SUOMEN EKUMEENINEN NEUVOSTO

EKUMENISKA RÅDET I FINLAND

FINNISH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL

Solveig Fiske: Everyday life and faith

 

Everyday life and faith. The topic invites us to reflect upon the meaning of being human and what matters in life. And how does faith fit into it? Let us be quiet for moment to contemplate this topic. Everyday life is the life that we live every day. The daily life is unruffled life with all it’s joys and challenges. My childhood was characterized by growing up in a large familiy.

 

Generations shared a house and everything that it contained: companionship, loneliness, distribution of tasks, recognition and marking of ones identity. Faith was apparent in respect for the earth and in the humble prayers for a good harvest and food on the table. Faith was expressed through awareness of our possessions and sharing them with others. Hard working hands were folded openly or in private, and once in a while we went to church. I have strong memories of going to churh at Christmas and Easter, and from when my younger brother was baptized. Everyday life meant working hard, but with pride and joy, despite that life was not a free picnic for any of us.

 

During my preparations for this conference, I googled «everyday life». This resulted in an ocean of articles and blogs about clothes and equipment– and about different aspects of people’s challenges in everyday life. About  governments failure in helping all those in need. About loneliness and tiredness. A mix of superficial and deep existencial needs. This is everyday life for most people in our part of the world, a pending between a shiny exterior and an basic need to be recognized and counted on - and the challenges of life.

 

I kept the Christian faith all through my childhood and adolescence. In my confirmation journal, I wrote:

 

                      Jesus really is God. From eternity…

 

This meant something then, and it still does.

 

Jesus met people with grace. Jesus asked Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who sat at the roadside, when Jesus passed him on his way out of Jerico:

 

                      What do you want me to do for you?

 

This question underlines the grace offered every day, which is lifegiving. As minister and bishop, I use this as my daily vision. This vision is lifegiving by by mindfocusing and directing our hearts towards people and what life itself offer. Jesus’ lifegiving question:

 

                      What do you want me to do for you?

 

invites us to stand before God and be touched by the question from the mouth of Jesus. This reminds us that the point is not just for us to preform. This beautiful and open question may we both listen to and ponder over before we answer:

                      What do you want me to do for you?

 

One of the most wonderful texts in the Bible is the Parabel of the Mustard seed, as Jesus told it, according to Mark in chapter 4, verse 30-32:

He also said, “To what may we compare the kingdom of God, or by what parable may we picture it? It is like a mustard seed, - smaller than any seed on earth. Yet, when planted, it springs up and grows to be larger than any plant, producing such large branches that the birds of the air can nest under its shelter.”

 

This is the Kingdom of God. We, the birds of Heaven, from East and West, North and South, will experience that we do belong.

 

I began my service as a minister in Church of Norway, in the town of Elverum, located in Østerdal valley.  In a very cold month of January in 1982, an experienced, retired Reverend minister told me:

 

                      Look at life from below…

 

I have experienced this,indeed. I have felt tears in my heart at funerals more than once and to convey the faith and tradition of the Church has not come easy to me. However, I have always found comfort in the liturgy. It meets the complexity of life and upholds faith, hope and love.

 

Last summer, on July 22nd, Norway experienced something . Oh no! What is happening? Acts of terrorism here, in our country?

 

Many of us were in touch with these feelings and questions. The day grew dark.Through the hours of afternoon, evening and the night it all became black and confused.

 

However, we found ourselves deeply related to each other and to anyone living in terror and fear.

 

Facing the inhuman and the incomprehensible, we reached for the life- giving that has many names and expressions as lit torches and roses. All this may be summed up in the words: faith, hope and love.

 

Facing the and cruel, we often ask tough and demanding questions about how this could happen. Such questions raise an existencial approach to the problem, always troubling mankind: the problem of Evil.

 

In many Medival churches we find grotesques to remind us of the destructive powers in life. They give a wordless message: «The power and strength of evil have many faces. Recognize them in you and around you!»

 

All the calamities in this world can be so overwhelming that it feels disempowering. The solution is not to deny it’s existence. For some the life itself is so burdensome and intruding that one has not any other choice than to recognize the situation. Reality can be insistent, we have no choice, but to face it. By daring to face the pain, the first move towards healing may start.

 

A young woman I once met in Rwanda, had survived abuse and the murders of family members after the genocide. When I asked her how she managed to live on, she answered:

 

                      By speaking the truth about what happended.

 

Theologians, philosophers and authors have always adressed the question of evil and suffering. No one has found the answer, and finding it would indeed be a breakthrough in the mysteries of life. Easy answers would not be sufficient. No explanation would do life justice, and an easy one could be a mental assault.

 

Since we cannot answer this difficult question, we can approach its different aspects. Authors and other artists express often their works based on crisis. Philosphers have a special approach and theologians use methods of their own. Different religions give different answers. The problem of evil is often the direct reason why many people don’t have faith and can´t believe.

On March 27nd 1980, the Norwegian oil plattform, named Alexander Kielland, capsized and sunk in a winter storm. 123 people were killed, including the brother of the politican and minister in Church of Norway Odd Kristian Reme. After the accident, he said:

 

If God was there when it happened, God was one of those who were killed.

This statement about God opens new dimensions. Not just of how cruel life can be, but also of how God’s solidarity and compassion is without measure.

 

Speaking of everyday life and faith, I wish to commend this way of thinking. It is a theology and a faith that will encourage speaking the truth about life. This way of thinking, this tehology challenges and inspires us to speak clearly about human dignity. A theology that speaks up when life is aggrivated. This theology makes a bridge between life and faith and it connects life in all its complexity with faith.

 

Thus: I will give a small testimony of what everyday life and faith means to me. I rest in the fundamental principles of Christian faith and tradition. I rest in the liturgy. I rest in the message of Christmas and I rest in the message of Easter, of love being stronger than death. I rest in His question:

 

                      What do you want me to do for you?

 

This open question from Jesus represents an attitude and a way of life that will both inspire and strengthen faith. The work concerning language of feminin  gender to convey the image of God, as done in the Bible, do inspire and strengthen my faith too!

 

The churchbuilding is important to me. A sacred place that embraces the fullness of life: sorrow and joy, meditation and prayer. In a distinctive way, it is a place where we can receive God`s blessing and peace that shines upon us.

 

In my introduction I have aimed at addressing the following questions:

·         In what way are we conveying faith?

·         How can we use faith to speak truthfully about life? Speak truthfully about relations? Speak in a way that does not make faith superficial?

 

In the back of my mind, an intension has been present: how may faith decrease fobia of other ethnical groups, and weaken hate, suspicion, fear and insecurity?

·         How do we inspire trust, responsibility and generousity?

 

I believe we have a lot to share.
It is all about everyday life and faith!

Finally I share with you a short poem which is dear to my heart.

 

The Norwegian poet, Hans Boerli, writes:

 

Words and life

I have dreamt

once – and only once –

would words and life

become one


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