buy things for others and we hope the recipients will like and enjoy them.

Jesus himself commented on the act of giving in the story about the widow’s two small copper coins. All the others gave from their surplus, but the widow gave all she had (Mk 12:41-44).

This same spirit of giving is also evident in God’s dealing with us.  The Apostle Paul writes: “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how He not with Him shall also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). Even more pointed is the reference to the coming of Jesus to this world in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Though He was by nature God, He did not consider equality with God as a prize to cling to, but He emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant” (2:6-7).

Jesus “gave himself for us” (Tit 2:14”). That act of unconditional love calls for a response. This Advent season is an excellent opportunity to examine ourselves in the context of giving.

  • There is an old hymn that raises a troubling question: I gave, I gave my life for thee, what hast thou giv’n for me? The wording is archaic, the content has present-day relevance. What have we done for Jesus, what have we given to him?

  • Just as Jesus ‘gave Himself’, imagine that, rather than focusing on giving things, we would do as he did in this Advent season. There are any number of ways to go about it, e.g.

  • The Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet ran a series of articles in November on loneliness in Stockholm. The loneliest ones seem to be not primarily the homeless, nor those living in relative poverty, but reasonably successful working-age people. Some of them attend this church; some are our neighbours or our colleagues. What are we willing to do for them?

  • Those of us who have young children could give them a wonderful Christmas gift by taking time to talk to them about the true meaning of Christmas. Not just sharing with them the Christmas story, but telling them what it means to us, how it changed our life.

Let us find our own way of ‘giving ourselves’ this Advent!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15).

Let us therefore live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:12-13).

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First Week of Advent

Join us this Advent as we take time to read scripture, meditate, pray and welcome Christ in our lives anew. This is the first of four devotions written by a couple in our church. God bless you as you journey through Advent.

Advent with Mary SassoferratoAdvent means waiting. It is full of expectation. It reaches its climax with the arrival of the Saviour. In that sense Jesus personifies the fulfilment of Advent. At the same time, the beginning of Advent, this season of expectations, is probably best personified by Mary … after all, she is expecting.

Had Mary been a princess or a person with extraordinary talents/abilities, most of us would have difficulties to identify with her. She was, however, neither of these, but only a young teenager from a small village. Mary’s ordinariness and simplicity challenge us to examine what we can learn from her.

Upon hearing the message of the angel Gabriel, she responded: “Let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). Her unconditional surrender to the will of God has been an inspiration to Christians ever since.  There are, however, at least two more areas we should consider.

Mary literally carried Jesus within her. By giving birth to the Saviour she made it possible for us to affirm with the Apostle Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Both at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry Mary is near him. At the joyous occasion of the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1) and also by the cross  she is there (Jn 19:25).

Looking at Mary’s life in this manner, we are challenged to ask ourselves:

  • Though Mary’s circumstances were unique, her response is applicable to each of us also today and raises the question: are we willing to surrender our will to his?
  • Does our life reflect that “Christ is living within us”?
  • Are we willing to stay close to Jesus even in the shadow of a cross?

A worthy celebration of this Advent could be to take these questions seriously and follow Mary’s example, and by doing so we may discover a life and a lifestyle that befit us Christians, not just in the next few weeks, but “till he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

Let us therefore live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:12-13).

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Shortly before the Swedish parliamentary and local elections, free market think tank Timbro published a book by journalist Erik Hörstadius called Vårt nya land, Sverige efter flyktingkrisen (“Our new land, Sweden after the refugee crisis”). 

The timing is impeccable. In May, an article in Expressen showed that immigration was the single most important issue for voters, according to a survey by research consultancy Demoskop. Third came integration. The (booming) economy came seventh - as can be expected. 

So how is Sweden really doing after the refugee crisis?

Almost one in five residents in Sweden are born abroad. But more than nine out of ten hold Swedish citizenship (SCB). This implies that they immigrated more than five years ago, before the so-called refugee crisis. 

The employment rate among foreign born is almost 8% lower than among Sweden born. But it grew more than twice as much than for Sweden born last year (SCB).

