Thursday, June 25, 2009
Here on Iona, I've discovered both the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community, and its founder, the Rev. George MacLeod, now gone on to join the Communion of Saints in Heaven.
I've read about MacLeod's conversion in a biographical note by Ron Ferguson in his collection, Daily Readings with George MacLeod. While returning by train to the Front in France, MacLeod, an Oxford-educated British officer, had a profound experience of God's loving presence.
He realized that he was heading to "to hell in a hurry," according to Ferguson, and knelt and yielded his life to Christ, which changed his course.
Instead of becoming a barrister or solicitor--he had read law at Oxford--MacLeod trained for the ministry in the Church of Scotland after the war and was ordained. During the Depression, he left a large, important congregation in Glasgow and eventually settled on Iona, off the west coast of Scotland; Iona had been the home of St. Columba, the Christian missionary to Scotland and England during the 6th century.
MacLeod and his followers rebuilt the abbey church on Iona, and he founded the Iona Community, which still works for the spread of the Good News of the God of Love through words and deeds, the deeds being work for justice, peace, reconciliation, and more.
MacLeod, who won the Military Cross for bravery during WW I, became a pacifist after the war and maintained his pacifism throughout his life, including during WW II.
George MacLeod's life could have turned out differently. But he gave up his life and plans to God, and God's will was fulfilled in him. He lived the life that God created him to live. He was converted to Christ.
And through his preaching, teaching, writing, and the work of the Iona Community, he devoted himself to doing God's work--the conversion of others through Christ and the transformation of the world through the Gospel.
I am drawn to George MacLeod and people like him, seeing in their stories the power of conversion.
I sometimes wonder where would my life would be were I not converted to Christ. Had I not one cold January night, as a senior in university, prayed and surrendered my life to Christ, feeling the outpouring of God's palpable love upon me.
I don't know for sure what I'd done or where I'd be, but I'd have likely gone to law school, gone into politics, become a person more interested in power than in service to others and for a better world.
But thanks be to God, I was converted. God finally overtook me by His love, and since that first experience of His love, I've wanted to know His love more and more. I've wanted to be one with Him in love.
This moving toward God in desire for Him is what Thomas Merton--whose conversion has also been a source of inspiration to me--calls continuing conversion to Christ, which is the Christian's everyday calling.
Have you knelt in prayer, surrendered your life to Christ, and begun to live the life not that you intend, but the life that God intends for you to live? May your prayer be this line from the 1982 Hymnal, "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee."
And live your life as God intends.