This Sunday morning we will take a final look at the high stone St. Martin Cross of the isle of Iona, with a focus upon the distinctive circle at its centre. What might the Celtic Christians have been sharing with us about the Holy One and their lives as they placed that circle on that cross?
A time of prayer and praise, of God’s word in Scripture and sermon, of assurance and commission.
The great ‘high crosses’ of the Celts, like the St. Martin’s Cross that has stood on the island of Iona for 1200 years, were placed outdoors. No doubt there were several reasons for this. Tomorrow we will explore what may be the foundational reason … how this location articulated an important dimension of their Christian faith, and how it might speak to us of the Christian way today.
I conclude with a prayer from the Outer Hebrides, in which the sun is known as ‘the eye of God’. As the people see the sun rise and feel the light and warmth it brings, they are reminded of, they feel, the Holy One looking upon them, ‘gently and generously’ …
The eye of the great God, The eye of the God of glory, The eye of the King of hosts, The eye of the King of the living, Pouring upon us At each time and season, Gently and generously. Glory to thee, Thou glorious sun, Glory to thee, thou sun Face of the God of life. Carmina Gadelica III 307
While we thank God for our continuing health and security, and all who are working for the common good during this time of confinement, these days are long and I thought it might be fun to get out of our ‘leisure wear’, dressing up in our ‘Sunday best’ or even better, and sharing a photo to share the joy.
And several have added a thanksgiving to God for our mothers, sometimes even combining the fancy dress with the gratitude.
When Ralph sent this photo yesterday, he very appropriately entitled it ‘hope’!
With the beginning of a new week of grace, we will gather in Spirit to acknowledge the hope that binds us together in Christ. We will continue to consider the gospel as declared by the ancient high cross of Iona, the St. Martin Cross, carved from one block of stone and standing almost 5 metres tall for over 1200 years. This week we will consider the engravings on both sides of the cross, and how they communicate (and challenge us to grow in) Christian faith.
I conclude with words attributed to Columba, who landed upon Iona in 563 A.D. with 12 friends to share the gospel :
Let me bless almighty God, whose power extends over sea and land and whose angels watch over all. Let me study sacred books to calm my soul. I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates. Let me do my daily work, gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor. Let me say my daily prayers, sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God. Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle, in a quiet room, serving the King of Kings.
Walking along Kingston’s Inner Harbour near our home, Béatrice and I pass the returning geese and swans, the ducks and loons … and this monument to the over one thousand labourers who died building the Rideau Canal (mainly from malaria!) to protect Upper Canada from the Americans.
My mind crossed the ocean to the ancient high crosses of the Celts, and how they continue to speak so beautifully of the Christian faith. These weeks of May we will listen as …. the elongated central shafts of these crosses declare how Christ has brought together heaven and earth, Holy One and humanity; the wonderful knots and biblical scenes tell of God at work in human history; the distinctive circle points to the Holy One, the Three in One, binding all together; and the location outside, under the open sky, reminds us that this whole world is a beloved creation of a loving Creator.
In our downtown neighbourhood, several households have made posters for windows or trees along the sidewalk – some are joyous paintings by children, some are well-honed calligraphy by adults; some entertain, some encourage, some prompt thought. It was this one that struck me mid-week as I was preparing my thoughts for tomorrow’s online worship service.
We conclude our reading of the days after the first Easter. Jesus returns to his friends shut up in that room, this second time for the benefit of Thomas (John 20: 24-31). The Risen Lord refused to leave even one of his own in the darkness of doubt and despair. Jesus’ will was for all his disciples to experience not ‘normal’ but a new beginning in their own lives, one filled with the assurance and strength of the resurrection. Such is Jesus’ will for us also.
It was a hard week in many ways, and I invited members of the congregation to share some photos of ‘new beginnings’ seen in our gardens. You will see tomorrow morning that I was able to use some of these in my sermon, but here are some more – thanks to all for the encouragement, thanks to God for the great promise of new life in Jesus, now and eternally!
It is Friday morning, and I am about to record another worship opportunity for Sunday morning. And I am struck how bitter-sweet is this new context for Christian faith.
I long for the day we can be together again in the sanctuary, but in the meantime I am encouraged by the way so many more of us are able to join in worship together online than we ever were at one time at the corner of Princess and Clergy.
I am moved as the online images and sounds of the sanctuary scroll across the screen, but they only increase in me a yearning to be again amongst the stained glass windows, to hear the organ and choir, to sing and pray together, to greet friend and visitor in the name of Christ, all of which I realize I have taken too much for granted for too long.
And as real as the anxieties and uncertainties of these days are, they seem to open me to new depths of perspective and understanding in the life of Christian faith.
Bitter-sweet indeed, and so be it. As one of you keeps telling me, ‘God is in it’. Yes, that is our faith, and that is our witness.
On this first Sunday after Easter, with contributions by members of the congregation and our Director of Music, and wonderfully edited by Christopher, we are invited to gather together the homes and neighbourhoods of our city in praise of God and to receive strength from reflecting upon God’s Word (John 20:19-22).