Category Archives: Faith

Advent Word 2018, Day 17 ‘Ancestor 先人’

#AdventWord #Ancestor #先人


Look ahead, look ahead with joy. In the stormy winds of time, find your roots in Christ our tree of life; eternally held in the verdant soil of God’s unending Love, drawing in all that ever was, nurturing us in this moment, and promising the outstretched grace of our salvation.


When Aidan established the first monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in 635, he started with 12 young monks. These monks, and their successors, would go on to travel extensively throughout England preaching, teaching and setting up churches.  Most famous are St. Chad, St. Cedd, and St. Wilfrid.  Aidan, and his successor, Cuthbert were responsible for the establishment of numerous monasteries and churches throughout northern England and southern Scotland. Cuthbert was regarded by many as a saint, with many coming to seek advice, prayer and miracles. In 875, violent attacks by marauding Vikings forced the monks of Lindisfarne to flee, taking Cuthbert’s body (which, on opening up his coffin was discovered to be uncorrupted) with them. They found refuge in Chester-le-Street, and in 995 finally settled in Durham, where Cuthbert’s shrine became part of what is now Durham Cathedral.

This sculpture, in St. Mary’s Church, Holy Island, titled ‘The Journey’ by Fenwick Lawson, shows 6 monks carrying Cuthbert’s body, as they flee Holy Island. He writes, ‘The Lindisfarne community, with the uncorrupted body of Cuthbert, their saint, founded Durham as refugees. With this significance in mind, and some nerve, considering ‘The Burghers of Calais’ by Auguste Rodin, I saw this epic journey as a great theme for a sculpture: a journey of faith, a journey of hope, and a journey of love for fellow man; a brotherhood forged by the necessity of co-operative effort.’

These early saints are our spiritual ancestors in the Christian faith.  Though their roots were in Holy Island, in fact their roots stretched down much deeper, into Christ himself as the tree of life.  Many faced the ‘stormy winds of time’ and were forced to flee.  Persecution forced Joseph, Mary and the Christ child to flee too.  We treasure our history, our holy places and our traditions, but our faith is a journey, and we are challenged to look ahead.  Look ahead with joy!

Advent Word 2018, Day 16 ‘Sing 歌唱’

#AdventWord #Sing #歌唱


As we move toward the manger, we sing with great gladness. The song is ancient, sung by the heavenly host and repeated by the shepherds as they traveled to see the Christ child. Glory to God in the highest. O come let us adore Him. The song carries the weight of the hope of believers through the ages. It is a song of expectation, of anticipation, of joy and wonder. Sometimes our only response to the good news and great joy of this season is to open our hearts and our lips and sing. Sing the carol of hope and thanksgiving for a heroic act of love, God’s gift of God’s own son.


Looking at the ruins of Holy Island’s Benedictine Priory (1120-1537), it is not impossible to imagine the monks going about their daily lives.  There would have been a routine of worship, work and rest, and much of their daily lives may have been lived in silence.  But not all.  Singing has been part of Christian liturgy since early times, and Gregorian chant may well have been part of the style of worship.  Very evocative, the song is ancient indeed.  Let us add our voices to that song this Christmas as we sing, Glory to God in the highest, O come let us adore Him.

Advent Word 2018, Day 15 ‘Rejoice 喜樂’

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Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say–Rejoice!
Rejoice when nations are at war or on the brink of war? Rejoice when natural disasters destroy homes and forests and cities? Rejoice when politics breeds fear and truth is questioned?
Rejoice that we have LIFE and HOPE and LOVE. Rejoice that we can speak and vote and embrace and forgive and protest and make change. Rejoice that with God all things are possible. Rejoice that we can share the message of Advent–Love is on the way!


One of the amazing Holy Island sights to see at dusk in late autumn is starling murmurations, as huge flocks of thousands fly together in a swirling, twirling, whirling mass before they settle down to roost for the night.  One of the sights to see during the day is smaller flocks of starlings disturbed from a bush on approach – there’s a huge explosion of noise and a massive rush of air as they all take off together, taking the onlooker totally by surprise.  Those bushes are often hawthorn, and at this time of year are covered in red berries – haws, delicious food for starlings.  Many of these starlings have migrated from Scandinavia to Holy Island for the winter, looking for food and a milder climate.  Imagine their delight when they come upon hawthorn trees like these, covered from top to bottom in juicy red berries. It’s like nature has put up a big ‘Welcome to Holy Island’ sign for migrating starlings.  Rejoicing starlings indeed.