Reality is a tricky thing. The nationalist party Sweden Democrats grew to be the third largest party at national elections a couple of weeks ago. Foreign-born Swedes are well represented in their support-base. It tells us that there is a widely shared narrative of recent immigration and integration being very problematic.

 

Screen Shot 2018 09 21 at 23.38.37Hörstadius’ book is a more than welcome complement to the debate. He calls it a roadtrip and that’s exactly what it is. He travels the country by train. Visiting those who engage in the public debate - politicians, bloggers, vloggers - but also the refugees that fled to Sweden and those who worked hard to provide a decent reception.

He takes the debate out of Stockholm (get your google maps ready…) and visits towns that have been changed by the presence of newcomers over the past three years. He gives a voice to those who are often voiceless in public debate - the refugee, the social worker, the emergency care practitioner. Those that are emotionally falling apart because of the stress and insecurity of being in the waiting place. Those that compassionately and pragmatically care for the waiting ones. Those that need to deal with the aggression and crime related to the presence of the hopeless.

Hörstadius is not out to prove a theory or an ideology. He is simply telling people’s stories. Some of the stories are depressing and dark, whilst others are hope-inspiring. And all those who speak from experience admit - there are no easy solutions.

An interesting finding in the book is that one of the cornerstones of Swedish culture - the quiet agreement that one should not stand out, think differently or create conflict - has prevented us from having a healthy debate around recent immigration. Addressing issues that arise with the arrival of refugees was tabu until quite recently and perhaps it still is in some circles. The effect is that trust for those in power erodes and that we end up with a more racist and polarized society.

Another important question raised is whether a multicultural society is indeed something to strive for, as political and cultural elites in Sweden seem to do. Former policeman of Afghan origin Mustafa Panshiri has some sharp thoughts on this topic. He agrees that work and housing are important for successful integration, but points out that fundamental values also need to be understood. And that perhaps understanding them isn’t enough, they also need to be shared, a form of social integration. 

Vårt nya land does not present us with well-checked facts and figures, nor does it leave us with any clear-cut answers. But it does challenge us to see beyond the conversations we have within our little circle of friends and our own political opinions. It takes us right to the doorstep of people that may think very differently than us. And it portrays the people that deal with the nitty-gritty, day-to-day messiness of a changing society. For that, it is certainly worth the read.

 

Screen Shot 2018 09 21 at 23.38.13

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This week, we took the opportunity to visit the Lars Lerin Exhibition at Liljevachs Konsthall in Stockholm. The centerpiece is a series of watercolour paintings on the ruins of Syria. They are hauntingly beautiful.

 

Lars Lerin 1

 

Lars Lerin 2

 

Haunting because of the reality they depict. Lars Lerin in an interview earlier this year: “I saw the news everyday, with this sad war. In the end, I couldn’t do otherwise but to paint it.”

Beautiful because of the incredible technique and portrayal. Lerin: “Unfortunately, it is quite picturesque with that terrible smoke and the ruins.”

The director of the art gallery wrote the following caption displayed in the room: Focus on bombed-out terror and darkness. Towns demolished beyond comprehension. The madness of war. Not a day goes by without us seeing unreal images on the television screen. We note the destruction of Syria, but it is too immense to grasp, so we switch off and move on. Lars Lerin makes us see again. He fixes the horror in the fleeting medium of the watercolour. He makes the devastation terrifying but also beautiful. With his unsurpassable technique he forces us to pause and with his art he makes us acknowledge that which we wish to suppress. (Mårten Castenfors, Director of Liljevachs Konsthall)

We switch off and move on. The artist makes us see again. The war, the destruction, the injustices.

As deacon and blogger Lawrence Klimecki puts it: “The prophet serves his community by speaking or interpreting the Word of God to God’s people, even if the people or community disregard the words or actions of the prophet.”

I don’t have the impression that Lars Lerin has a pronounced faith in God. But he sure points us in the same direction as God’s Word does.

