Baltic Commemoration Service, 17 June

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This year we mark 14 June against a very particular, indeed unique, setting. Of course we all know that this year we remember 100 years of the proclamation of independence for all 3 Baltic countries.   For Lithuania it is different, because this is 100 years since the renewal of independence, for Estonia and Latvia the first moment of true independence ever. 

But we need to remember that that is precisely what it is: 100 years since the proclamations. We have not, any of us, enjoyed a century of freedom and self-determination. In fact, this second period of liberation, now 27 years long, is longer than our first time, from 1918-1940. And in between all our countries suffered an era  of oppression, extreme and harsh at times, which has come to be symbolised by, or summed up in our remembrance of the year of terror 1940-1941, and the horror of the night of 14 June.


If ever the Baltic peoples thought that Soviet rule was going to be more or less like all the other foreign rulers who have divided up our lands over the years, and that we would just get through it somehow, this one night showed all too clearly that this was different. 

So today we sit, in stillness, and with words and music, with symbols and silence, we live with these very mixed emotions and memories. We give thanks for new freedoms; we weep for those who were taken, and those who were left. We look forward, with slightly battered and cynical hopes, but still without despair, to the future; but we know all too well what the past holds. We know, too, that we must not forget, because that will make future horrors more likely to happen. 

For Christians, the inevitable question is – why did God let this happen? Why, if God loves us, didn’t God prevent the deportations, the torture and the deaths? Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, famously said: “There is Auschwitz, so there cannot be God.”

Where was God when the wolves came with midnight knocks in Tallinn and Viljandi, in Vilnius and Klaipeda, in Rīga and Jelgava; when the cattle trucks were packed with people – men and women, young and old? Where was God when the deported were suffering the long, thirsty, fearful journeys to Omsk, to Irkutsk, to the Vjatlag? This, perhaps, is the hardest and thorniest question that Christians, and indeed people of other faiths are faced with. 

We can, though, find comfort and the beginnings of an answer in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus compares himself here to a (or the) Good Shepherd. The hired hand – the herdsman who is working in the gig economy in 21st century terms – won’t ever risk his own life to save someone else’s  animals, to rescue another person’s property from danger. But the good shepherd knows his animals and cares for them; the good shepherd lives alongside his animals, feeding them beside still waters, caring for without thought for his own welfare. 

So where was God on 14 June? God was with the lambs of the flock; God was there in the cattle trucks, in the desperate prayers and the tears. God walked the tundra and the taiga, alongside the lonely and the frightened. And God was there in the hope that did not die, in the hidden services and communions that were celebrated by priests and pastors in huts and camps. As with so many atrocities committed over the centuries, Christ, the Good Shepherd, was crucified again in the camps of the Gulag, and the cellars of the KGB. Because he is the Good Shepherd, he does not abandon us in times of pain and hardship, because he knows himself what it is to be wrongfully arrested, interrogated, humiliated and killed; because he loves us, each one of us – including the guards and the KGB officers.

Between Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Moldova close to 100 000 people were deported. One of them was my mother’s first husband, Alfrēds Tālnora. He had been a civilian worker with the police, and that was enough for him to be arrested in  the spring of 1941, deported, and shot in the prison in Astrakhan in October of the same year. He had no other family, and probably no one except for me and my family even remember that he once lived. There are countless men and women like him, unknown, unremembered, buried somewhere in the vastness of Siberia. It is a comfort to hear the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”; for it means that all these souls are both known and remembered by God. 

I hope and pray that in his cell, and in his last moments, Alfrēds Tālnora knew the comfort of God’s presence. I hope and pray that his killers, too, became aware of the terrible wrong that they did, and that they knew the love and care of the Good Shepherd in the end. I hope and pray that all our countries, who have borne the burden of these crimes for so many years, will soon find truth, reconciliation and healing.


I hope and pray that the truth will enable us to forgive, even while we do not forget. For the truth will set us free – free from the suspicion, mistrust and lies that have scarred our societies since 1941. 


John 10.7-15

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Sermon preached at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. 

Pentecost – are we ready for the risk?

It’s been a tough kind of week, from inter Church squabbles to grappling with the GDPR. So just to remind me that there is more to ministry than ecumenical edginess and bureaucratic business, here is last Sunday’s sermon. Sometimes we all need to be revived with the breath of love.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of our service today, we prayed a dangerous prayer. Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Christ our Lord. Amen


As Christians, we come to church, mostly, probably, in a routine kind way. It’s what we do on Sundays – unless other things intervene, and we are away from home, or busy somewhere. We come here, and we are nurtured, fed, comforted, uplifted – whatever it is that each service does for the people who attend. But today’s readings and prayers remind us of something important. We come to church, to ‘divine service’, as it is sometimes called in English – Gottesdienst in German, dievkalpojums in Latvian – to meet not just our brothers and sisters, but also to meet God, to be served by God, and to offer God our small sacrifice in return. If, truly, we encounter God, we are changed by that encounter. We prayed that the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, would ignite in us the Spirit’s holy fire! Did we mean that when we said or heard those words, and said Amen to them? For the last nine days we took part in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, a global movement of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost. Each day we met to pray, and said: 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people 

And kindle in us the fire of your love. 

Come, Holy Spirit, be with us as we pray 

And leave us not as orphans. 

Come, Holy Spirit, renew us in body, mind and spirit 

And send us out to be your presence in your world. 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people 

And kindle in us the fire of your love.”

We prayed this as we waited on God.  Did we mean it, or was it just another routine prayer that we routinely said Amen to? If we did mean it, it was a risky thing to do. 

Just look what happened to the disciples when the flames of the Holy Spirit rested on them. Peter was utterly transformed in the weeks, the 52 days between Good Friday and Pentecost. From someone who was too afraid of the authorities to admit that he even knew Jesus, here he is, standing up boldly, addressing the men of Judea and of Jerusalem, declaring –  proclaiming – the fulfilment of prophecy. Peter, who we hear in the Gospels as always putting his foot in it, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time – here he is: preaching fluently, inspired and openhearted. Peter, who was afraid of the Jews, and who hid in an upstairs room in fear of his own life – here he is, raising his voice, and addressing these devout Jews, gathered together from most parts of the known world, apparently fearless! The flames of the Holy Spirit had indeed rested on him, burned away all the fear, the shame of his betrayal and the doubt and uncertainty: and left the pure silver of faith and clarity. 

The Spirit moved among the disciples like the rush of a violent wind. As Jesus said to Nicodemus near the beginning of John’s Gospel, you know how the Spirit moves and where it’s been. You can’t see the Spirit, any more than you can see the wind: but you certainly know, and feel, and see the effect. A real autumn storm, for instance, leaves devastation in its wake – as do tropical hurricanes. And that is what the Holy Spirit is being compared to. A violent wind. Tongues of Fire.  

Of course, there are other comparisons, less obviously capable of rearranging the furniture, the world, or indeed our lives. We hear also of the Holy Spirit being the breath of God; or of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on Jesus at His baptism. But even the breath of God, while it’s a gentler image than a violent wind, is not just a tickle on the cheek. Our prayer said – revive your Church with the breath of love; which is almost like mouth to mouth resuscitation; God breathing back life into the church – why? is the church dying? Does it need resuscitation or reanimation? Does our faith need to be revived by the breath of God – and are we up to it? 

So there are two levels to this: the Holy Spirit infuses both people as individuals, and the church as an institution, as the living Body of Christ. 

