We hope that these words of inspiration will help you to find hope when times seem difficult and dark. Jesus can bring you from darkness into light, and you can either read the text below or listen to the audio for a short message of encouragement and hope:
The Chronicler Bede, who lived in the 8th Century, tells how the Irish first brought the gospel to Northern England. They had established a base in Iona, Scotland. But the powerful Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria was pagan, until their King Oswald became a Christian. He invited the Irish to send a missionary to his people, but the man was austere and reported back to Iona that the Saxons were obstinate barbarians.
A man called Aidan was listening and replied “brother, it appears you were too severe…you should have begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching and gradually nourished them”. The Irish leaders were so impressed that they sent Aidan instead and he went on to convert Northumbria.
The Bible says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. How often have we offended people by our careless words? God wants us to think about how we say things to others, so that people don’t miss the chance to experience God’s love.
The early Irish church was unusual in that the coming of the gospel to this Island was not accompanied by martyrdoms as Christianity confronted paganism. This is perhaps surprising considering that human sacrifice was not unknown in pre Christian Ireland, but perhaps it was because the Christians modelled a new way of living which was attractive rather than attacking the old.
Instead the Celtic Christians found new ways of martyring themselves; by voluntarily exiling themselves from their homeland in order to tell other nations about Jesus. As barbarian tribes invaded Europe, the learning of Roman times was lost and Irish Christians carried this learning and the Christian message back to the Continent saving Western civilisation. St. Columbanus for example travelled from Bangor Co. Down, through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Jesus told said that everyone who has left family, friends or possessions to follow him will receive 100 times as much and inherit eternal life. Have we the courage to put Jesus first in our lives even if others don’t understand?
On the Dingle Peninsula stands the Gallarus Oratory, a sole survivor of the places of worship the early Irish Christians created. Built between the 7th and 9th centuries, it displays the art of corbelling; unmortared stones fitted together, arch overhead in an inverted boat shape. Only a tiny window and low doorway let in light.
Imagine the early Christians filling the space with their prayers. It is reminiscent of St Patrick. As the gospel took root, he came under criticism and answered his critics in a manuscript called the Confessions. “I was like some stone lying in the mud” he says, until God “in his mercy lifted me up… and placed me at the top of the wall… and so I must shout aloud!”
The Bible says that God “lifted David out of the mud”and “put a new song in his mouth.” No matter how much our lives may seem sunk in despair, if we turn to God he can take us and build us into his plan.
In his work, “The Confessions” St Patrick tells the extraordinary story of how he came to bring good news to the Irish. Having been kidnapped by pirates and sold into slaveery in Ireland where he was forced to herd sheep, he managed to escape, and found a boat back to his family in Britain.
Once back in safety, however, he had a vision; a man came from Ireland with letters and handed one to Patrick entitled “The voice of the Irish”. He recalls, “As I began to read these words I heard the voice of the…men …shout aloud...come back and walk once more among us”. Patrick obeyed the vision and the rest is Irish history!
The Bible tells us that Paul had a similar incident and “was not disobedient to the vision”. God is alive today and wants to speak to us, but we have to be willing to obey. Maybe he has a job for you to do! “Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart”