10th March

Happy Beyond Measure

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Matthew 5: 6

Ninian was happy beyond measure, and the glory of our land. He respected all people and was secure in his holiness. He used to go to a cave to study and meditate on heavenly wisdom; he could understand books in different languages, and he was a powerful teacher and preacher. By his eloquence the hearts of the faithful grew strong as he spoke of the true joys of eternal life.

Ninian offered to all ethnic groups the consolations of life and generously invited them to share food. He gave beautiful clothes to those who had none. He visited people in prison. He personally took food and drink to those who were hungry and thirsty during times of famine. He was like a father to the orphan and a protective judge to the widow. He exercised an authority to be feared by wrongdoers but he was loved by all who did good.

Ninian was a humble and wise man and he closed his journey in joy.

Today, many people walk from Whithorn to Ninian’s cave. There, innumerable prayers of today’s pilgrims are scratched on the rocks.

Lord, give us happiness, true happiness
The happiness of knowing we are called by you
The happiness of knowing we are cleansed people
The happiness of knowing we are Christ’s instruments
The happiness of knowing we are set free from addiction to created things
The happiness of cherishing others and being cherished by them
The happiness of being on a journey towards joy overflowing.

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9th March

Believe And See

Jesus said: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do also”. John 14: 12

Many leading people sent their sons to be educated at Ninian’s Centre at the place now known as Whithorn. It was a Centre that educated them for a whole life, and everything was used to help build character, as the following story illustrates.

One youth committed such a serious offence that the ‘last resort’ discipline of the cane was to be used. To escape this he ran away, taking with him the pastoral staff that Ninian used. He stumbled upon a curragh by the shore, not realising that it was not properly covered with waterproof leather, and he was carried out to sea. The boat began to leak, and the young man was in terror of his life.

However, our extremity is God’s opportunity: he admitted and confessed before God his wrongful rebellion and truly repented of it. Then he started to talk to Ninian, as if he were present. He asked Ninian to save him. The young man took Ninian’s staff and stuck it in the largest leaking hole, and the boat stayed afloat. An easterly wind arose, and took the boat back to the shore.

A crowd of people had gathered. The young man, now filled with faith and with a desire to witness to Christ, told them what had happened, and planted Ninian’s staff in the ground, as a sign that a miracle-working God will come to the aid of all who truly believe. It was said that the staff took root and sprouted into a tree that became a constant reminder of God’s answer to prayer.

Lord, I have rebelled, forgive my proud heart.
Lord, I reach out to you, I believe for whatever you want to do today.

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8th March

Dealing With A Situation

Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit….? You have not lied to human beings, but to God.’ Acts 5: 3,4.

Ninian was refreshing ever increasing numbers of believers with Christ’s teachings, but there were pitfalls to overcome within the church. Once he was in a crowded church when a lone mother with emotional and guilt problems was bringing her newborn baby to be baptised by one of Ninian’s ministers. She loudly accused him of being the father. Ninian knew this priest was a holy man, but he needed to clear this matter up in the minds of everybody in a way which had the stamp of Christ’s authority.

He was given a bold inspiration and called for silence. ‘I believe this man is innocent, but now I ask you my child’ (he pointed to the baby) ‘to point out to us who is the man who committed this sin and who is your father. I command you to do this in the name of the Thunderer.’

To the amazement of everyone this day-old child pointed its finger at a man in the congregation, and started to make sounds, breaking the laws of nature, so that everyone understood it was saying: “That man is my father and the priest is innocent.” The people were convinced this came from God, and they moved into a time of praise.

Pray for ministers who are under attack from people who are challenged by their holy lives or their teachings. Are there situations over which we need to take authority in the name of the Lord? Remember, God can show us what to do in any situation.

In Ninian there was nothing of fear, all was love.
Forgive us for the places in our lives where fear has driven out love.
In Ninian truth and holiness shone out.
Forgive us for the places in our lives which are false or frozen.
Help us to take authority in your name over every confused or unsavoury situation.

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7th March

The Blind Can See

A blind man named Bartimaeus shouted : ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!’. Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ … The blind man said ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10: 46, 47, 52

There was a local king named Tudvael under whom Ninian cared for his flock, who was as cruel as he was ungodly. One day he expelled Ninian, who was a threat, from his territories. At once God’s judgement came upon him in the form of sudden blindness.

The king repented and sent his servant to Ninian to ask him to suggest some penances. The servant flung himself at Ninian’s feet with loud lamentations and begged: “Dispel the black night, you who are the glory and chief part of our fame. The offence is great, but one that is open to pardon.”