When we as individuals pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us, we give ourselves into God’s hands, asking the Spirit to lead us in God’s direction, for God to direct, console, challenge, mend – whatever is necessary for us. But the point is that we are not in charge of this process: God is. God sees what we need, even before we ask; and the Holy Spirit will comfort the distressed, distress the comfortable, challenge the lazy, ignite the lukewarm, wipe away the tears of the mourning, strengthen the faith of those who are flagging, doubtful. Because of course, we know ourselves to be weak, and our faith often to be insufficient, too easily led into doubt. St Paul’s words to the Church in Rome, which we heard just now, are a comfort to us when we feel under pressure, inadequate, too small for the mission we have. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” The Spirit is there to help, as well as to challenge, to inspire us, as Peter was inspired; to pray for and with us, even when we can’t manage the words. 

When the church prays to the Holy Spirit, we are asking to be filled, and renewed, strengthened in our faith, made more alive, reanimated – re-souled!  A church that is filled with the Spirit doesn’t need to be Pentecostal, or charismatic – but it is burning brightly with love, fearless in proclaiming the Gospel and rejoicing in the Lord. It is a church that is led by the Spirit, and not by human design or planning. It is a church where people live out their faith, secure in the knowledge that they are love by God. It is a church where we encounter God and go out into the world to serve our brothers and sisters, changed and renewed ourselves by that encounter. That is not a routine, boring thing to do. 

So let us pray again together: 

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Christ our Lord. Amen


Acts 2.1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ 

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

Romans 8.22-27

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

John 15.26-27; 16.4b-15

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

 ‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 

12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 

Ceturtdienas melnajā

Prasu draudzenei laukos: ‘Kā šeit ar varmācību pret sievietēm?’ ‘Ļoti bieži gadās. Nesen vienai sievietei vīrs žokli pārlauza.’ ‘Un – kas notika?’ ‘Nekas. Policists uzskatīja, ka ģimenes iekšējais jautājums.’
Tāda ir dzīve, un tā tas notiek. Cilvēkiem labpatīk iedomāties, ka Latvijā viss ir kārtībā, un nevajag nekādus jaunus nolikumus, likumus, konvencijas vai vienalga kādus dokumentus, jo Latvijā sievietes tāpat pasargātas. Un tas ir nonsenss. Kā vēsta Centrs ‘Marta’ – “Latvijā trūkst statistika, kas reāli atspoguļo ģimenes vardarbības izplatību un ar to saistītās problēmas. Citu valstu dati liecina, ka vardarbība ģimenē ir ļoti izplatīta sociāla parādība. Saskaņā ar Pasaules Veselības organizācijas datiem 70% gadījumu sieviešu slepkavībā vainojami viņu partneri vīrieši. Pasaulē no vardarbības cietušo sieviešu īpatsvars svārstās no 30% līdz 60%. Saskaņā ar Eiropas Padomes statistiku viena no četrām sievietēm savā mūžā ir cietusi no vardarbības ģimenē un 6–10% sieviešu cieš no vardarbības ģimenē katru gadu, kā arī vardarbība ģimenē ir biežākais nāves un invaliditātes cēlonis visām sievietēm vecumā no 16 līdz 44 gadiem.”
Bet šonedēļ parādās ziņa mēdijos, ka Latvijas Romas Katoļu baznīcas arhibīskaps ir mudinājis Zaļo zemnieku savienības politiķus iestāties pret Stambulas konvencijas ratificēšanu Saeimā. Stambulas konvenciju, tātad, kura vēlas apkarot varmācību ģimenēs. Arī pārējie lielo konfesiju vadītāji ir iestājušās pret Stambulu. Cienījamie bīskapi – kādu vēsti tas dod sievietēm ar lauztiem žokļiem un zilām acīm? Baznīcas saredz konvencijā kaut kādu ideoloģisku bubuli, un uz tā rēķina ir ar mieru aicināt nobloķēt šo būtisko dokumentu. Atgādināsim sev to, ka vienīgās valstis, kuras atsacījās konvenciju parakstīt ir izcilās cilvēktiesību pirmrindnieces, Azerbaidžāna un Krievija.
Bez tam, varētu šķist, ka kristīgo baznīcu vadītāju sarunas ar ZZS tiešām varētu centrēties uz tikumību – teiksim, sarunas par melošanu, zagšanu, krāpniecību, jo Jēzum bija daudz ko teikt par šiem grēkiem, un dikti maz par ‘salmu vīra‘ argumentiem par t.s. genderismu.
Ironiski šķiet tas, ka šo ‘Caritas’ pieminekli redzēju šodien, Romas Katoļu baznīcas pašā centrā, Sv. Pētera bazilikā. Caritas – mīlestība un žēlsirdība – ir kristiešu ticības pašā centrā. Kā raksta Sv. Pāvils, mīlestība ir pati svarīgākā kristiešu vērtība (tā nu paliek ticība, cerība un mīlestība; bet lielākā no tām ir mīlestība). Kā var būt, ka baznīcas noliek ideoloģiju pirmā vietā, un mīlestību otrā? Kur paliek līdzgaitniecība ar sievietēm un citiem varmācības upuriem?
Pasaules baznīcu padome jau vairākus gadu desmitus ierosina ceturtdienās ģērbties melnā, solidarizējoties ar varmācības upurēm. Ir pienācis laiks arī Latvijā sev piekarināt ‘momentbirku’ #ThursdaysinBlack, #ceturtdienasmelnajā. Jo ir laiks Kristus vārdā iestāties pret ikvienu vardarbību, pret lauztajiem žokļiem un sirdīm.

Reformation500 – where are we now? How did we get here? Where are we going?

[Preached at The Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate & St Thomas of Canterbury, at a service organised by the Anglican-Lutheran Society to celebrate #Reformation500.]

northampton cath

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you to the Anglican-Lutheran Society for this wonderful service and celebration, and for inviting me to preach today; and thank you also to the Christian community here in Northampton, and especially our Catholic brothers and sisters for being warm and generous hosts.

The brief for this sermon was: where are we now? How did we get here? Where are we going?

Where we are now is in many ways rather astonishing. Those of us here today come from at least 3 major denominations, RC,  Anglican and Lutheran; in a service organised by a Lutheran pastor, a Catholic priest and an Anglican lay person, we gather together to worship, to remember the beginnings of the Reformation 500 years ago in a Catholic Cathedral, and with a Lutheran bishop, a woman to boot, preaching. And just to add a final gloss, that Lutheran pastor is now working as a chaplain in an Anglican church.

21 P1130108
(L-R) Revd Susanne Freddin Skovhus (Pastor, Church of Denmark), Revd Kleber Machado (Church of Scotland Minister), Rt Revd Jana Jeruma-Grinberga (Retired Lutheran Bishop, Anglican Chaplain), Rt Revd Peter Doyle (Roman Catholic Bishop), Rt Revd John Holbrook (Church of England Bishop)


Over the last year we have seen the Pope and the President of the LWF embracing warmly and leading a service together in Lund. We have seen the Pope visit Anglican and Lutheran churches in Rome. We have seen the Archbishop of Canterbury affirming the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, signed by Lutherans and Catholics almost 20 years ago, and with which the World Methodist Council and its member churches affirmed their fundamental doctrinal agreement in 2006. As the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Martin Junge, said this week – “If this is what some call the ecumenical winter: well, then let spring come now!”

