By Canon Cate Edmonds
When walking my dogs at a local Iron Age fort I often stop and wonder what life must have been like there over 2000 years ago when it is supposed the fort was built. Miles away a new story was being made, a revelation which would change the world, a message was being proclaimed that would ring down the years, followed by some, ignored by some, fought against by some.
Walking around the fort and many others like it I have wondered why they were built; it is said that strongholds such as hill forts were built for protection. This was because war was common in the Iron Age. New iron technology meant more people had weapons like swords and spears. People needed to defend themselves from attack.
The people of these forts had not heard Christ’s message of loving God, and our neighbour as ourselves. We have, but there are many places around the World where defence is still required even essential. Swords and spears have become sophisticated annihilation machines with the ability to cut down those who get in the way whether close by or at some distance.
On my walk I pass through a wooded area which is packed with ancient beech trees: many have grown into amazing shapes. As I took this picture this week and looking at the tree, I reflected upon what had happened during the lifetime of that tree. It certainly hadn’t been there for 2000 years but possibly a couple of hundred years. In that time the message proclaimed by Christ had spread, become general knowledge and accepted in the country around the tree. People had gathered together to understand the message. They had developed worship and had celebrated and shared the message. What sadly has happened to that message? Have we become too sophisticated, like our weapons, to revel in the message?
We need to shout Christ’s message loudly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” (Matthew 22;37-40). And what did the prophets say: “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
In the 200 years or so of life of the beech tree, in the 2000 years since hill fortification, the commandment is still with us but sadly the prophecy of Isaiah has yet to be fulfilled.
God of Mercy, we pray for Ukraine. For all of humanity distorted by war. For all the lives lost, homes seized and peace broken. May the Spirit of comfort and compassion envelop all who dwell in fear. May the Spirit of wisdom and humility enliven our global leaders. May we affirm the dignity and rights of all. May we seek peace. Amen.