Memories bring richness to our lives and can act as significant anchors to inform us who we are. Sadly, my mother gradually lost her ability to remember as dementia took hold. Eventually, I lost the person I knew and loved. In much the same way, if we live ignoring our own past memories and story, we can find it difficult to fully know who we are. Yet God is present in our past, as well as now and in the future. If we allow him to work in all areas of our story, he can bring all things together for our good.
Equally, some churches have gradually forgotten their stories of what God has done. Often, they don’t seem to know who they are or why they are still here. Again, if we allow God to work in all things, it is possible to rediscover and reawaken who we are as we begin to tell our stories again.
On this island we have a rich spiritual heritage with many amazing stories of what God has done and is continuing to do. In September the Core Team spent three days reflecting, praying and planning together in Lindisfarne, a place that reflects that spiritual heritage. Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, is in Northumbria and often described as a cradle of English Christianity. To visit the island is to engage with a story of what God did there once and could do again.
My first visit to Lindisfarne was profound in the sense that it felt like it became part of my story. I was inspired by what God did in the seventh century and convinced it could again be our experience today. Aidan was a Gaelic speaking monk who happily lived and worked on Iona in Scotland. One day, when listening to another monk describing a stubborn, hard and unreachable people living in the Kingdom of Northumbria, he was stirred with compassion for that land and its people. He found himself saying, ‘perhaps, my brother, if you had spoken with more gentleness, and of the love of Christ, giving them the gospel to nourish them like milk is given to a tiny baby, then you would have won them and remained among them.’
This simple story is not so different to the way God speaks with us today. As a result Aidan was soon on the highways and byways of Northumbria sharing the good news and learning the local language. Aidan came with a team and set up his base on Lindisfarne. Here he discipled many who also made disciples. Famously, he discipled four brothers, Cedd, Chad, Cynibil and Caelin and also formed communities of women at Coldingham and Whitby. Their passion was to share the good news in the same gentle yet powerful way all across England. In time another man, Cuthbert, took on the mantle from Aidan and stories of God’s intervention through healings and miracles continued that changed our land forever. Within a generation England was transformed.
Let us consider some of the amazing stories of what God has done in our past and perhaps take time to visit some of these amazing places where people encountered God. Allow yourself to encounter God as you consider the stories or visit these places. Let us make those memories a reality for us today. Let them shape the future of our nation again and let us disciple many who in turn will disciple others to do the same again in our generation.