When we look back at where we came from, this seems quite miraculous. Even within living memory things were very different. My mother was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor; and for a time when I was a child, I had a Polish Catholic nanny. She took me with her a few times to our local Roman Catholic church, and my mother was absolutely horrified that a Lutheran child had set foot inside a Catholic church.

Of course, it all started in ways that were much more serious than that. For decades following 1517, Catholics burned Protestants, Protestants hanged, drew and quartered Catholics, the religious authorities everywhere persecuted and murdered Anabaptists: and the leaders of the Muenster rebellion, tortured and killed when the city was besieged, were displayed in cages above St Lambert’s church for centuries. This, of course, was aimed at discouraging any form of rebellion against the Catholic authorities.

What happened 500 years ago was that Christians on all sides of all the arguments spent a great deal of energy building a wall, high and impenetrable, between themselves and other Christians. Sometimes this was a geographic wall – cujus regio,  eius religio meant that in many parts of Europe Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed believers simply lived separately from each other and never met a person who differed from them in faith. That makes it so much easier to demonise the other, as the troubles in Northern Ireland also made clear. Mostly, though, this was a wall built of bricks of suspicion and intolerance, ignorance and fear. It was held together by the mortar of condemnations and anathemas, of papal bulls and Protestant pamphlets; and for several centuries, it held very firm indeed.

So it was not until the missionary efforts of Europeans of the late 19th century, which demanded some level of cooperation, that the first cracks began to appear in the edifice. And when the first bricks were removed by the first Edinburgh Conference in 1910, for the first time in 300 years or so Christians were able to peer at each other through the gaps, and to begin to discover how alike we are, and how our beliefs – sometimes identical, sometimes approximate, sometimes different – define us.

The Second World War, with all the horrors that were perpetrated against huge swathes of Europe and Asia, led directly to the foundation of the World Council of Churches; the Second Vatican Council, and the visionary leadership of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, took a sledgehammer to the wall, knocking great holes and gaps, through which we could not just see each other, but reach out and touch, and even clamber through.

Since then, much of the remaining wall has crumbled, aided by ecumenical dialogues, shared worship and prayer, and diapraxis, in other words just getting down to it and working together, fulfilling our mission to the world by rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in aid and service.

And today, truly, we can rejoice. Looking at photos of events like Lund, or this week’s Reformation 500 service at Westminster Abbey, we see not just a transitory happiness or self-satisfaction on people’s faces, but real joy. At last – Christians worshipping together, holding hands, gathered together in praise and awe – with the wounds inflicted by the building of the wall, and sometimes, by the destruction of it, finally beginning to heal.

We might sing with Peter Abelard

Oh, what their joy and their glory must be,

those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see!

Crowns for the valiant, to weary ones rest;

God shall be all, and in all, ever blest.

But no, not time to rest just yet, for there is more to do. Much more. As the conclusion of ‘From Conflict to Communion’ says, “Lutherans and Catholics are invited to think from the perspective of the unity of Christ’s body and to seek whatever will bring this unity to expression and serve the community of the body of Christ. Through baptism they recognize each other mutually as Christians. This orientation requires a continual conversion of heart.”

In other words, we (and not just Lutherans and RC) are invited to reorientate our thinking, so that we start always from a perspective of unity. This requires not just reorientation, but, to express it another way, repentance, metanoia, turning back always to God, for  where God is, we will also find our sisters and brothers in Christ. A true conversion of heart – not just of outward forms, not just of politeness and respect; but a conversion of love and faith.

FCC goes on to say that we must allow ourselves to be transformed by our contacts with each other – how hard that is! To go into each ecumenical encounter expecting not to persuade our partners of our rightness, but to expect to be changed ourselves. This feels risky, because it is.

And that, perhaps, is the point. In order to progress beyond where we already are – and even that feels almost unbelievable at times – we are going to have to take risks. We are going to have to place ourselves entirely in God’s hands, and trust that our loving Creator will guide us, keep us safe, as we knock down the last remaining bricks. For the truth really will set us free. We need no longer even to be able to climb over the wall, to join hands across it, but we need to take it down completely.

My prayer is that when we celebrate 500 years since the beginning of the English Reformation in 15 years time, it will be at a service where the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop celebrate Holy Communion together; a service where a great procession of British Christians – Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals, URC – walks between Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral to obliterate the last traces of the wall.

And perhaps at that service we will sing Abelard:

In new Jerusalem joy shall be found,

blessings of peace shall forever abound;

wish and fufillment are not severed there,

nor the things prayed for come short of the prayer.


Jāna Jēruma-Grīnberga

November 4, 2017

PS A great chance to meet up with old friends, too…. Thank you so much to Sally, Roy and Philip for inviting me to be there.

55 P1130314
With Amanda, Hannah and Elaine Barnabas

Kaut kur mums ir īstas mājas…

Šo referātu lasīju konferencē “FREMDE HEIMAT EUROPA. Zwischen Heimat und Flucht” 2017.g. jūnijā. Konferenci organizēja “Geschäftsstelle Europäische Bibeldialoge der UEK” (Apvienoto evaņģēlisko baznīcu Bībeles dialogu biedrība)


Tā, lai visi saprastu, kāds ir fons, uz kura šo referātu esmu veidojusi, nedaudz par sevīm pastāstīšu. Esmu dzimusi Londonā, Anglijā, latviešu ģimenē. Mani vecāki abi bija bēgļi pēc 2. Pasaules kaŗa. Māte devās bēgļu gaitās tad, kad Padomju savienības kaŗaspēks ienāca Latvijā. Viņas pirmo vīru, Alfrēdu Tālnoru, arestēja 1941.g. aprīlī, aizveda uz Astrahaņu pēc 1941.g. 14.jūnija, kur viņam piesprieda nāves sodu. Tātad tad, kad PSRS spēki atkal tuvojās Latvijai, mātei nebija izvēles, un 1944.g. viņa devās trimdā. Atlikušo mūža daļu viņa nodzīvoja Londonā, kur viņa arī satika tēvu.

Tēvs ir dzimis Igaunijā, latviešu ģimenē.  1943.g. (ja nemaldos)  iesauca vācu armijā, un – kaŗam beidzoties – viņš atradās vācu frontes pusē.


Lai gan viņam Latvijā palika pirmā sieva, aktrise Velta Krūze,  un maza meitiņa, Inga,  viņš nevarēja vairs tikt atpakaļ; un arī viņš nonāca Londonā, kur apmetās nākošo 30 gadu mītnes zemē; lai gan vēl kādu laiku bija cerējis atgriezties, un pat rakstīja pirmajai sievai 1947.g. un vaicāja – ko viņam darīt? Velta gan atbildēja, ka nav droši viņam doties atpakaļ uz Latviju; un jādomā, ka tā bija taisnība, jo visticamāk viņi abi, kopā ar manu pusmāsu, būtu arī nonākuši Sibīrijā.

Tā, nonākuši abi Londonā, viņi satikās, un 1953. g., tieši 10 gadus pēc manas māsas piedzimšanas Latvijā, es piedzimu Anglijā.

1953.g. ziema

Bet vecāku dzīves (ļoti izteikti), kā arī mana dzīve (tikai mazliet mazāk izteikti) ritēja lielākoties latviešu sabiedrībā, latviskā vidē (bet pie tā atgriezīsimies). Mājās runājām tikai latviešu valodu; vecākiem tikpat kā nebija neviena drauga – angļa; abi bija polītiski aktīvi, un tēvs jo īpaši kultūras dzīvē aktīvs. Viņš bija komponists, diriģents, Dziesmu svētku rīkotājs, kultūras dzīves vadītājs – viss, protams, latviešu-trimdinieku kontekstā.