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After drug trade and counterfeiting, human trafficking is estimated to be the largest criminal industry in the world. Almost 25 million victims are trapped in modern day slavery, a quarter of which are children. The number of prosecutions is alarmingly low. (1) What does the bible say about the stealing of people? And how should that inform and activate the worldwide church?

 

During our week-long visit of biblical sites in Greece with the AICEME network of international churches earlier this year, we had the honor of hearing professor Myrto Theocharous summarise her findings on the topic of human trafficking in light of Deuteronomy 24:7, where peoplestealing is condemned.

 

The emphasis in the book of Deuteronomy is on protecting people, particularly those who are vulnerable. Peoplestealing carried the death penalty for various conceived reasons. Professor Theocharous suggested that it reverses the exodus and violates God’s “property rights”. In addition, it is a form of “social murder”, cutting people off from their family and community - indeed from their own bodies - with far-going and life-long consequences.

 

black and white close up dark 167964

Photo by lalesh aldarwish from Pexels

 

She pointed out that the bible is unique in its emphasis on protecting humans over property. In most ancient laws, humans and possessions could be treated similarly. However, in the bible, no property theft carried the death penalty - only people theft did. As far as I understand, in Swedish law, human trafficking (människorov) is punished more heavily than theft (grov stöld): 4-18 years versus 6 months-6 years. However, in some countries, such as Greece, the sentences do not differ as much. In in some cases, fines can be paid instead of prison sentence - this is nothing less than human commodification.

 

The most radical part of her lecture was her advice to the church: “What does the death penalty for peoplestealing teach the believers of the Church? Is it a call for them to push towards introducing capital punishment? Or is it rather an exhortation that it is appropriate for believers to respond by dedicating their lives to seeking, rescuing, protecting, and investing in the lives of these victims—life for life? If someone must “die” for this crime to stop, should it not be the Church that gives itself over as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) in the manner of their Lord (Luke 9:23; 1 John 3:16), thus making a public declaration of the pricelessness of humanity?” (2)

 

1. Human Rights First, Human Trafficking by the Numbers, viewed 10 July 2018, https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers.

2. Theocharous, M. (2013). Stealing Souls - Human Trafficking and Deuteronomy 24:7. In: J. DeRouchie, J. Gile, and K. Turner, ed., For Our Good Always - Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns Inc., pp.508-509.

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Some weeks ago, Christian newspaper Dagen published a survey on how Christians plan to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Sweden (to be held on 9 Sep 2018). One of the remarkable results was that the Sweden Democrats would receive 18% of votes* and become the third most popular party in this group of voters.

* In total 3,500 people participated - 500 of whom indicated that they are active in a church (80% Church of Sweden).

 

Our pastors in Immanuel Church have written (and signed) an article that calls for the church to become proactive in building a society that protects the vulnerable - including the “strangers”. It was published in newspaper Dagen today. A wonderful contribution to the political debate running up to the elections this fall. Here's a quick translation of the article:

pastors immanuel

 

Pastors in Immanuel church: We as Christians are not for sale

 

The state is not our savior. Our calling is to seek the kingdom of God first. We are called to love and show hospitality to those whom Jesus loved, pastors in Immanuel Church in Stockholm write.

 

With a few months left to the election, many are concerned that the Sweden Democrats will probably gain the best election results so far. To us it is surprising that a party with a clear xenophobic background seems to be an increasingly obvious choice among Christian voters. A deeper analysis suggests that internal secularization is taking place in the churches in Sweden - a kind of memory loss. Have we stopped believing that our unique contribution as a church to building the good and true society in the end is about responding to the call of Jesus to be faithful witnesses of the kingdom of God as the church of Christ? Are the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) not the primary “election manifesto” of the church?

 

The churches in Sweden are the body of Christ - not a political body affiliated with a party. This means that every Christian is not only called to ask the question of which party-political vision is most relevant. Together we are also called to give voice to the church's alternative and concrete narrative of reality. And its narrative springs forth out of a faithful response to the kingdom of God. It is also in this way that Christian congregations can make a real difference in their endeavor to create the good and true society.

