June 11, 2021

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09.06.21, 12.00, Canon Dr Richard Lindley

I Thessalonians 2. 2-12, Luke 12. 32-37


Today, we celebrate the Loch Ness monster: I promise I’ll explain in a minute.

Meanwhile, the readings both describe what it means to be Jesus’s faithful servants.

Jesus himself says we’re to be dressed for action with lamps lit, ready for when he appears. If he finds us ready, we’ll join him in a feast, but, contrary to what we expect, out of his utter generosity, he’ll be humbly waiting on us at table rather than the other way round.

And in the Epistle, St Paul recounts how he has worked as hard as he can to bring the Gospel to everyone he could, without human praise or tangible reward, and in

spite of maltreatment along the way. Paul, Jesus’s faithful servant.

And now to the Loch Ness monster. There’s a story that in the year 535, a terrible creature was playing havoc in the Loch Ness area, killing as it went. But an Irishman called Columba arrived on the scene, held up a Cross and, in the name of Christ, banished the monster to the River Ness. The monster presumably then found its way into the Loch, where it has been ever since.

Believe this legend or not, it indicates the immense regard in which the Irish missionary Columba came to be held by the local Picts. It is St Columba’s day today. Born in 521, exactly 1500 years ago, he was brought up and educated in Ireland. He took a leading part in setting up several monasteries in Ireland, before migrating to Scotland at the age of 42. An influential relative gave him land on Iona, where he founded the famous abbey, which continues to this day in the form

of the ecumenical community founded by George MacLeod in 1938.

Of course, it’s really Columba we’re celebrating today rather than the monster. With one Gaelic nickname of Colmcille, meaning ‘dove’, he was an innocent and tireless servant of Christ. Though, I suspect from his other nickname of Crimthann, a fox, that he was also as wily as his namesake in getting things done. By his efforts and his faithful example, he became a huge influence for good, introducing Christianity to pagan Picts and considerably widening the scope of the Church in Scotland.

We can’t expect to start banishing monsters to the River Itchen. But we can be on the lookout for modern monsters. These are the hideous monsters of injustice, inequality and cruelty that are no less today than they were in Columba’s day. Our influence in society may be limited, but we can make a difference. Last time I was here on a Wednesday, I quoted the Dalai Lama,

who said ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito’. Little opportunities do come our way: in supporting overseas development, in contributing to the Basics Bank, in turning to green energy, in writing to the newspapers, in badgering politicians, and simply in the conversations we have. And in not being afraid to claim Christ and our faith as our motivators for trying to be his faithful servants.

Give alms, said Jesus, ‘for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Then – as he promised – then we shall know we are in his company, and then, as faithful servants, we shall find him, metaphorically speaking, waiting on us. And we shall know that, along with Columba, we shall have helped consign one or two contemporary monsters to the deep.