Vēlāk arī apprecējos ar latvieti, arī Anglijā dzimušu, un ģimenē mums auga 2 meitas; abas arī runā latviešu valodu un spēlē un dzied latviešu folk-pop ansamblī.

Visu mūžu nodzīvojuši ārpus Latvijas, pirms 3 gadiem ar vīru “atgriezāmies” Latvijā (arī pie tā jēdziena atgriezīsimies); vietā, par kuru visu mūžu esam domājuši un sapņojuši. Un tas ir mums jautājums – vai šeit ir mājas vai svešatne? Vēl pie tam, pēc gadiem, kad Londonā strādāju arī latviešu luterāņu draudzēs, šeit, dīvainā kārtā, kalpoju angļu valodā, starptautiskajā Anglikāņu draudzē.

Kas ir Heimat – mājas?

Ģeogrāfiska definīcija

Kā vispār definējam savu Heimat? Varbūt, ka definējam tīri fiziskā ziņā – resp. mājas ir vieta, kurā dzīvojam. Bet tad ir jautājums: cik plaši vai šauri ievelkam robežas. Vai Latvija ir mana ‘Heimat’? Vai varbūt Rīga?  Jeb tikai Miera iela? Vai arī,  pretējā virzienā dodoties, Baltijas valstis  (galu galā, mans DNS droši vien norāda uz ģenētisku piederību arī igauņu tautai un lībiešiem); varbūt, ja sevi uzskatu par 20.g.s. bērnu, uzskatu Eiropu par savu Heimat?

Ģeogrāfiskām definīcijām ir savas ļoti pretrunīgās izpausmes. Ja padomājam, kas rakstīts 2.Mozus grāmatā 23.31-33.

“Un Es likšu tavas robežas no Niedru jūras līdz Filistiešu jūrai un no tuksneša līdz Eifratas upei, jo Es tās zemes iedzīvotājus došu jūsu rokā, ka jūs tos izdzītu sev pa priekšu. Neslēdziet nekādu derību nedz ar viņiem, nedz ar viņu dieviem.
Viņi lai nedzīvo tavā zemē, ka nepamudina tevi grēkot pret Mani, jo, ja tu kalposi viņu dieviem, tas tev kļūs par slazda valgu.”

Lai gan, protams, Israēlas valsts teritorija nekad nav tik tālu izpletusies, kā šajā tekstā Dievs savai tautai sola, tomēr šobrīd Israēlā viens no pamatojumiem tam, ka Israēla uzskata visu Jeruzālemi par savu teritoriju, ir šis Torā izteiktais solījums. Īsi pēc 1967.g. kara, Israēla aneksēja Austrumjeruzālemi, kas veido daļu no Rietumkrasta, un kur toreiz galvenokārt dzīvoja palestīnieši. Vēl līdz šajai dienai Israēlas valdības ir vienmēr uzsvēruši to, ka Jeruzaleme ir valsts ‘mūžīgā un nedalāmā’ galvas pilsēta. Israēlas 1948. g. Neatkarības deklarācija arī skaidri iezīmē saiti starp ēbrēju identitāti un Bībelē definēto un aprakstīto ‘Eretz Israel’. “ERETZ-ISRAEL (the Land of Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.”[1] Un  ir tā, ka, piešķirot definētai zemes teritorijai šādu svētuma piedevu, kļūst, protams, neiespējami no tas jebkādā veidā atsacīties un jebkādu kompromisu atrast.

Jaunajā derībā atrodam zināmu kontrastu. Jēzus, piemēram, par sevi saka tā (Mateja ev. 8.19-20)

“Un viens rakstu mācītājs atnāca un uz Viņu sacīja: “Es Tev sekošu, lai kurp Tu ietu.” 20 Un Jēzus tam saka: “Lapsām ir alas, putniem apakš debess ir ligzdas, bet Cilvēka Dēlam nav kur Savu galvu nolikt.””

Šī doma par to, ka mūsu dzīvēs virs zemes mums paliekamu vietu neatrast, caurvij Jauno derību. Tā Vēstulē ēbrejiem (13.12-14) lasām:

“Tāpēc arī Jēzus, lai ar Savām asinīm tautu darītu svētu, ir cietis ārpus vārtiem. Tāpēc iziesim pie Viņa ārpus nometnes, Viņa negodu nesdami! Jo mums šeit nav paliekamas pilsētas, bet mēs meklējam nākamo.”

Šī doma, ka mēs kā kristieši kaut kādā ziņā vienmēr atrodamies ‘ārpus vārtiem’, vienmēr nakamās pilsētas meklējumos, ir ļoti būtiska. Tam būtu arī jānozīmē to, ka mūsu ticība nav saistīta ar kādu ģeogrāfisku vai nacionālu identitāti; bet bieži vien ir tā, ka mēs savas mājas izjūtam caur emocijām.

Emocionālās mājas


 Izcilā latviešu dzejniece Veronika Strēlerte rakstīja šādus vārdus dzejolī Mājas:

“Kaut kur mums ir īstās mājas,

Mēs jūtam un tiecamies turp.

Bet gadi atnāk un krājas,

Un mēs vēl jautājam — kurp?”

Un dzejoļa beigu rindas:

“Kaut kur mums ir īstās mājas.

Var dzīve no tām ilgi šķirt —

Kādreiz tur būs jāapstājas,

un kaut tikai dusēt un mirt.”

Šī sajūta, tik asa un bieži vien smeldzīga, ka ir vieta šai pasaulē, kur tiešām jutīsimies kā mājās; vieta, kas mūs vienmēr pie sevis velk, un kura ir neaizmirstamā, kaut paiet gadu gadi, bija ārkārtīgi raksturīga mūsu latviešu trimdai. Aizmirst Latviju – tā bija nodevība daudzu acīs; un atceros, cik šokēts bija tēvs, kad viens no brāleniem viņam paziņoja, ka viņaprāt izteiciens ‘Ubi bene, ibi patria’ (Kur labi, tur tēvija) atbilst arī viņa dzīves uzskatiem.

Atradu ļoti trāpīgu citātu Konrad-Adenauer-Stift mājas lapā par migrāciju.

“Oftmals bilden sich die Heimatgefühle erst heraus, wenn man sich fernab der Heimat befindet; nur im Nachhinein bemerkt man, was man vorher nie wahrgenommen hat. Der österreichische Schriftsteller Alexander von Villers sagte dazu einmal: „Der Mensch hat immer eine Heimat und wär es nur der Ort, wo er gestern war und heute nicht mehr ist. Entfernung macht Heimat, Verlust, Besitz.“ Wenn Heimat nun ausschließlich die Verbundenheit zu einem verlorenen oder zerstörten Ort wäre, dann würden Migranten niemals eine neue Heimat finden.”[2]

Tātad mūsu ilgas pēc mājām veidojas tad, kad esam tālu no tām. Austriešu rakstnieks fon Villers teicis, ka cilvēkam vienmēr ir mājās, arī ja tās ir tā vieta, kur tas vakar atradās, bet šodien vairs tur nav.