 

A concrete consequence of Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is that the Christian congregation is not ethnically determined. That is, it is not an ethnic or national identity that gives a Christian congregation identity or constitutes the criterion of those belonging to it. A Christian theological political view stems from citizenship in the kingdom of God through baptism. Therefore, the church's parole is not to build a society where "blood is thicker than water" but to anticipate a world where "water is thicker than blood". In the early church, it was found that "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28). Being a church means being a new family, a new social body.

 

We belong to Immanuel Church in Stockholm, a congregation that worships in four different languages and with members from at least 40 different countries. The congregation strives to accommodate different theological and political strands and tries to see our differences as an asset for building what is common. We know that it is a big and difficult challenge to live together with this diversity, but it is our calling as a Christian congregation not to repeat social segregation in different forms.

 

We want to forego by example to show that it is possible to create a life together that overcomes subtle and inherited patterns of racism, exclusion and alienation. This is not easy or conflict-free, but we persevere because it is part of our mission as a congregation.

 

To faithfully testify of the kingdom of God means defining, visualizing and living out a story other than the narrative of the abuse of power, segregation, violence, enmity and disunion.

 

It should be natural to our congregation, with our knowledge, our resources and our Christian faith to not only be part of our denomination the Uniting Church in Sweden, but to also be part of civil society. We want to actively participate in seeing political decisions become reality, insofar as they contribute to a better and true society and do not counteract our calling to serve the kingdom of God.

 

Like many other Christian congregations around Sweden, we experience how difficult it is to find our identity as the church of Christ. Decreasing membership and rapid change in society pose major challenges. It is easy to be tempted to abandon the mission that Christ called us to, and instead choose "golden calves" that seem to offer quick results in a complex reality. One of these temptations is to compete in being the one with the most subtle and effective capacity to push out those who are perceived as strangers. But as the Church of Christ, we are called to love those who are at risk of being marginalized.

 

We are called to love and show hospitality to those whom Jesus loved. This means that we as Christians are not for sale. Our Lord is not a political leader. The state is not our savior.

 

As Christian congregations, we now need to organize ourselves and take a visible and clear stand on what kind of society we want to build, based on our calling. In coming elections, we need to place our votes so that those whom Jesus invited into his Kingdom first, are also the ones that are sheltered in our society.

 

Ulla Marie Gunner, senior pastor in Immanuel Church, Stockholm 

Ulf Bergsviker, pastor and PhD candidate in systematic theology

Anna Berndes, pastor with focus on diaconal care and university

Charlotte Höglund, pastor with focus on children & families and young adults

Cho Chong-Il, lead pastor for the Korean fellowship

Chris Peterson, lead pastor for the International fellowship

Claes-Göran Ydrefors, lead pastor for the Swedish fellowship

Ivani Ahlberg, pastor for the Portuguese-speaking group

Karin Fritzson, pastor with focus on volunteers and leadership

Pete Anderson, associate pastor for the International fellowship

 

Taggad i: church makt samhälle
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We are all familiar with the idea of stewardship - that the earth is the Lord’s and that we are to care for creation. We also know that we are not doing a very good job. Climate change and its consequences are being acknowledged by most of the world’s governments and plans to reduce carbon emissions are finally being implemented. So at the beginning of this year, as we perhaps review our life(style) and plan our vacations, I would like to list a few things to be aware of.

You may have already read about steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. Last summer, a team of researchers at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies released a study that identified four key lifestyle choices that affect our impact on the environment most: 

- Having fewer children

- Getting by without a car

- Avoiding intercontinental flights

- Keeping a plant-based diet

These are all highly individual choices and it may not be possible for you to “tick all the boxes”, all the time. Your access to public transport may be limited and you would need a car to get to work. You may have relatives that live in another continent that you would want to visit. You may be married to someone that loves steak… But doesn’t everything start with awareness?

Airplane over Sthlm

 

We try to limit our household emissions in many ways. But one things that seems to remain part of our international family life is flying... We have booked three flights this year, two of which are intercontinental. So if you still want to make choices that have a negative impact, are there ways to mitigate the effects on the environment?

