MORE THOUGHTS 13
We have thought about the importance of imagination and of how God works through that to open us up to see beyond our often restricted understanding of what is around us. Many stories can shape us, can catch our imaginations. June 9th was St Columba’s day and this year marks 1,500 years since he was born in Ireland, from where, through a whole apparently set of ungodly circumstances, the young priest Colum was exiled. He went to the small island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, and founded, with his companion brothers, a small monastic community in 563 CE. They went out from there and took the gospel of Jesus throughout much of Scotland. There has been a Christian presence on Iona since then, in spite of times of great suffering and violence at the hands of Viking raiders and then the destruction of the Benedictine Abbey that had been built on the island during Henry V111’s widespread destruction of monasteries. The Abbey church was rebuilt at the end of 19th century by the Duke of Argyll, the landlord of the time. The monastic buildings were rebuilt from the end of the 1930s onwards following the dream of George MacLeod who formed a community of unemployed workers and student ministers who came together to share in a life of work and worship, inextricably linked. The Iona Community grew into an ecumenical movement founded on shared principles of peace and justice-making and of things that offer healing, wholeness for all. Iona draws many people and touches the imagination of thousands. It is seen to be a “thin” place where the separation of the physical world and the spiritual seems very small. There is a sense of holiness.
There are many such places around the world, sacred sites. In Australia, we know how important these are to the indigenous peoples of the land. We may all have our experiences of being touched by a deep sense of God’s presence. At the same time, we also know that God’s presence is everywhere. In Exodus 3 we read of how God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and told him to take off his sandals because where he was standing was holy ground. The ordinary dusty earth was holy.
There is something about the realization that God’s presence is in and throughout everything, in and through us, that helps us realise how we are part of God’s story. The way in which we live should be an illustration of this. It is so easy to forget this, to tread heavily on the holiness within and around us. So we are called back to Jesus who lived amongst the ordinariness of life and demonstrated that God’s mercy, grace, and renewal are part of the holiness too. Each church service, each gathering of God’s people, each quiet time we find as individuals, each small communion over a cup of coffee is a place of holiness in the ordinary. They are all opportunities to celebrate this and to help us open our eyes, our ears, and our imaginations to one another.
Here is a quotation offered by Peter Millar from Edinburgh:
The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful for anything but love. May your eyes be so blessed that you see God in everyone. Your ears, so you hear the cry of the poor. May your hands be so blessed that everything you touch is a sacrament. Your lips, so you speak nothing but the truth with love. May your feet be so blessed that you run to those who need you. And may your heart be so opened, so set on fire, that your love, YOUR love, changes everything. From - A Black Rock Prayer Book.