I sit in Norway - filled with shock, grief, sorrow, anger, betrayal, disbelief......surrounded by the overwhelming reality of what has taken place in this peaceful country - to a peaceful people. A man, a Norwegian, after bombing the government quarters in the nation's capital, set out to Utøye - an island where 700 of Norway's youth were attending a summer camp. These bright and hopeful youth were met by a man dressed as a police officer, who opened fire and continued the nightmare by hunting down these youth for 90 minutes, trapped on an island. Some tried to swim ashore, others pretended to be dead and hid among the bodies of their friends, others hid under rocks or climbed trees. 86 were shot and killed. 5 are still missing. 7, so far, lost their lives in the bombing. An unthinkable tragedy.
The Norwegian people are in shock and disbelief and the whole country is mourning. The events that took place on Friday in this peaceful country are horrific and it is still hard to believe what has happened. You can almost hear the pain and sorrow of the people as the rain falls on these dark and dreary days...we all have heavy hearts.
This morning I attended worship at Alversund Church together with many of the Romarheim family. A powerful experience. As I entered the church with a heavy heart, I was met by the open arms of Jesus. The beautiful altar painting spoke words of grace and hope: "Jeg er opstandelsen og livet" (I am the resurrection and the life) John 11:25. The picture of Jesus above those powerful words, was the resurrected Christ down on one knee looking heavenward with arms wide open. The church, as most churches in Norway, was filled with light. Candles on the altar and many large light fixtures with candles - almost blinding to look at. A stark contrast to the darkness that has descended on this land. A reminder that light still shines in the darkness and the resurrected Christ has the final word.
In the opening hymn, we all raised our voices and sang "Bli Hos Oss Herre" (Stay with us, Lord), as I was made strongly aware that He was indeed with us. The minor melodies of the hymns we sang were fitting. The air was heavy, yet it was comforting to be together as a community of faith in the presence of our gracious God. It was almost as if I could feel the breath of the Spirit come and breathe life into that place, through God's Word, through the community gathered, through the breaking of the bread and sharing of the wine, through the shared cries of a people confused and filled with sorrow. In the front pew sat the mother of a boy who was on the island, yet returned home safely yesterday.
On the side wall of the church, I noticed a crucifix. The crucifix was crooked - whether intentional or not - I do not know - yet it seemed fitting given the horror that has taken place. For some reason, that image really spoke to me.
The service ended with the healing, hope-filled words of "Bred Dina Vida Vingar" (Thy Holy Wings), sung in Swedish. "Thy holy wings, O Savior, spread gently over me, and let me rest securely, through good and ill in thee."
After the benediction, there was a time of silence for people to come forward and light a candle in the "lysglobe" - sending prayers and being concretely reminded of the light of Christ still present.
I left worship fed, strengthened, renewed, and reminded powerfully of God's grace, forgiveness and love. A light in the darkness. Praise be to God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The resurrection and the life.