Of course. It’s big business! You will be able to find many carbon offset programs. It may even have been a step in your flight booking process. And if you want to make sure that the program is not a scam, look at some of the options listed by the organisation Green-e (endorsed by the Stockholm Environment Institute).

If you are looking for something simpler or more personal, here are my favorites:
- Install search engine Ecosia, this social company based in Germany plants trees with the income from your ad-clicks.
- Support the planting of trees in Burkina Faso, friend of Immanuel Church Stina Berge through her organization Yennenga Progress runs a forestation program.
- Place part of your savings with Better Globe, a Norwegian investment company that plants trees in Africa. Along with a return on your investment, a contribution is made against desertification and global warming as well as toward micro-finance programs and education.

 

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IMG 1556

 

A cold clear Saturday in November. Hundreds of people have gathered on Sergelstorg in the heart of Stockholm to protest. We are here to protest slavery. I simply cannot fathom that this is actually happening - an anti-slavery protest in 2017. Yet, we know that there are more slaves today than in any previous point in history, with more than 40 million people being exploited around the world (Global Slavery Index 2016).

Today, we are protesting the slave trade in Libya. African lives that are being auctioned for $400 as CNN reported, it obviously reminds us of two of the worst chapters in human history, the Atlantic and Arab slave trade.

Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come is sung from stage. People chime in. Different speakers, sub-cultural profiles, take the floor. Swedish politicians are accused of not speaking up. Swedish media are accused of not reporting enough. Representation is failing and important voices go unheard. The proximity principle does not apply when you are in a position of privilege.

Meanwhile, there are Swedish citizens of African origin who get a call and learn that one of their relatives is captured in northern-Africa and that a ransom is demanded. What is the price of a human life… They pay, time and again, regardless of the increase. It is easy to see how the world is more interconnected than ever before.

One speaker reminds us that even if you cannot relate through relatives, everyone can relate as a fellow human being. As someone who believes that every life is free. We are encouraged to be the voice of change, in our homes, at our kitchen tables. Because the idea that one human life would be less valuable than another’s starts in our minds, with our perceptions, ideas and prejudices.

The protest is ending and I walk home with a heavy heart. I realize that the current migration situation in the world is vast and complicated. And that the problems of failed state Libya are many. But the auctioning of human lifes is beyond any opinion or discussion. It is simply evil. And we must do everything in our power to end its practise.

 

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It is one of the things that drive me absolutely insane. It causes me to want to yell and hit somebody. It drives me on my knees to pray for self-control, patience and gentleness.

When my children fight… I think every parent has experienced this. I watch the argument develop. I try early intervention, but to no avail. It is like they cannot help themselves. I quickly think and analyse - is someone hungry, tired, in need of a hug? Another attempt at distraction. It doesn’t work, doesn’t stop. I get more frustrated. Can’t they see what a petty fight this is?!

 

FullSizeRender 2

 

When things have cooled down and I am washing dishes, it suddenly hits me. Is this how God the Father feels when he looks at us, his children? Frustrated and at times, furious at the petty fights we have, all the time?

When we honk at another car for driving too slowly. When we fight with our siblings over the inheritance at our mother’s deathbed. Or on a larger scale, when we start wars with other countries on false pretenses.

God has marvellous and surprising ways of teaching us through everyday situations. There is work to do to help our children handle conflict. And in the meantime, I pray that this verse speaks to you as it has to me. There surely is work to do on us as well!

 

Romans 12 17

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On 24 September this year, churches around the world celebrated their Sunday worship services with the special theme of freedom. The International Fellowship of Immanuel Church joined with this initiative by International Justice Mission (IJM) to bring hope and freedom to every enslaved and abused child, woman and man.

A member from our congregation that completed an internship with IJM in Washington D.C. shared some heart-wrenching statistics about modern slavery, highlighted some of the work that is done by the organization and encouraged us to become involved by praying and by giving of our time and resources to a project or organization active in the field of justice.

