One year ago today Stockholm, Sweden suffered a terrifying terror attack (not unlike the attack in Germany this past Saturday) – as a rejected-asylum seeker drove a freight truck through a busy area of the city, killing 5 and seriously wounding 15. It is with this act as the back drop that former LSTC professor and current Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, the Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, shares a brief homily about perserverence in times of trouble, and what it means to “keep on keepin’ on” when things seem their bleakest. Read, comment, and share!
Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”
We have gathered to honour those who on this day a year ago lost their lives to a deed of terror in the capital of Sweden. To say to those who were injured in body and soul: you shall not be forgotten. To express gratitude to and for all those who helped, because it is their profession to help or because they followed the call all humans have: to help, to prevent harm, to comfort.
We thankfully remember good leadership and colourful acts of solidarity in the wake of this horrific deed.
We remember the rousing words: “We are not going to allow evil thoughts and murderous deeds to drive a wedge into our society. We will defend our open, democratic way of life. And we will stand together in doing so.”
Especially on a day like this, we nourish the dream of a world where justice, peace and compassion prevail. A society that is safe, not because the security forces are omnipotent and omnipresent. But because there is no pitting against each other of groups and ethnicities, or of people and their leaders; because there is no exclusion on grounds of socio-economic status, gender, religion or colour; no manipulation and disinformation for power and money.
Those who were killed a year ago carried dreams. Small dreams about a pleasant day in a beautiful city. And bigger dreams for a future still to come, for their loved ones, and maybe even real big dreams for this world.
The Bible tells the story of a little brother who had a big dream. His brothers did not like the dream. So one day, when the little brother came to visit his bigger brothers, they said these horrendous words: “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him.” (Genesis 37:19-20) And so they tried.
We live in a world where dreamers get killed, killed by their brothers – as we all are brothers and sisters in one humanity. And yet, brothers become murderers. Bearers of dreams of a just, peaceful and reconciled world get killed.
But see, dreams survive! They are alive because they give us a vision.
Three days ago, we remembered the violent death of another dreamer. The great leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, was murdered 50 years ago.
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.” So he said in his most famous speech. And as the preacher he was, he made a heavenly vision present, turning it into an urgent appeal to transform injustice into justice:
“I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day … the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’ This is our hope, and … [w]ith this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
This dream had power because it was not just a dream, but a vision. It makes us see – at least for a moment – the world as it can be, if it dares to reflect the values of peace, justice and compassion. And not only reflect, but embody them in a peaceful, just and compassionate society.
This is more than mere words of great men and women arguing for an open and democratic society. This is more than honest appeals to not let fear take possession of us.
We have a vision: we can see what will be when goodness reigns. When the soil of injustice, violence and war, from which hatred grows, is no more.
The vision is the powerful presence of that future among us. It lays bare our shortcomings, sin and injustice, and at the very same time, as an act of grace, it instils in us hope and courage. It makes us see that it indeed is possible “to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”. It is a heavenly vision – at odds with the imperfection of the world. And not only at odds, but in deadly clash! The very bearer of it, Jesus, was crucified. And yet, the spell of death was broken. The journey of justice, peace and reconciliation started anew. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, said the Risen One.
We remember those who lost their lives. Pain and loss continue to be a reality. Still, the dream is irresistible.
Will you carry it? Will you dare to live it, when you make your way out of this house of worship into a world of twilight, into a world where brothers and sisters still raise hands and weapons against each other – instead of joining hands and minds to build this peaceful, just, reconciled and compassionate world?
Or will you, at the end of the day, be found to have betrayed it?
Bear the dream – and it will guide you into a reality that is wholesome, not only for you, but also for those who are touched by your life.
Bear the dream – and it will give you the courage to be just you. In a life that is both faithful and fruitful. Peace be with you!
 Is 40:5.
 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his speech “I have a Dream” on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC.
After completing her studies at the University of Tübingen and Uppsala University the Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén served as a priest in Tyresö parish in the Diocese of Stockholm 1981–1988, in Gårdstånga parish in the Diocese of Lund 1988–1994 and in the Cathedral parish of Lund 1995–1996. After finishing her doctorate at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, she then taught at the University of Lund from 1999–2001, eventually returning to Chicago to work as Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology/Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 2001–2003. From 2003-2007, in addition to her teaching duties at LSTC, she also became Associate Professor and Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science until 2007. She then returned home to resume her work for the Church of Sweden in 2007, first as the Bishop of Lund in 2007, and then as the Archbishop of Uppsala (and head of the Church of Sweden) in 2013 – a position she holds to this day.