“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account…I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.”
Thus begins the Gospel according to Luke. Ever the thoughtful physician, Luke sets out to tell the story of Jesus Christ after carefully investigating the sources and eyewitnesses that were privy to the Son of God. And he does so in scintillating fashion.
Listen for it:
“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
Okay, dazzling writing it is not. But it is accurate, and helpful because Luke grounds his storytelling in historical fact. He is reporting to his benefactor—and to us--that Jesus’s life and ministry happened in real time and in history. The takeaway? The only way to understand Jesus is to understand him in the context of real events. Jesus is no parable. Jesus was for real.
I, too, have tried to offer an orderly account of all that I have learned these last few months. Like Luke, I have sought to carefully investigate the sources that tell the story of a faithful people in a land across the ocean at a time of challenge and difficulty. I have read about this ancient people and have studied their mythologies and examined what daily life must have been like for them. With my family, I traveled to this distant land and walked the paths of saints and sinners alike. I touched centuries old relics and explored monastic cities that are but ruins in a wild landscape. I went on pilgrimage. I reflected on the wisdom of heralded saints. I prayed in ‘thin places.’ I marveled at the beauty of the land. I found the place of my resurrection. And I want to tell you all about it.
To do so, I’ll need to start at a place in history that feels exotic and unfamiliar. Beginning Wednesday night, May 9th at 6:00 PM in our Mission and Fellowship Center, I will begin the story of the Celtic Christian tradition with a presentation about the people of the British Isles. We will learn about the tribal, warrior-like people. We will learn about their love of the land and of song and of storytelling.
The following Wednesday, May 16th, we will learn about Ireland’s first bishop, St. Patrick, and the evangelization of the Celtic people. We will try to discern fact from fiction and hold the Saint’s own words with a special weight as we demythologize his role and leadership.
On May 23rd, we will hear how the Gospel caught fire among the people of Ireland and transformed a warrior class into a devout and faithful people who lived out a new form of martyrdom.
On May 30th, we will tiptoe into the ruins of Ireland’s monastic cities to consider how the Irish chose to be church together.
On June 6th, we will conclude our story of the Celtic Christian tradition by climbing into the round towers that dot the Irish landscape to see the changes that were on the horizon.
Ultimately, my presentations will blend my research on Celtic Christianity with my family’s travel adventures into a seven-century journey of discovery that may just give us insight and illumination on how we can more effectively be church today.
I felt a great sense of solidarity with a Cloud of Witnesses who had traveled the same path I hiked when I sojourned to the summit of Croagh Patrick. It was there that I walked a trail that hundreds of thousands of faithful had walked over the last two millennia. It’s hard to put into words what that felt like.
In the coming Wednesdays, however, I will try.