We then heard from two women from the organization Talita, that offers both acute and long-term support to women that have been exploited in prostitution, pornography or human trafficking for sexual purposes. They shared about the ways in which people from around the world are deceived, enslaved and sexually exploited for profit here in our very own city of Stockholm. And they also shared stories of hope, of women that have been restored and liberated after a time of care and therapy. How God transformed their lives and started something new.

 

modern slavery

 

It is difficult to open our eyes and ears to this reality, to learn about the ugliness, the evil that happens around us. But as Christians, as humans, we cannot pretend that it is not there. Because God sees it. And He wants us to partner with him to bring about change.

“To be alive is to join God in caring about the oppressed, the needy, the powerless, the victims and the vulnerable. To be alive is to believe that injustice is not sustainable and to share God’s desire for a better world.” (from Brian D. McLaren’s We make the road by walking.)

When we see the tremendous suffering and need in our world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We tend to join Moses in saying: “Who am I, God?” We doubt our ability to do anything about it and we are hesitant to leave our comfort and to step out. But the only thing that God asks from us is to be available. To obey when He moves our hearts and to trust that He will equip us for the task.

When you look at injustices in our world, what is your heart moved by?

 

Träffar: 1524

On July 8th, a group of happy adventurers from Immanuel Church' International fellowship boarded the ferry to the small island of Ekholmen. This is the place where long-time church members Lars & Rachel Jerkeby have their summer home. Their generous invitation led to a day of wonderful fellowship.

Photographer and blogger Michelle Job posted a beautiful account of the day. Below an excerpt and a link to her full blogpost. Enjoy!

Archipelago group picture

_____________________________________________

(...)

Here is an interesting fact I came to know about the Swedish summer houses – There is NO loo or bathroom inside the house!

I always imagined the summer houses to be very extravagant and luxurious with the latest in technology. That day I discovered it is not. The Swedes like to keep it simple in their summer home. Their summer homes are meant to take them back in time and back to nature!

They ate fresh fruits and vegetables grown in their very own garden. While the houses have basic water supply and electricity, the toilet is detached from the house, perched all by itself amidst the trees. It’s a dry compost toilet in the most serene setting.

When it comes to taking a shower, all you need to do is take a dip or a dive in the ocean! This being Sweden, the waters are always in varying degrees of cold, if not frozen!

And did I tell you, there are no shops on the island? The residents must bring all the provisions for their stay from the city when they come. If a sudden need arises, they need to go to another distant island by their boat!

(...) On one side it was the beauty of the island. On the other it was the stillness and the silence that touched me. ‘Silence’ is a very important factor for any Swede. At first I used to wonder why and how can the entire neighborhood be so silent. The dogs don’t bark, vehicles don’t honk and even the most crowded trains are silent. Eventually, I found myself seeking this silence.

There is something very calming and healing about silence. It relaxes a wondering stressed out mind. It has the ability to draw our focus to issues that matter the most. Outer silence often leads to inner calm. I realized it’s much easier to find and listen to Daddy God in the stillness. In being still, I can converse with Him and know Him. In the stillness, I find Him and in Him, my answers!

__________________________________________

Read Michelle´s full account of the archipelago visit and enjoy her stunning pictures.

 

Träffar: 1645

Nationaldag dixiebandnationaldag field

 

National Day celebrations in Humlegården with dixieband "Humlegårdens promenadorkester"

 

The sun broke through the clouds, bringing us warmth on a windy day. A good crowd of people had now gathered on the lush field in Humlegården park. Many were standing up as the national anthem was played by the dixie band on stage. Some were singing, though only quietly. A company of young actors dressed up as royalties were posing to the side of the stage. Children were running around, chasing balloons. No flagpoles in sight. No one dressed up in blue & yellow, the colors of the Swedish flag. Behind the field, on the playground, children were making paintings and putting together vehicles in wood. Welcome to Sweden, country of lagom. Even national day is celebrated the lagom way!

 

I think back of the way in which national day (Koningsdag) is celebrated in the Netherlands, where people massively dress up in orange, gather for outdoor concerts, sing, dance and celebrate. Where the street turn into giant flea markets with children selling off their toys and trinkets. Where the king and his family walk the streets of a selected town, greeting people and admiring different performances and creations. With a history of more than 130 years, it has truly turned into a feast for the nation, embraced by all.