No kā veidojas šādas emocijas – tas varbūt pārāk sarežģīts jautājums, lai dažās minūtēs atrisinātu; bet varam konstatēt, ka šādas ilgas pēc pazaudētās dzimtenes varam atrast  gandrīz jebkurā kultūrā, jebkuros cilvēkos, kas spiestā kārtā atstāj savu ‘dzimteni’ vai izvēlēto mājvietu. 137. psalms, rakstīts tajā laikā, kad ļaudis no Jūdas atradās Bābeles trimdā, ar savu ārprātīgo noslēgumu, izsaka šo izmisumu skaudri.

“Pie Bābeles upēm – tur mēs sēdējām un raudājām, kad pieminējām Ciānu. 2 Savas cītaras mēs tur pakārām vītolos, 3 jo mūsu gūsta uzraugi tur prasīja no mums dziesmas un mūsu nomācēji līksmību: “Dziediet mums kādu no savām Ciānas dziesmām!”

4 Kā lai mēs dziedam Tā Kunga dziesmas svešā zemē? 5 Ja es tevi aizmirstu, Jeruzāleme, tad lai nokalst man mana labā roka! 6 Mana mēle lai pielīp pie aukslējām, ja es tevi nepieminētu, ja es neatzītu Jeruzālemi par savu augstāko prieku! 7 Piemini, Kungs, Edoma bērniem Jeruzālemes nelaimes dienu, kad viņi teica: “Noārdiet, noārdiet to līdz pamatiem!” 8 Bābeles meita, tu visu Bābeles iedzīvotāju kopa, tu postītāja! Svētīgs, kas tev atmaksā par to, ko tu mums esi darījusi!
9 Svētīgs tas, kas sagrābs tavus mazos bērnus un viņus satrieks pret klintīm!”

Interesanta piezīme: Amerikas luterāņu dziesmu grāmatās (tai skaitā ‘Evangelical Lutheran Worship nr 701’) atrodama dziesma, kura izmanto vārdus; un tā ir dziedāma pie latviešu tautas dziesmas meldijas ‘Kas tie tādi, kas dziedāja bez saulītes vakarā’; sēru dziesma, kura apdzejo apspiestu bāreņu likteni.  Savijas psalma vārdi ar latviešu tautas dziesmu, atpsoguļojot visu trimdinieku un bēgļu likteņus un raudas. Jo tādi mēs, latviešu trimdā,  jutāmies, laikam, kā bāreņi svešā zemē, kuŗiem atņemta Māte Latvija, un kuŗi vēlējās dziedāt tikai savu, un nevis svešu dziesmu.

 Garīgās mājas

Te man gribētos citēt Sv. Augustīna slaveno teicienu, kuru atrodam ‘Atzīšanās’ pirmajā rindkopā.

“Tu [domāts Dievs] mudini [cilvēku] priecāties, tevi slavējot, jo tu esi mūs radījis sev pašam un mūsu sirds ir nemierīga, kamēr tā nav radusi mieru tevī’.”[3]

Vienīgi tad ir mūsu sirds mierīga, ja tā Dievā atrod savu visaugstāko Heimat; un tas ir miers, kuru mums var tikai Dievs dot – kā Jēzus saka Jāņa ev. (14.27) “Mieru Es jums atstāju, Savu mieru Es jums dodu; ne kā pasaule dod, Es jums dodu. Jūsu sirdis lai neiztrūkstas un neizbīstas.”

Kāpēc? No vienas puses loģiski, jo ģeogrāfiskās mājas mums daudz kas var atņemt – kaŗš, karjera, bads – apstākļi visvisādi. Arī tad, ja paliekam uz vietas un nekur nepārvācamies, pasaule ap mums var mainīties līdz nepazīšanai, un mēs jūtamies kā svešinieki un piedzīvotāji paši savā ģeogrāfiskajā telpā. Un tad vienīgā drošība, kura mums paliek ir tā, kuru atrodam 139.psalmā (7-12)

“Kurp lai es aizeju no Tava Gara, un kurp lai es bēgu no Tava vaiga?  Ja es kāptu debesīs, Tu tur esi, ja es nokāptu ellē, Tu esi arī tur.  Ja man būtu rītausmas spārni un es nolaistos jūras malā, tad arī tur mani vadītu Tava roka un Tava labā roka mani turētu. Ja es teiktu: galīga tumsa lai mani apklāj, un par nakti lai kļūst ap mani gaisma,-  tad arī tumsība Tev nebūtu tumša, un nakts tev spīdētu kā diena, tumsība Tev būtu kā gaisma.”

Augustīns, apcerot šo psalmu, raksta tā:  “Tātad manis nebūtu, mans Dievs, manis vispār nebūtu, ja tu nebūtu manī. Vai drīzāk – manis nebūtu, ja es nebūtu tevī, no kura ir viss, caur kuru ir viss, kurā ir viss?”[5]

Varētu arī teikt, ka mums garīgās mājas ir tur, kur Dievs mūs sūta – līdzīgi kā Abrams un Sarai, kuri devās projām no dzimtes mājvietas, no savas zemes, sekojot Dieva aicinājumam – lai beigu beigās svešā zemē veidotu ne tikai sev, bet saviem pēcteču miljoniem jaunas, Dieva svētītas mājas.

 Heimat oder Fremde?

Konrad-Adenauer-Stift mājas lapa atgādināja vēl vienu brīnišķīgu Augstīna izteicienu; šo Augustīns saka par laiku:

“Kas gan ir laiks? Kas gan spētu to vienkārši un īsi izskaidrot? …. Ja neviens man to nejautā, es zinu, bet, ja vēlos to izskaidrot kāda, kas jautā, es nezinu.”[7]

Tā arī man – pēc būtības zinu, ka Latvija ir manas mājas, mana, vismaz uz šīs zemes, paliekamā vieta. Bet kad man prasa to izskaidrot, atrodu, ka man nav skaidru un loģisku domu par to. Sākumā jau teicu, ka mēs Londonā dzīvojām latviešu sabiedrībā – gandrīz tādā latvietības kokonā. Bet, atbraucot uz Latviju, atrodam, ka mūsu latvietība atšķiras no šejienes latvietības. Tas, protams, ir saprotami un dabīgi; jo mūsu kultūra bija tā, kuru mūsu vecāki paņēma līdz savos bēgļu koferīšos 1944.gadā; un vēl, protams, ar krietnu mītnes zemju piejaukumu. Latvijā viss attīstījās pa citu ceļu. Tā, piemēram, lai gan runāju samērā labi latviski, pieļauju vairāk gramatisku kļūdu runājot un rakstot (kā savādāk? Neesmu nevienu dienu gājusi skolā šeit – mana valodas izglītība ir no vecākiem un no Svētdienas skolas Londonā, kura, starp citu, pirms 2 gadiem nosvinēja 65. jubileju!); un mana izruna nav tāda, kāda ir Latvijā dzimušajiem un augušajiem. Varētu teikt, ka trimdā bijām svešinieki savās mītņu zemēs, un tagad esam arī daļēji svešinieki savu vecāku dzimtenē.

Varbūt bēdīgākais ir tas, ka mēs visi cerējām – vairāk, mēs visi sagaidījām –  ka šeit atradīsim tiešām savas garīgās mājas; vietu, kurā beidzot varam ‘dziedāt Tā Kunga dziesmas savā zemē’. Bet ir izrādījies, ka retais no trimdas/svešatnes atgriezies cilvēks ir spējis iedzīvoties Latvijas ev.-lut. baznīcā. Mana pieredze, diemžēl, ir tāda, ka šobrīd manas garīgās mājas vistiešāk ir angliski runājošā draudzē, kurā kalpoju – draudzē, kas ir pilna ar svešniekiem, iebraucējiem; bet arī ar latviešiem un krieviem, kuri nav atraduši vietu t.s. tradicionālajās konfesijās šeit Latvijā. Mēs daudzi Sv. Pestītāja draudzē esam tādi kā marģināļi,  cilvēki, kuri nekur gluži neiederas; bet kopā mēs veidojam šīs garīgās mājas, kur cenšamies būt pieņemoši un sagaidīt visus, tā kā to darīja Kristus.

