A Mite in The Emptiness

Presented at Sudbury Memorial Church, UCC, Nov 11, 2012
Scripture: Mark 12:38-13:2

There’s a tiny island about halfway up the western coast of Scotland.  It’s a small, desolate place: bare of trees, covered mostly with scrub and sand.  Ancient rises of eroded granite make up much of the island; covered with a few patches of grass, some flowers and one or two small streams.  Many years ago, I journeyed there, taking a ferry to the Island of Mull, then a long meandering bus ride along a single lane road, passing by empty hills and the occasional farm; and then – finally – a short boat ride to the Island of Iona.

I wandered there for a few hours, strolling out of the village, past the monastery and its ancient graveyard: broken and fallen stones marking the anonymous graves of ancient heroes, kings and saints.  I passed sheep grazing under the bright blue sky, then crossed the narrow island, arriving at an ancient stony hill overlooking a small beach that faced the vastness of the Ocean.

There I sat, meditating for a long while, remembering the monks who came there nearly 1500 years ago, and their long labor to bring the Gospel back to much of Europe.  Their labors ended what we now know as the “Dark Ages” that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.  I thought of the many Scottish luminaries that history tells us are buried in the graveyard I’d passed, including Duncan and Macbeth.  I remembered reading about the monastery’s destruction by the Vikings; then it’s re-establishment in the 12th century, only to be abandoned again during the Reformation, and finally reborn in the 20th Century as a community dedicated to working for Peace and Justice.

I sat on that windswept hill, enveloped by the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, the smell of sea and flowers, the seabirds calling, the wind whispering among the sand and grass.  A sense of awe and majesty surrounded and filled me as I sat there, alone in that empty place, pondering my own uncertain future.

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