 

Swedish national day was previously only called “Day of the Swedish flag” with a tradition of celebrating since 1916. Renamed to national day in 1983, it only became a bank holiday in 2005. I remember those first years where colleagues were happy to have a day off, but had no idea how to observe or celebrate national day. Hardly any events were organised and my church at that time jumped in the gap by organising an outreach with activities for kids. These days however, there seem to be many events organised by local municipalities and cultural institutions, with the main event - hosting the royal family - being at open air museum Skansen of course.

 

nationaldag MJ

National Day celebration in Hagaparken, photo: Michelle Job Photography

As a Christian, one could argue that national days are nothing to celebrate. Why lift up the nation state and the monarchy when we are citizens of Heaven, serving the highest King. But I feel that it is quite beautiful to observe a national holiday that is not affiliated with the Christian religion. It allows for people from all backgrounds and beliefs to come together in celebration of the country we call home. It reminds us of the values that characterise this nation and that bind us together, such as peace, democracy, equality, solidarity, freedom of speech and religion and environmental consciousness. These are values to cherish and celebrate. In addition, in a country where 16% of the population is born in another country, we have a day to come together and build new, common traditions.

 

I pray that national day will be a time for us to lift up diversity as a strength and to embrace one another as neighbours.

 

Träffar: 1768

“Why does the wind blow away the seeds?” asked my son early one morning. He paused from his bowl of yogurt and cornflakes as he looked at me with curious round eyes and waited for an answer. We were reading Images of God by Marie-Hélène Delval, as had become our ritual at breakfast these past few months.

The question made me pause and think...all of the following in perhaps three seconds.

Reproduction of course. The plant has seeds in order to produce offspring. But why does it need the wind? Why could it not just drop the seeds right there where it lives? Well, there would not be enough sun, or water, or nutrients from the soil. The seeds need a good environment to thrive. Not too close to the mother plant...

Having just read the post-Easter texts where Jesus commissions his disciples to go out and make disciples of all the nations, I could not help to think about the similarities between the story and the image of the wind, carrying the seeds. The wind being the Holy Spirit that Jesus emphasised was a prerequisite for the mission given.

I answered my son and he was content with the answer. Quietly, he kept on eating his cornflakes.

And I continued to think about the image of us, disciples, being seeds. Carried away by the Holy Spirit, into the city, among the people that we spend our days with. Growing shoots, bearing fruit and producing new seeds and new offspring.

Even though the wind carried a flurry of snow and hail this week, there are sure signs of spring life around us. And most certainly in our hearts.

 

God is wind

Taggad i: Hopp Staden Stockholm
Träffar: 1646

Two days ago, our city of Stockholm was struck by a terror attack killing four people and wounding others. Still fresh in our minds was the gas attack in Syria last Tuesday killing at least 50 people, including children.

Today, as we gathered for our Palm Sunday celebration, there was a bomb attack on two coptic churches in Egypt, killing at least 40 people. They too, were gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday.

How can we sing, dance, wave our palm branches and welcome our Messiah while our hearts are sad? In what way is Jesus really King when innocent people are slaughtered?

This is my encouragement for you today: We welcome our Messiah because He won against all the powers of darkness and destruction in our world and in our lives. Not by means of terror, power, violence, fear or intimidation. But with the ultimate sacrifice of his own blood. That is our reason for hope.

“The thief´s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 10-11)

...I hear you. The pain is real. The gut-wrenching anger at the loss of innocent lives. The continued presence of evil. Jesus himself wept for those that would not come to accept the kind of peace that He came to bring (Luke 19:41).

But the hope is real too. It allows us to see beyond terror, to believe in a good God and to see goodness in people around us. It allows us to be bold and fearless because we are part of a bigger narrative, one of which we already know the ending.

And as tens of thousands of Stockholmers gathered in a demonstration of love today, presenter Rickard Sjöberg found the perfect words to end the gathering when he quoted Martin Luther King: “Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that.”