Bet tomēr, par spīti visam, man un daudziem, kas ir ‘atgriezušies’ uz zemi, kurā neesam dzimuši un auguši, šeit jūtamies kā savā ‘Heimat’, un to laikam nekad ar vārdiem neizskaidrot. Šeit ir mūsu saknes; šeit varam slavēt Dievu savā valodā; ar Veronikas Strēlertes vārdiem,  šeit ir īstās mājas, uz kurām esmu tiekusies; šeit esmu apstājusies, šeit dusēšu un miršu.

Baltijas jūra 2016.g. vasarā






[3] Augustīns, Atzīšanās 1,1, tulk. Laura Hansone, Liepnieks un Ritums, Rīga 2008


[5] Atzīšanās 1,2


[7] Atzīšanās 11,14


My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This week it has felt as though grace and peace are in rather short supply; so let us dwell in those words for a moment. Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Against a background of a world that seems sometimes to be spinning out of rational control, our readings from the Bible today (they can be found at the end of this blog) have sounded as though they come from a different universe. But, of course, they are also written against various backgrounds of conflict, hatred, intolerance, and not in some perfect world where peace and grace rule. But let us acknowledge that this week has been shockingly difficult and painful at times.

Many of us, probably, have been to Barcelona; my husband and I walked down the Ramblas earlier this year, and stopped to admire the Miro-inspired decoration on the road where the lethal white van came to a halt on Thursday. Las Ramblas – a promenade of happy chaos, of tourists from around the world mingling with local Catalans, of markets and vivid colour. It hurts like crazy to hear of violence, hatred and death scarring this place.

A building on Las Ramblas

Turku – probably one of the most unlikely places for violence and murder, an ancient city in Finland dominated by a magnificent cathedral; a market place filled with local produce. The Archbishop of the Lutheran Church in Finland, Kari Makkinen, said in response that the cathedral clock has continued to strike, even through the chaos. It hurts like crazy to see pictures of injured and dying people, police and ambulances crowding this safe, kind town.

Turku Cathedral

Charlottesville – and the horrific sights and sounds of swastika flags and shouts of anti-Semitic slogans, “blood and soil”, “Jews will not replace us”; and the equally horrific fact that the President of the United States has refused to condemn these new Nazis unequivocally.  It hurts like crazy to see the land of the free and the home of the brave defaced like this.

So how do we reconcile this with the readings we heard today? The readings were the opposite of the hate which has fuelled this violence across the world. “Thus says the Lord:   Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed,” says Isaiah. And what is that deliverance? “these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; …for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.” A deliverance of joy, of inclusiveness, of outcasts gathered in, the marginalised no longer cast out.

“O let the nations rejoice and be glad, for you will judge the peoples righteously and govern the nations upon earth.” says the psalmist. Again, a message of justice, and of people and nations welcoming righteousness, righteous judgement.

And the Gospel story, of a Gentile woman, a foreigner, approaching Jesus, desperate for healing for her sick child. If Jesus had acted according to the religious law of the time, he would indeed have sent her away, unspoken to, unhealed, unheard.  But what exactly happens here is strangely unclear: does Jesus change his mind, convinced by the woman’s unexpected faith? Or (given that in the original Greek text punctuation is missing – there are no full-stops, or question marks) should we translate Jesus’ words as a sort of musing – was I sent only to the lost sheep of Israel? – Is it not fair to take the children’s food and so on. But either way, this meeting between Jesus and the Canaanite woman is important, because it shows that Jesus message was heard by more than just the local Jews. She addresses him, after all, in a way that shows faith from the very beginning of their conversation. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” – she knows who Jesus is, and she knows that from him come mercy, salvation and deliverance. And great was her faith; and wonderful the healing of her child.

This is the Gospel: salvation from God, and deliverance from evil.

A Gospel open to all, all people and all nations, a Gospel of justice and joy, of inclusiveness and healing.

This is the Gospel we are all called to proclaim and to live out.

This is the Gospel, the good news and best of all messages, which gives us patience and courage never to lose hope.

This is the Gospel which gives us courage to speak the truth, and to name evil for what it is.

And that is even more important in these days which feel like a gathering storm and growing darkness; we must light candles, not Nazi torches, we must speak words of grace and peace, not of hatred and intolerance. Christians, especially church leaders and all of us – it is time to stand up and speak, stand up and be counted; as Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

May God bless you with a restless discomfort

about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,

so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,

and exploitation of people,

so that you may tirelessly work

for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those

who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation,

or the loss of all that they cherish,

so that you may reach out your hand

to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe

that you really CAN make a difference in this world,

so that you are able, with God’s grace,

to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies us,

be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and for evermore.


Sr. Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB – 1985

sagrada familia
Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona


READINGS for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, 20 August 2017


Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,  give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Isaiah 56.1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:   Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
8 Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.

Romans 11.1-2a, 29-32

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Matthew 15. 21-28

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Psalm 67

1 God be gracious to us and bless us • and make his face to shine upon us,

2That your way may be known upon earth, • your saving power among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; •  let all the peoples praise you.

4 O let the nations rejoice and be glad, •  for you will judge the peoples righteously

and govern the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; •  let all the peoples praise you.

6 Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, •  and God, our own God, will bless us.

7 God will bless us, • and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

Svešais un tuvais cilvēks. Alfrēds Tālnora.

Viņam vārds bija Alfrēds Tālnora. Precīzāk, viņa vārds bērnībā bija Ansis Alfrēds Voldemārs Treimanis. Viņš piedzima Liepājā, 1901.g. 19. septembrī, pēc vecā stila 6. septembrī. Viņu kristīja Liepājas Sv. Annas draudzē. Nākošais, ko par viņu zinu, ir tas, ka 1933.g. 4.jūnijā, Rīgas ev.-lut. Sv.Pēteŗa un Pāvila (Citadeles) baznīcā māc. Edgars Rumba salaulāja Alfrēdu ar Laumu Zentu Amāliju Grigoru; šajā brīdī viņš dzīvoja Karlīnes ielā 9, dz.4; Lauma – Karlīnes ielā 9, dz.3. Tā mana mamma, Lauma, apprecējās ar savu pirmo vīru, un pēc tam dzīvoja tai pašā Karlīnes 9, bet Šodien Karlīnes 9 ir pārtapusi par Miera 11, kur vēl tagad dzīvojam – vai, pareizāk sakot, atkal dzīvojam.

1940.g. 5.martā J.Legzdiņš, Iekšlietu ministra biedrs, nolemj atļaut Alfrēdam ar Laumu mainīt uzvārdu, un tā viņi pārtopj par Tālnorām. No mammas stāstiem saprotu, ka ap šo laiku viņi arī bija pašķīrušies, bet ne oficiāli, jo vecmāmiņa (Šarlote) bija slima, un negribēja to satraukt. Un tas nozīmē, ka mammai bija 4 uzvārdi – Grigors, Treimanis, Tālnora un Jēruma.