Ninian told him to tell the king his sins were forgiven, `and he sent the king gifts to express his friendship. Later he himself arrived to lay healing hands upon the king’s face. Tudvael’s eyesight was restored, he gave praise to God, and from that time onwards he supported Ninian’s ministry.

Lord of my heart
give me vision to inspire me
that, working or resting,
I may always think of you.
Lord of my heart
give me light to guide me
that, at home or abroad
I may always walk in your way.
Lord of my heart
give me wisdom to direct me
that, thinking or acting,
I may always discern right from wrong.
Heart of my own heart
whatever befall me
rule over my thoughts and feelings
my words and actions.
Ancient Irish

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6th March

Shining Like A Star

Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever. Daniel 12: 3

God omnipotent, who had scattered shining lights upon the world, gave many bright stars to his people in Britain. Brilliant among these was Ninian. He was outstanding in strength derived from heaven, in miracles, eloquence and reliance on the gift of God. People came together in vast crowds and opened their hearts to believe in Christ and to follow his teachings.

On his way back to his native Galloway in 398, after training and ordination in Rome, Ninian stayed at the “fellowship of service” established by St. Martin of Tours, and this became his abiding inspiration.

He became a revered teacher and won multitudes of Picts to Christ. They worshipped graven images in the shadow of death until he converted them through his holy living. They all vied with each other to be bathed in the baptismal water and to be cleansed from the stain of their sin in the everlasting fountain.

Ninian established many new churches and monasteries, and instructed these ‘kingdoms at the ends of the earth’ with his teaching.

After a time he left the Pictish nations and came to his own people, the Britons. To them he was a good shepherd, tending his sheepfold with mind and hand, eager to protect from the enemy the flocks entrusted to his care. He built “the Shining House”, with its foundation of burnt bricks and lofty walls, in the midst of which he sparkled and shone forth like a star. This is the house which many are eager to visit, for many who have long been afflicted with disease hurry there, eager to accept the ready gifts of health-giving healing.

I pray for modern Ninians who will establish
communities of light in slum places;
sanctuaries of prayer in unvisited places;
links of faith and love with the continent, our spiritual home.
And, Lord, begin with me.

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5th March

How Do We Know God’s Laws?

Ever since God created the world God’s invisible qualities, divine nature and eternal power have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things God has made. Romans 1: 20

Question: What is best in this world?
Answer: To do the will of our Maker
Question: What is his will?
Answer: That we should live according to the laws of his creation
Question: How do we know those laws?
Answer: By study – studying the Scriptures with devotion
Question: What tool has our Maker provided for this study?
Answer: The intellect which can probe everything
Question: And what is the fruit of study?
Answer: To perceive the eternal Word of God reflected in every plant and insect, every bird and animal, and every man and woman.
Ninian’s Catechism

Apprehend God in all things
For God is in all things
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature – even a caterpillar –
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Meister Eckhart

Teach me my God and King
In all things thee to see
That what I do, in anything
I’ll do it unto thee.
Charles Kingsley

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4th March

A Rhythm Of Praise And Prayer

Praise the Lord, you servants of the Lord, from the rising of the sun to its going down. Psalm 113: 1, 3

Celtic Christians were in touch with the rhythms of each day, of the week (Saturday was a sabbath rest and Sunday a day of resurrection and renewal) and of the seasons, both of creation and of the church. They also knew about the rhythm of advance in mission and retreat in contemplation. There was a sense of rhythm in their poetry and their worship, which was not too centralised or wooden.

The focus of the following poem is Lindisfarne, the tidal island which reflected the ebb and flow of the sea, but God can inspire each of us to discover such a rhythm wherever we are today.

Ebb tide, full tide, praise the Lord of land and sea.
Barren rocks, darting birds, praise his holy name!
Poor folk, ruling folk, praise the Lord of land and sea.
Pilgrimed sands, sea-shelled strands, praise his holy name!
Fierce lions, gentle lambs, praise the Lord of land and sea.
Noble women, mission priests, praise his holy name!
Chanting boys, slaves set free, praise the Lord of land and sea.
Old and young and all the land, praise his holy name!

Ebb tide, full tide
Let life’s rhythms flow
Full tide, ebb tide
How life’s beat must go.
David Adam

Here be the peace of those who do your will;
Here be the peace of brother serving other;
Here be the peace of holy ones obeying;
Here be the peace of praise by dark and day.
Andy Raine

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3rd March

Rhymes From a Lindisfarne Monk

Beautiful words fill my mind, as I compose this song for the king. Like the pen of a good writer my tongue is ready with a poem. Psalm 45: 1

He is my king, in my heart he’s hid
He is my joy all joys amid
I am a drop in his ocean lost
His coracle I, on his wide sea tossed
A leaf in his storm.