 

 

IMG 1552In the sea of flowers left behind in memory of the victims of the terror attack in Stockholm on 7 April, there is a note saying "goda grannar" (good neighbors) showing a church and a mosque in the skyline.

Träffar: 1660

It was only mid-morning and she was already dragging her feet in her small blue boots, a ragged doll under her arm. Her words muffled by the pacifier in her mouth, she made it clear that she did not intend to walk any further. We were on our way home from the grocery store and I was pulling a heavy grocery trolley with one hand and carrying a large shopping bag with the other. Against all knowledge, I tried rational arguments. “Remember, I carried you to the store, but told you that you had to walk home, because I am carrying groceries now.” “This is all the walking you have to do today, it is not so bad, is it?” “We are almost there...” I should have known better. In her beautiful little head, emotions precede logic. “I want you to carry me, NOW!”

Then, something almost magical happened. Her older brother, who had been listening in to our conversation, just took off like a bolt of lightning. “Come Livia, let´s run!” Her eyes lit up. Impatiently, she passed me her doll and there she went, running after her brother. Screams of delight echoed through the street.

IMG 3959Let us run with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus...

A fragment of the text from Hebrews 12 came to me in that moment. What a beautiful image! All she needed to endure the way home, was to fix her eyes on something that gave her joy - her brother challenging her to race him. It gave her purpose and new strength. I was perplexed by the sudden transformation.

Later, as I reflected more on this, I realized how relevant this text is for our everyday lives.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Hebrews 12: 1 - 2)

Imagine what we can do if we keep our eyes on Jesus. Every day. Every moment of the day. If we do not allow our minds to get bogged down by all the little problems we encounter. If we bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10: 5) and allow him to transform our mind. We will gain new perspective and see what really matters. We receive strength to navigate the challenges that day. We find contentment in focusing in on the essential, the life-giving. We fix our eyes on that which gives joy, true joy.

 

Photo cred: Geri Lindberg 

Taggad i: glädje jesus
Träffar: 1485

Postad av den i Pastorsbloggen

It is the end of November and the days are getting shorter. This morning when the children woke up, we were still enveloped by darkness. They asked us with big eyes: “Is it morning time?” and I hesitated in my response. The clock showed that it was past 7 a.m. but my body wanted to turn over and have another snooze. I thought of the bear at Skansen that got to retire to their caves and sleep the winter away only to wake up by the end of March.

When we got to preschool, I noticed the sign that said: “Nu går vinterkräksjukan runt på våning 3”. Great, the annual stomach flu is going around. I am already frantic about washing hands all day long. Yesterday, I stocked up on mandarins, kale and pomegranate. But there is only so much one can do.

Picking up a package, I scanned the headlines of today´s newspapers. Shortage of freshwater classified as the greatest global threat by the World Economic Forum. Sex trade more common than believed in the north of Sweden - cases involving refugee children reported. CIA director warns Trump about scrapping the Iran-deal and increasing the chance of new war in the region. I am tempted to buy a copy, but I don´t. Not today.

I decide to go for a brisk walk. As I come to the top of the hill, I step into the frail sunbeams that managed to climb over the apartment buildings around me. For a moment, I stand still and do a “Swede”. I turn my face into the sunlight and enjoy the brightness and warmth of the moment. As I walk on, I think about perspective. There are so many troublesome things in this world to mourn over, to worry about and to work on. But then there are so many beautiful things to be noticed, to be thankful for, to celebrate.

 

15698320 1558078470874837 5290689663412059878 n

 

Is there room in our minds and in our hearts for the good, the beautiful? And do we disrespect the issues we face in this world when we choose to spend time seeing and enjoying beauty? Perhaps those moments when we seek to soak in beauty are necessary for us to gain a new perspective. To understand that there is hope, that there is a creative force at work, both in the heavenly realms and through our very own hands.

Perhaps those moments can flow over, into the situations where we do need to see and respond to that which is not well in our world. Perhaps this is when we operate from our core, our soul which is longing and working toward a new heaven and a new earth.

Taggad i: create faith light
Träffar: 1768

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