Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Celebrating the Gospels on Holy Island

Holy Island or Lindisfarne is one of those 'thin places' where many people find opportunity to take time to stop and listen to God. It is divided from the mainland by the causeway which is open when the tide goes out but flooded when it comes in again. I love the natural rhythm which this gives to the day and it is a reminder of the rhythms of life which can be so easy to forget in our busyness.

Some people choose to walk across to Holy Island following the pilgrim's route which is marked by poles across the shifting sands.

On Saturday many pilgrims arrived on the island to celebrate the presence of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East. This beautiful gospel book was created on Lindisfarne by Eadfrith to the glory of God and in memory of St Cuthbert. It is now normally to be seen in the British Library but is currently on display in Durham where St Cuthbert has his final resting place in the Cathedral. You can read a reflection that I wrote after visiting St Cuthbert's Shrine in 'Glimpses of Glory.'  (http://www.methodist.org.uk/media/469949/methodist-publishing-catalogue-2013.pdf).

Preaching at the celebration

We gathered on Saturday for a celebration in the Priory ruins on the island and what a great celebration it was. Church leaders from the various Christian denominations were present and it was good for me to meet with so many of my colleagues and friends. I had the privilege and joy of preaching. Banners were carried into the priory each of them a copy of one of the beautiful pages of the manuscript. 
(The sermon I preached can be found at http://ruthmgee.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/jesus-light-of-world-good-news-for.html)

The Church Leaders
The banners

 We sang and prayed together and the words and music were heard clearly by those outside the walls of the priory reminding me that the community here on Lindisfarne was established as a base for mission to the surrounding area. At the end of the service we were commissioned to be witnesses to the gospel and all those present were given a pilgrim's badge to take away with them.

Eadfrith wrote the gospels in Greek and for many years it was displayed close to Cuthbert's tomb on Lindisfarne. When the community left Lindisfarne they took Cuthbert's body and the gospel book with them on their long and winding journey which eventually ended in Durham. On the way Cuthbert's body and the gospel book remained for a while in Chester-Le Street and during that time Aldred translated the text into Anglo-Saxon and wrote the translation between the lines of the Greek text. Even then there was the recognition of the need to communicate the good news to people in ways that they would understand, no less imperative for us today.

On Sunday I was invited to preach in the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The congregation here always includes visitors to the island and people from different Christian traditions. Of course, the size of the congregation, like everything else on the island, is affected by the tides. 

Glimpses of glory were abundant for these few days: 
The rich diversity of people who visit the island 
The beauty of the island at different times of the day
Conversations with people who were finding a place of peace in the midst of challenging circumstances
The reminder of a faithful community dedicated to mission and working hard to overcome division and challenge on this island which was then at the hub of the political and social life of the North East. 
Bamburgh Castle, the centre of political power in Aidan's time, seen from the island.
Sunset on the island

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