Tad notiek neiedomājamais, un PSRS okupē Latviju. 1941.g. 2.aprīlī Alfrēdu arestē (viņš bija bijis Rīgas Prefektūras 4.iecirkņa Policijas uzraugs), un laikam 14.jūnijā izved. 1941.g. 22. decembrī  Astrahaņas apgabaltiesas krimināllietu tiesas kolēģija notiesā pēc Kriminālkodeksa 58.13 panta (Aktīva cīņa pret strādnieku šķiru un revolucionāro kustību), un piespriež Alfrēdam t.s. Augstāko soda mēru. Tātad nāves sodu. Vai viņu tiešām nošāva, jeb viņš mira Astrahaņas nežēlīgajos apstākļos, nezinu.

Svētdien, 11.jūnijā, pirmo reizi mūžā apmeklēju Aizvesto piemiņas dienas dievkalpojumu Latvijā, Sv. Pētera baznīcā. Pieminējām ne tikai 1941.g. 14.jūnija upurus, bet arī 1949.g.25. martā izsūtītos, un visus terorā cietušos. Brīnums – pirmo reizi šeit, kad Londonā tas bija viens no neiztrūkstošajiem gada notikumiem, kopā ar igauņiem un lietuviešiem atceroties, pieminot, raudot; un pēdējos gados arī pateicoties Dievam par atjaunoto brīvību. Daudz domāju par Alfrēdu; jo pēkšņi sapratu, ka es esmu droši vien vienīgais cilvēks pasaulē, kas vispār Alfrēdu piemin. Cik zinu, viņam citas ģimenes nebija; neko par brāļiem vai māsām arī nezinu, vai par kādiem pēctečiem.

Un pēkšņi man likās ārkārtīgi svarīgi, ka šis viens cilvēks, moceklis, jau pirms 75 gadiem miris, nav pilnīgi aizmirsts. Ienāca prātā pat aizbraukt uz Astrahaņu, sameklēt cietumu, kur, visticamāk, Alfrēda dzīvība izgaisa, vientulībā, tālu no ģimenes, draugiem, dzimtenes. Ne tāpēc, ka tas varētu jebko atrisināt vai pat dziedināt, bet vismaz varētu noliekt galvu mūsu vistiešākā represiju upura priekšā. Alfrēd – Tu jau sen dusi Dieva mierā. Bet ja tālajos dvēseles dārzos var mūsu domas un lūgšanas sadzirdēt, tad zini, ka neesi aizmirsts. Sēžu šovakar dažu metru attālumā no vietas, kurā Tu dzīvoji, un no kurienes Tevi aizveda, un domāju par Tevi, Tavu šausminošo likteni, par mīlestību, kura pirms daudziem gadiem vienoja Tevi ar manu mammu; vieglas Tev svešuma smiltis, Tu – svešais un reizē tuvais cilvēk.

Contextual busking

As I was walking to the church a few days ago, I heard from some distance the unmistakeable strains of ‘Hava Negila’ being played on brass instruments. As I came round the corner by the Saeima, the Parliament building, there they were – the buskers, playing to an audience chatting amongst themselves and listening to a guide telling them about Rīga’s landmark Three Brothers in Hebrew.


This has become part of the routine; there they always are, with their slightly battered euphonium and tuba, busking on the tourist trail; and the great thing about it is that they always pick up on languages spoken, and play the appropriate tune (God Save The Queen, The Marseillaise, Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit and so on). So from a couple of hundred yards away, I know who to expect on my way.


So this is contextual busking – music-making that connects with the audience, rather than just playing the same few pieces over and over. It certainly brings a smile to the tourists’ faces, as the strains of some familiar tune unexpectedly reach them.


Of course we contextualise all the time. We use language that is appropriate to the company we are with; we dress appropriately to the events or places we are going to; we put our thoughts and ideas in formats that are appropriate and understandable for the people we are talking to. So teachers explaining maths to a class of 7 year olds couch all they say in very different terms to a university lecturer, even if the basic truth of mathematical concepts does not change.

This has been rolling round in my mind for months now, since one of the regular spats I get into on social media with one of my more conservative (OK, more fundamentalist) brethren, who was insisting, as is often the case, that the Bible is different, and that it has a pure message independent of and uninterpreted by our contexts. This doesn’t work for me, nor for most people who read the Scriptures. For me, it is so blindingly obvious that we read the Bible as whole people, with our minds and perceptions formed by our lives and experiences, that I find it difficult to argue with those who believe that there is an entity that can be isolated and defined, the pure Biblical text, unalloyed, uninterpreted and unifocal. That does not mean that I don’t believe the Bible is true; quite the opposite. Indeed the truth of the Word of God is broader, wider and truer than we can possibly imagine, and each new generation that reads it, each new Christian who grows to love the Bible and really engages with it, adds a new layer of possibilities without ever exhausting the essential truth and grace and eternal, loving beauty that is the fundamental nature of God.

But the need to take context seriously was brought back to mind by an event last month, and a reading today.

July is the month when cemeteries all over Latvia hold ‘festivals’ (Kapu svētki); there’s a long and complex story behind this tradition, but in essence folk come together in their family homes and villages, tidy up and beautify their ancestors graves, and then attend a service at the cemetery (and in some places have something of a party graveside).


We went to our local festival, where the pastor led a service that was 1 hour and 15 minutes long; he quoted from the Enchiridion, a 16th century Pastor’s Handbook; and in essence, repeated over and over again that everyone who dies when not a faithful Christian goes to hell. Now this lengthy sermon was preached in a setting (context) where the vast majority of those lying at rest in the cemetery lived and died during Soviet times, and never heard the Gospel preached, never stood a chance of living a Christian life. Just imagine how you would feel if you were told over again that your much-loved mother, grandfather or brother is now suffering the torments of hell. No nuances, no hope, no kindness. This was an example of completely uncontextualized preaching, an interpretation of the Bible which left no space for grace or for God’s immeasurable love and power to act. Luckily, very few of the people in the cemetery stopped to listen to this tirade.

And today we remembered St Aidan, the Apostle to the Nortumbrians at our Evening Prayer at St Saviour’s.


We read from the Venerable Bede’s biographical sketch of this ancient, gentle bishop.

“It is said, that when King Oswald had asked a bishop of the Scots to administer the Word of faith to him and his nation, there was first sent to him another man of more harsh disposition, who, after preaching for some time to the English and meeting with no success, not being gladly heard by the people, returned home, and in an assembly of the elders reported, that he had not been able to do any good by his teaching to the nation to whom he had been sent, because they were intractable men, and of a stubborn and barbarous disposition.

They then, it is said, held a council and seriously debated what was to be done, being desirous that the nation should obtain the, salvation it demanded, but grieving that they had not received the preacher sent to them. Then said Aidan, who was also present in the council, to the priest in question, “Methinks, brother, that you were more severe to your unlearned hearers than you ought to have been, and did not at first, conformably to the Apostolic rule, give them the milk of more easy doctrine, till, being by degrees nourished with the Word of God, they should be capable of receiving that which is more perfect and of performing the higher precepts of God.”

Having heard these words, all present turned their attention to him and began diligently to weigh what he had said, and they decided that he was worthy to be made a bishop, and that he was the man who ought to be sent to instruct the unbelieving and unlearned; since he was found to be endued preeminently with the grace of discretion, which is the mother of the virtues. So they ordained him and sent him forth to preach; and, as time went on, his other virtues became apparent, as well as that temperate discretion which had marked him at first.”

