17 January 2021
We can starve in the midst of plenty!
The story is told about the Pilgrims in USA – they starved first year but the beaches were literally crawling with lobsters and other shellfish. Also the waters off New England were some of the best fishing grounds in the world but they didn’t use them.
Ireland is a fertile country, when the potato blight hit in 1846 it also affected the whole of Europe. But in Ireland with a hard winter many died,800,,000 and thousands emigrated over the following years.., this church was settled by a large number from Ireland and Scotland in the waves of emigration
But the strange thing is there was no shortage of food. Ireland was exporting grains and the sea was full of fish – Ireland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe.
The Irish people were incredibly poor at this time. Many people rented out small tracts of land where they simply grew potatoes to eke out sustenance for their families. The potato was actually a godsend for Ireland, as it has an enormous crop-yield (many potatoes can be grown on a small area of land) and potatoes and buttermilk, give almost all the main nutrients needed for survival. So, once the potato showed up, there was no real incentive to go fishing in Ireland. Many Irish became almost 100% dependent on the potato and knew no other way.
Tying in with the poverty is who controlled what. The landowners (usually Anglo-Irish aristocracy and/or absent landlords) owned almost everythingand they were controlled by government policy in England. Attitudes towards Ireland in Britain were antagonistic and policies reflected that lack of care for a starving people as they refused to give food handouts.. .
There were fishermen and we are told they sold their fishing gear to have money to buy food for their families, Why didn’t they go fishing? Fish were available in some areas but people didn’t like to eat them. They were used to the potato. Today in the places where people are starving those helping have to recognise that people need to have food they recognise as food – at least for a start – remember milk biscuits? They can be stirred into local foods and raise the nutrition value?.
In our faith it is the same.
If Christ is the bread of life how then do we give that bread to people who eat rice, how do they recognise the faith as being for them and not some foreign thing.?
When St Patrick went to Ireland 358 he took a faith that was recognisable to the people he came to and St Columba going from Ireland a century later to Iona to begin taking the christian faith to the wild Picts and Scots .They both used the existing cultures to be the wrapping for meeting Christ.
Imagine a damp, foggy morning in a mist-laden glen, with giant oaks about the perimeter, guarding a precious treasure. A procession of white-robed men and women streaming through a circle of stones, moist from the morning mist. Carrying a rowan staff in one hand, and a sprig of hazel in the other, one enters the center of the circle,. Other priests follow, but the majority remains outside the circle of stones. Others watch, worship, learn from these wise ones, and bring arbitrary matters to court. What is now a typical pagan ritual for spiritual and social purposes will be the model through which Christ will be worshiped and glorified, as the old gods are forsaken for the sake of the Saviour. The church would be built in this place.
Is there a danger that the gospel would be contaminated, syncretism its called when elements from other faiths are mixed into christianity
Yes there is always that danger, that the gospel will be watered down and be lost. but to use what is there in a culture and see it transformed to become Christian means that the faith is taken deep into thought patterns of the people, giving life and challenging where there are incompatibilities with following Christ.
Just as the early Chrsitians followed the model of the synagogue for their church so Patrick and Columba followed the model of the Druids to communicate the Gospel,. Druids,. according to T.A. Wise, were people who settled public and private disputes, foretold the future, interpreted duties of religion, decide on controversies, rewards and punishments allotted over disputes, education of chiefs, matters of State and religious rites (Wise 7). They studied geometry, geography, astrology, medicine and physics, and they taught doctrines of the spirituality of God and the immortality of the soul (
St. Columba took on this role in the establishment of Iona. There was learning given to nobles, and several times were there prophetic judgments ..
Also in the Bible stories Christ’s forty days and temptations in the wilderness, were seen like the shamans testing themselves against the elements, which would have made him recognizable to the druids as one like themselves.
The Druids and Celtic monks wore similar dress and tonsure,. The Celtic monks used the Druidic fashion of prayer, where the worshiper stands with upraised arms.
Worship at sacred groves and cairns was used by the druids, and St. Columba felt that it was necessary to worship at "places already associated with the supernatural. Menzies notes that to ask "Have you been to Church?" in Gaelic is "Have you been to the stones?" What Gregory the Great says of Christian worship at former pagan shrines is remarkable:
If those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God: that the nation, seeing their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts and knowing and adoring the true God may the more freely resort to places to which they have been accustomed . . He who endeavors to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, not by leaps (Menzies 73).
You see later on, the Roman Church began to exercise its rule, resulting in the systematic removal of these sacred groves (37). The idea behind this was to destroy anything that would appear to the Christian eye as “pagan” or anti-Christian. There was zero tolerance for syncretism, and therefore if a culture’s way of doing things conflicted with the church’s ideas, then the culture would simply have to change. Simple as that. This is a critical issue in the field of missionary work nowadays. Can new Arab converts call God “Allah,” when that is the only name in their vocabulary for God?
What don’t we see, in others because we have our own fixed paths of what mission looks like or how faith is being discovered. Fixed idea of how and with whom and where God is working. Do you know I heard one church saying there aren’t many Chrsitans around here we had better move. Good grief isn’t that mission – to go and reach those who don’t know about Christ. What opportunities we have right in front of us that we miss as we keep on scrambling to try to only keep our old models of what our faith should look like?
Don Richardson, in Eternity in Their Hearts tells about a Burmese tribe, the Karen people, whose Creation story follows remarkable Biblical parallels, and who worship “the true God” called “Y’wa.” They have several hymns that they hold dear to them, one of which says:
Y’wa is eternal, his life is long
One aeon–he dies not!
Two aeons–he dies not!
He is perfect in meritorious attributes
Aeons follow aeons–he dies not! (Richardson 77).
They believed a “white brother” would come bearing a white book that would lead them back to Y’wa. Can they still worship Christ with the hymns they have been singing to Him for ages? One should think so!
Columba’s purpose was to allow the culture to be redeemed by Christ, not to overhaul the culture.
First, it touches on what a missions strategy would be like. And its not about what music or all that stuff. When a person proclaims Christ, he or she must first become part of the culture, and convert the church to the culture, not the culture to the Church. That does not mean that Christ is converted to the culture, or that the message of the Cross in stripped of it's meaning. The Church is merely the package, An exchange is made: Christ becomes relevant to the culture within the culture, and the sinful ways of a culture are forsaken.
What we do as a church and continue to do and need to develop far more from our community centre and in our own interactions is of vital importance in our ongoing mission.. What we do now is good, but we need to develop it far more for there have been enormous changes since it first started out.. We need to ask, not what we think needs doing, but to know what our local culture is, to know what they will recognise of Christ when they look at us. And the only way we can find that out is not to sit in our own comfort zone and guess but to get out there and get to know people and find out where they are at, not what we theorise about. The Church in the past here has automatically been part of its culture. Today it is in danger of becoming its own sub society. We need to be the people who will mediate between the needs of hurting people, and the God who can bring healing and salvation. To bring the Power of God with the us as Patrick and Columba did, so that all may find that there is a God who wants to love them that they too can love..
Without this power, we render our own Christianity as impotent and insufficient. This world wants something real and we need to come before God and ask for this power so that people will believe that Christ is bread of life that satisfies our hunger.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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