The book of his praise in my wallet slung
The cloak of his friendship round me flung
Hither and thither about I’m blown
My way an eddy, my rest a stone
And he my fire.

My meat his work and my drink his will
He is my song, my strength, my skill
And all folk my lovers in good and ill
Through him my desire

In the track of the wind I trace his feet
And none of his coming was e’er so fleet
So sweet

Often my heart is a heavy stone
Mocked, trodden under and spat upon
My way a mirk, and I alone, alone

Then in my heart flames a climbing star
As his pilgrim feet come flashing far
To bring me where the blessed are
He is the cleft in the dark sky riven
Whereby I may leap to the bending heaven
Through the storm
Marjorie Milne of Glastonbury

King, you created heaven according to your delight
a place that is safe and pure
its air filled with the songs of angels.
The Celtic Psalter

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2nd March

The Answer To The Rat Race

Jesus said ‘When you are invited to a celebration do not sit down in the best place. It may be that someone more important than you has been invited… Instead, when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that your host will come up and say “Come on up, my friend, to a better place”’. Luke 14: 8, 10

Chad, though he was probably the youngest of four brothers who trained under Aidan at Lindisfarne, was also the brightest. This never went to his head, and he was always a model of humility. He went over to Ireland for his ‘further education’. When his brother Cedd, who was Abbot of Lastingham, died, Chad was sent back to Northumbria to take his place as abbot. There he became known as an admirable teacher, though he also encouraged a recruit who arrived one day, wanting to do practical work but no book work.

The king of the Northumbrians, Oswy, had gone along with the appointment of a monk named Wilfred as Bishop of the Northumbrians. But Wilfred was so mesmerised by the practices and pomp of the Roman style of church life that he went to the continent to be ‘properly’ consecrated, and stayed on and on, leaving the post back home vacant. Oswy became restive and eventually asked Chad to fill the vacant post.

Chad was Bishop of the Northumbrians for three years until 669. Then the Bishop of Rome sent the powerful Theodore of Tarsus to be Archbishop of Canterbury and to bring the English Church into line with standard Roman organisation. Theodore explained to Chad that his consecration as bishop had not met these norms. Chad replied that he had never considered himself worthy to be a bishop in the first place, and that he was willing to resign, which he did in favour of Wilfred.

His genuine humility and holiness made such an impression on Theodore that he re-consecrated him as a bishop, and, when the Bishop of Mercia died, asked Chad to take his place. On one point Theodore was firm. Chad, like Aidan, loved to evangelise by walking everywhere, and he refused to ride about on a horse. Mercia, however, was a huge diocese, so Theodore not only ordered him to use a horse, but physically lifted him on to a horse with his own hands!

Servant King –
be king of my hearth and king of my heart
be king of my hands and king of my head
be king of my shoes and king of my style.

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1st March

David of Wales

The earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11: 9

David the faithful witness of Christ’s new Law
Like a bright star from heaven shines forth in Britain
His illustrious life and teaching adorn Wales
Like the birth of the Forerunner, the Baptist, his birth was divinely foretold.
The future greatness of Christ’s servant is declared by heavenly signs:
Honey, water and mystic deer.
This is the champion of the British, the leader and teacher of the Welsh, Supporting the citizens of God.
Single-hearted he condemns luxury.
Spurning the city, he seeks the valley as befits the lowly.
At his birth the people name him ‘Dewi ddyfryr’, which means “Aqua life David’.
He cures the blind, he expels diseases and he drives away the devil.
A doctor of Christ’s Law, he writes a book which God completes.
May David, our leader and strong champion, overcome by his prayers the Goliaths, the giant enemies, of our time.
Adapted from the Ancient Welsh Missal Text about 1440

David and the Christians he enlisted as monks were known as the Watermen:
As fish live in water so these folk live in God
As birds fly high and care-free so these folk move in God
As deer run straight and graceful so these folk run with God
As waters flow so clearly so these folk flow with God
As fire burns bright and fiercely so these folk blaze for God.

Lord, inspired by David and the Watermen
help us to live in you as fish live in water
help us to move in you as birds fly in air
help us to run for you as deer run
help us to flow with you as water flows.
help us to burn brightly for you as fire burns.
and may the fire of faith blaze afresh in Wales
and may the fire of faith blaze afresh in us.

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