Saturday, July 21, 2018

Lessons from Ireland: Trust

One of the most fascinating things we got to do in Ireland was to take a boat ride out to an island called Skellig Michael. On this island is the UNESCO world heritage site of a Gaelic Augustinian Monastery circa the 600’s. (Yes, you read that right -- the 600's)

To get to the site you must climb up the side of a cliff using a staircase built with dry set rocks. On occasion I review the trip on this clip because all I remember from my hike up and my hike down was watching my husband’s shoes a few steps ahead of me.

Apparently I have issues with 1,400 year old staircases offering precipitous, possibly fatal falls. Who knew? Here is the only photograph of the climb I had the courage to take.

In my defense, we started this ascent shortly after reading the sign below -- note the phrase "fatalities have occurred."  

Six huts, a chapel, a graveyard, a garden, and an intricate cistern system make up this monastery.  Here the monks were left in peace to worship, pray, study, protect scripture and suffer for their faith. Even in this hard to access fortress at least one Abbot was known to have been captured by the Vikings.

Not even on the top of a barely accessible island mountain can we protect ourselves from the sin of our world.

But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt you know no God but Me and besides Me there is no savior. Hosea 13:4

I like this verse for describing the monk’s knowledge of God because my study Bible tells me that the meaning for “know” in this instance is an “evidential, experimental knowledge.”  The monks that lived in this monastery up through the 12th century not only saw daily evidence of God’s power, but likely experienced God’s presence in ways we cannot understand.  They understood our Savior as a deliverer in a very real and present way. God provided for their needs and their protection just as He provided for their Salvation. There was no government, no medical organization, no police, fire, rescue crew, no military – not even a storm warning system. They were in God’s care, alone. They had the law of their harsh existence and they had the grace of their fellowship with each other.

Think for a minute, about how different our view is. We are blessed to have all of the protective systems that the monks lacked, yet instead of being grateful we turn from trust in God toward trust in the protection of our own making.

The left-hand kingdom (government) will do what it decides it will do. We are to be an influence on the government but we are not to allow ourselves to be lost in it – or lost because of it. We are wrong to store the treasure of our faith in the government of man. We must not only remember – but live in a way that shows we do not put our trust in guns, walls, repeals of laws, politicians, government programs, political party platforms, or SCOTUS picks.

We are not democrats or republicans, conservatives or liberals, rich or poor, citizens or immigrants. We are children of God. Our trust must be in Him, alone.

So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continuously for your God. Hosea 12:6

Luther tells us that the word “love” in this verse can be seen as goodness in action -- grace. Because the monks knew God’s love, protection, forgiveness, and grace they were able to share these things with each other. When we are able to share the same it is evidence of our trust in God. A trust He gives us, that becomes something so easy for us to ignore when we pretend we can build a fortress of any type to protect ourselves.

Here is one more poignant verse from Hosea. God speaks to us through words intended for the Children of Israel who had ignored the gift of trust to worship other gods, make alliances with other countries, and depend on their own might for protection. We are not so different.

Take with you words and return to the LORD. Hosea 14:2

“Take with you words” In other words – confess.

Take that confession and return to the LORD, our Protector and Savior.