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Postad av den i Pastorsbloggen

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).

 

 

Träffar: 1365

Postad av den i Pastorsbloggen

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).

 

 

Träffar: 751

Postad av den i Pastorsbloggen

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).

Träffar: 791

Postad av den i Pastorsbloggen

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).

Träffar: 824

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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