Thoughts of Columba in Deep-Green August

August 4, 2010

At Heatherhope we have taken much inspiration from the Iona Community. On that island of the Scottish Inner Hebrides, tradition tells us Columba founded a community of monks around AD 563. He had fought with another tribal leader in Ireland and repented of the high number of lives lost in that battle and vowed to convert as many to Christ as the senseless conflict had seen slain.

Just a moment ago I was reminded of that Saint and those islands during my morning devotions on the upper deck of our farmhouse. Then I looked out onto the pastures and exclaimed in surprised amazement over the deep green color of the grass, alfalfa, trees and the surrounding soybeans and corn.

These things—fond thoughts of Columba, Iona, ancient missionary fervor, and amazement over the deep greens that easily conjure up memories of Irish and Scottish pastures, served to bring me out of a faith funk I have been walking in. I’m now five months deep into retirement from parish ministry, which means Connie and I are five months into reinvention of our mission in Christ. Creaky knees, along with the weather have rendered me cranky in spirit. I mumble to myself, “hot, humid, showers, thunder storms.” That has been the constant forecast this summer of record heat, humidity and rainfall. The fields are saturated, the hay can’t come in, streams and puddles are everywhere, and there are near-plague levels of mosquitoes, gnats, moths, etc. We wait for summer’s usual dry days, which used to start in mid June, but they have not arrived yet. And it all serves to slow me down, dampen my passion, and leave me anxious about creeping depression.

Then, I remember Columba, resting on his hard-stone pillow, waking before the dawn, slogging through un-known travails to tell the story of God’s rock-hard determination to love poor sinners in Christ. Then I look up and see the deep green when it should be late-summer withered brown. I have no choice but to shake loose the clinging mud of self-pity. I have no choice but to think myself blessed, to think God incredibly forgiving and generous.

There are flash flooding warnings out today. Because the ground is saturated things are dangerous. How dangerous is the grace of God as it falls on us who are saturated with good things and don’t even know it?

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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