This remarkable man, who died more than 1300 years ago, probably never used the word context. But he surely understood it.

Everlasting God,
You sent the gentle bishop Aidan to proclaim the gospel in [England];
Grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility and love for the poor;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. AMEN. (Common Worship Collect for St Aidan)





Sunday 26 June 2016, referendum +3

This post is based on a sermon preached at St Saviour’s on Sunday 26 June.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been quite a week. Personally, along with many millions of others, I was up until almost 5am on Friday, watching the unbelievable results roll in on the Brexit referendum; and up again just a couple of hours later to watch the first reactions, as well as PM David Cameron’s resignation live on TV. For many people, the result was devastating; a former colleague of mine, now living and working in Germany compared the feeling on Friday to the Berlin wall coming down in reverse – in other words, it seemed as though walls are being rebuilt, and the sadness is comparable to the joy we all felt back in November 1989, when the wall of death in Germany began to be broken down.

The main problem for many people has been the poor quality of the debate. The Leave Campaign have now admitted that their headline slogan was a lie, basically. They said that  about 350 million GBP are being taken by the EU from Britain each week, which could be spent on the National Health Service if Britain leaves; and the very next day after the referendum, one of the leading campaigners, Nigel Farage, said it had been a ‘mistake to promise that’.

IDS bus
Iain Duncan-Smith, another leading campaigner, has also reneged on the promise

There has also been scaremongering from Remain, with the Chancellor, of all people, saying that households in Britain will be worse off by 4300 GBP – around 5000 EUR – per year after Brexit, with no credible statistics to back up his claim. “The first casualty when war comes is truth” – said Hiram Johnson, a US Senator during WWI.  Truth has certainly been an early casualty in this campaign.

But very worrying, too, has been the inability to hear and accept what experts are saying; in fact a disdain for and dismissiveness of expertise and knowledge. “When the facts met the myths they were useless”, said Nicholas Barrett, a political journalist.  People preferred to listen to vague, high sounding promises and soundbites.

The Church Times, the Church of England’s newspaper, wrote this week:

“The referendum debate has been a divisive, brutal, dehumanising, victimising, bitter experience, and at times not even a debate; but now that the campaign is over, the UK must learn from its mistakes, and move towards reconciliation and healing within communities, church voices across the UK have said.

“Primates, bishops, archdeacons, chaplains, and academics made their views clear this week on how the country — its people and Government — had conducted themselves throughout the campaign, and on what the next step should be both for the Church and communities across the UK.

The referendum debate had “unleashed a kind of monster” of extremes, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan said. The public attitude, and language used, had been “venomous and offensive”, and risked spreading “from words to actions”, such as the recent rioting at the Euros [Euro 2016 Football Championships – Ed]

The risk was particularly high on immigration, Dr Morgan said in an interview with the Western Mail this week. “There’s been so much venom spoken about immigrants and immigration that people have come to believe almost anything. People have jumped in on the immigration issue, forgetting that whether we stay or whether we leave will make no difference to 50 per cent of the immigrants of this country. . .

“Quite reasonable, rational people get really hot under the collar about immigration, forgetting that our health service would collapse without it, and that many of the immigrants are in fact holding excellent jobs as doctors, consultants and academics.” ”


Let us look back at what St Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians. There is a clear warning there: “15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

 But there is also a pointer to the way in which a debate might be conducted. Paul writes: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. […]. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”

So, if as Christians we are filled with the Spirit, the fruit of that Spirit is love, and all those other lovely and love-filled characteristics follow. What Paul is not saying is that when we become Christians, we automatically become loving, patient, gentle and self-controlled, obviously and unfortunately. What Paul is saying is that as we live our Christian lives, the Spirit of Christ takes root in us, growing, flowering and eventually bringing fruit. As our psalm said today: “11 You show me the path of life.  In your presence there is fullness of joy;    in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”

Against the rising tide of intolerance and hatred, racism, xenophobia, the polarisation between right and left which we are seeing, and not just in Europe, once again Christians are being called to be countercultural. The prophetic voice of the Church must be heard, speaking and living in a way that challenges ‘the monster of extremes’ that Archbishop Barry Morgan was speaking about. Or as St Paul said: enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions; such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Against this anger and intolerance, we speak and live in love, offering kindness and grace, being generous and gentle. That might sound weak, and a bit wishy-washy; but actually it isn’t. Walking against the flow is a struggle; living and speaking out against a growing culture of sheer nastiness is by no means easy.


What can we do? We are a small church here in Latvia, a small country; but maybe that’s what Elisha thought, when Elijah appeared out of the blue, and threw his mantle, his cape, over him.  What can God and his prophet possibly want with me, a ploughman? Why has Elijah appeared out of the blue, and called me to follow?

What can God possibly expect of St Saviour’s? We can’t save the world; we can’t save the European Union, obviously; but that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t do anything. We can, each of us, set our faces to walk with Jesus, wherever that walk takes us; and we can pray for the Spirit to work within us more and more, bringing the fruits of love not only to ourselves, but to our families, our friends, our neighbourhood, our city, our land. And if we are called to speak and live prophetically, as Elisha was called, we must do that, too.



Psalm 16

1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.’

3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.

4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.

11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.


1 Kings 19.15-16, 19-21

15Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

19 So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was ploughing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ Then Elijah said to him, ‘Go back again; for what have I done to you?’ 21He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.


Galatians 5.1, 13-25

51For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.


Luke 9.51-end

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’





Rulers come and go

This blog post was originally written for the ‘Reimagining Europe‘ project

Just days remain until the ‘Brexit’ referendum; on the whole, the view here from the Baltics is still one of bemusement. It seems perverse to most people here, in countries which have fought to achieve their right to belong to Europe, that anyone would deliberately choose to turn away from all that membership of the European Union brings in benefits – economic, political, cultural and philosophical.

Not long ago, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting Bulgaria. All countries in Europe have histories, many of them complex and painful; but Bulgaria’s legacy of history and culture is among the richest and most astonishing. In fact, at the very heart of Sofia lies ancient Serdica, which came close to being the capital of Constantine’s Roman Empire, instead of Byzantium.

The ruins of Roman Serdica


In modern Sofia, there are still clear traces of ancient Thrace, Rome, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, the Bulgarian national revival, the Soviet era – all brought together in the vibrant and self-confident city of today.

A ruined Communist-era monument

Looking at the clearly very mixed origins of passers-by in Sofia, it is obvious that there are many cultural strands that are woven together; but also that a distinct identity has been created from the weaving process. In our hotel, we found a magazine with a brief introduction to Bulgaria, which said something like this: Over the centuries invaders have come and gone. Rulers have come and gone; but the people remain.

Resting in the shade of St George’s Basilica

In today’s complex political situation, overlaid with anxiety about national sovereignity and the impact of migration, European societies, and the United Kingdom among them, are increasingly voicing fears about a loss of identity. And yet it is not membership of the EU which threatens identity, any more than migration or the threat of climate change. The greatest threat comes from within ourselves, and from the possibility that our fears and insecurities will change our core values and make us increasingly wary of the stranger and the vulnerable, increasingly hostile and inhospitable.  Conversely, it is clear that the greatest challenges to our civilisation will be much better handled together, jointly and in co-operation with other countries and nations in our region.

Identity has always been a fluid entity; and in the end, rulers and political unions will continue to come and go, but people remain.

Monument to Sofia at the heart of the modern city