A Fellowship of Grace
14 May 2010
Brendan and the brethren remained for this period in the island...And when this time was fulfilled, Brendan bade farewell to the abbot and the brethren there, and went to his boats...
- Anonymous, Vita Brendani (Irish, 12th century, from an earlier ms.)
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
- Philemon 7
I cannot imagine an affirmation I would more want to be engraved on my tombstone than the one Paul twice gave to Philemon (cf. v. 20): he refreshed the hearts of the servants of Christ. What a great need this is in our day! Brendan and his company, on many occasions in their journeys, returned to a particular island where there was a community of monks who cared for them in the way Philemon must have cared for the saints of his own day.
The brethren of this community were humble and meek. They spoke not at all, except to praise God and minister to one another. They were generous with all their possessions, readily sharing their food with Brendan and his company and opening up their beds for the weary missionaries to rest. They exhibited a deep spirituality, singing the psalms as their abbot led them, praying the hours throughout the day, and worshipping together with dignity and joy. They were men who, because of the disciplines they pursued together, had no thought for their own comfort or needs, but consistently reached out to others to share, give, help, or encourage in any way they could.
No wonder Brendan and his companions returned to this island so often. Here they found friendship, refreshment, renewal in their vision and ministry, and the generous supply of all their needs. Isn't this the way churches should be? Members toward one another? Churches toward the people in their communities? In Psalm 48 the church is described as "the joy of all the earth," but I don't know many churches today of which their unbelieving neighbors would say as much.
Yes, I long for such a fellowship of grace - to know one and to contribute to one. The name of the island and the monastic community that served Brendan and all weary servants of the Lord so faithfully and selflessly?
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