I recently had a short retreat on the Island of Iona off the North West coast of Scotland. It is a place that may well be familiar to some of you it is know as the cradle of Christianity in The UK, as it was from here the early Celtic monks began their mission to evangelise Britain.
It was St Columba who first established a Christian presence on the small island and from there it was St Aidan who set off to preach and teach in Northumberland and eventually settling on Holy Island, another place of Christian pilgrim- age.
The island of Iona is still a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world. People go to visit the Abbey which is home to a group called the Iona Community. This community has been established just under 100 years ago by a priest called George MacLeod who rebuilt the old runs of the abbey. The community now describes itself as – “A community that is a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.”
During my time on the island the community were talking about issues of war, and if war could ever be justified. I found this both a very interesting and challenging concept, especially with my role of being an Army chaplain.
But on further reflection I have come to the belief that Peace can not only just happen through prayer and dialogue but it also means action. When St Paul talks about how we should put on the whole armour of God – Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – he states that we should put on the “shoes of the Gospel of Peace,” I don’t believe that he said this by accident but rather he is implying that shoes are things we put on when we are stepping out, when we are on the move, ‘shoes mean action.’
As we continue in our journey with God and one another there will be times that we need to seek peace, in our own lives and on behalf of others. This will not be easy and it will stretch our faith and character, it will mean stepping out in prayer, dialogue and action. My prayer is that as we at St Cuthbert’s continue to do so we will not loose the focus on where God is calling us to, who God is calling us to, and what it means to pray, speak and act out Christ’s love for the world around us.
Grace and Peace Revd Ben