Colum Cille (1)
In the year of our Lord 565, when Justin the Younger succeeded Justinian and ruled as Emperor of Rome, a priest named Columba, distinguished by his monastic habit and life, came from Ireland to Britain to preach the word of God in the provinces of the northern Picts…and built a monastery on the island of Iona.
- Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
…as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
- 1 Thessalonians 2.11, 12
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
- John 20.21
Why do people become priests, or ministers, or missionaries, or monks? What stirs in someone’s soul, or what combination of circumstances leads one to embark on a calling of service to the Lord? In the case of Columba—Colum Cille, as he was known to his Irish compatriots—a variety of impulses and incidents led him to leave the security of his familiar homeland and take up dwelling on a barren island, from which he labored in the Gospel ministry for the rest of his life.
Colum Cille—“dove of the church”, as his name is in Gaelic—was one of the first Irish missionaries. His mission to what is now Scotland would ultimately extend far beyond Scotland through the disciples he trained and the people he won to faith in Jesus Christ. He was an evangelist, a scholar, a prophet, a poet, a healer and visionary, a disciple-maker, a friend of God’s creatures, and a servant of kings and paupers.
And he would be followed in his course by thousands of others whose faithful and sacrificial labors fueled the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) and, in the words of historian Thomas Cahill, saved civilization.
But why? Why do people like Colum—heir to a throne—set aside comforts and conveniences, risk the loss of friends and the hostility of foes, and submit to lives of deprivation and danger, just to tell others about Jesus and His Kingdom?
The short answer is: They cannot do otherwise. They know God has called them to His Kingdom and glory. He has called them by name, and they are His (Is. 43.1). They have heard that call in the depths of their soul, sounding against the walls of their heart, mind, and conscience, banishing or transforming old desires, plans, and priorities to make room for the new life of the Kingdom into which they have been conveyed (Col. 1.13). God has chosen and saved them, redeeming them through the blood of His own Son and establishing them as citizens and ambassadors in His eternal Kingdom of glory (Col. 1.14; 2 Cor. 5.20).
And Jesus, Who saved them, sends them into the world as He was sent, to embody and proclaim the Kingdom of God by calling people to repent and believe this great Good News. Jesus sends them every day as bearers of His grace to a needy world, that through their faithful labors, in even the most quotidian of tasks, they might provoke others to see, thank, and turn to God (2 Cor. 4.15; 1 Cor. 10.31).
God the Father calls them. Jesus the King sends them. And together the Father and the Son bestow the Spirit of power and courage to enable them to hear that call, embrace that appointment, and take up their crosses daily to follow in the way of Jesus (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
In Colum Cille we will meet a man who heard that call early on and would not be distracted from heeding it by all the comforts and conveniences life could offer. And we will see that, being sent as Jesus was sent, he endured hardship, opposition, and want to carry out his calling and glorify God with his life. The community he established on Iona would be so renowned for its commitment and accomplishments that, to this day, the island is known as “Holy Isle.”
But the main point of our taking up the life of Colum Cille is that we might see our own lives through his. For, like Colum, we have been called to the Kingdom and glory of God; we have been sent by Jesus to embody and proclaim His Kingdom; we have been indwelled by His Spirit for transforming power and holiness; we have a mission field that we must sow and cultivate, and we have the Word of God to feed, direct, sustain, and strengthen us in our endeavors.
We all, like Colum, are priests of God, missionaries to our world, and monks who wait upon the Lord day by day, that we might fulfill His purpose and know His pleasure in everything we do. May it please God to use Colum’s life to help us re-envision and enlarge our own.
1. What does it mean to be called to the Kingdom and glory of God?
2. To what places and people will Jesus send you today?
Psalm 51.14, 15, 18
(Aughton: He Leadeth Me)
Deliver us, from guilt, O Lord, You Who have saved us by Your Word;
and let our tongues Your mercy bless, and sing of Your great righteousness!
Refrain vv. 15, 18
Lord, open now our lips to raise to You sweet songs of joyous praise!
Thus let Your favor on us fall, and build and strengthen Zion’s wall!
Let me hear You calling and sending me today, O Lord, so that I…
To see Jesus
The more clearly we see Jesus, the more boldly and joyously we will follow Him. Our ReVision study, “We Would See Jesus”, can help you see Him more clearly than ever. You can download the four installments in this study by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People and Cuthbert’s Letter on the Death of Bede, Leo Sherley-Price, tr., R. E. Latham, rev. (London and New York: Penguin, 1990), pp. 148, 326.