‘Rejoice that we have LIFE and HOPE and LOVE’.  And may we be as willing to share that life, hope and love with those who migrate into our lives, our communities and our countries this Christmas time and beyond.

Advent Word 2018, Day 14 ‘Prepare 預備’

#AdventWord #Prepare #預備


As a young Navajo boy growing up, I remember the elders talking to us about following our road of life, our path, and how we must prepare ourselves for the journey. We need to prepare for a path that can veer to the left or right, and that even can be hard to walk. But the journey we are on is God’s journey and with God’s help, we are prepared for all that lies ahead. This Advent we are asked to make the path straight, to make a way for God to guide us down the path of life and we may come to know Christ.


The causeway leading to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, on a rising tide.  Tide tables and weather forecasts need to be consulted before crossing, because the road is covered by the sea for 6 hours twice a day.  Road signs warn of the dangers ahead. The wooden structure on the left is a refuge shelter for stranded travelers, who find they need to abandon their cars (and maybe their egos too) to the rising waters.  Otherwise, the only way out is by calling the coastguard.  But rest assured, 650,000 people visit the island safely every year. Just go prepared.

Advent Word 2018, Day 13 ‘Prune 修剪’

#AdventWord #Prune #修剪


The prophet Malachi speaks of God’s messenger as one who will “purify” the people, like “a refiner’s fire” or “fuller’s soap,” to make them “pleasing to the Lord.” The prophet’s point is that God has a lot of scrubbing and refining of human nature to do as God’s reign makes its advent. William Temple speaks of God’s seemingly harsh desire to prune away that which is not pleasing as done purely for “very love’s sake.” This love is “not a sentimental readiness to give us what we want; it is a passionate yearning to raise us to its own likeness.”


Roses in front of Cambridge House, Holy Island.  Late autumn is not a good time for roses, they’re overgrown and straggly.  They’re coming to the end of their flowering season, though everyone seems to wait until early spring for pruning rosebushes.  At this time of year, they’re not at their best, but still providing beautiful splashes of colour in the garden.  The rose garden is a metaphor for life.  Making our lives “pleasing to the Lord” is what we’re called to do afresh this Advent.

Advent Word 2018, Day 12 ‘Smooth 平坦’

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We envision with John the Baptist a great day of leveling for all creation. Making the way smooth for all to have access to the liberating life of God requires removing every obstacle we have constructed that blocks the path of grace. We persevere as we face the Caesars of the world for our hope is in the One who has already made the way smooth, Jesus the Christ.


Fire escape on the side of Marygate House, Holy Island, Lindisfarne.  Many visitors and pilgrims come to Holy Island today to escape from their everyday lives, even if just for a few hours. Making the way smooth may well involve a time of escape.  The obstacles blocking our path of grace are many.  We need a chance to reflect.  A place to lay aside our concerns.  A time to be, and to pray.  The liberating life of God is on offer to all.

Advent Word 2018, Day 11 ‘Rough 粗糙’

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Luke the Gospel writer, quoting John the Baptizer quoting Isaiah the Prophet, proclaims that the “rough ways will be made smooth” in preparation for the coming of God. This message, passed down through the ages, now comes to us and we are called to the task of making smooth. Harsh words, sharp elbows, and uneven temperaments are challenges to harmonious relationships, human and divine. Refinement is the process of making smooth and we are called to this work by the One who lovingly refines us. Pass it on.


The local herring industry was at its peak on Holy Island during the second half of the 19th century, when there were 30+ herring boats, and the herring were smoked and preserved onshore.  These days, the fishing industry is much smaller, just a handful of small boats catching mainly lobsters and crab. The old herring boats have been upturned, coated in tar, and are now used by local fishermen as storage sheds.  The sheds are almost iconic, architecturally and culturally ‘rough diamonds’ but lovingly restored and maintained.  Recycling at its best.  On one of them is the sign, ‘An old fisherman and the catch of his life live here’.  Yes, we are called to the task of making the rough ways smooth.  Today.