A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the west coast of Scotland. This land is filled with breathtaking mountains, lush green hills and hundreds of lakes or lochs, the most famous being Loch Ness. I did not discover Nessie the famous resident of Loch Ness on this visit, but I did stumble upon the story of a small island located in Loch Levin. In the center of this small lake is an island known to the locals by its Gallic name, Eilean a’ Chombraidh, which means, Isle of Discussion.
According to my guidebooks, this Isle of Discussion was a strategic meeting ground for the McDonald Clan for over 1,000 years. The legend goes that whenever members of the clan would have a heated argument or disagreement with one another, members would row them out to this tiny isle and leave them with enough whisky, bread and cheese to survive on while the two feuding people worked out their anger and disagreements.
I have thought of this Isle of Discussion many times since my return from Scotland. How did such strategy for working out differences even begin? Did it take a strong Scottish Chieftain forcing feuding parties to the island or did it begin in a more subtle way with two people realizing the need for deeper understanding and conversation?
When we read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, we discover Jesus proclaiming to a diverse group of followers that they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” He encouraged them never to lose the essence of the way God created them. Jesus then taught them to work out their differences with one another quickly before their anger turned into name calling, wrath, or even worse, murder. Jesus said,
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5: 23-26)
I realize that we cannot purchase plane tickets and travel to Scotland’s Isle of Discussion every time we have a disagreement with someone. However, during the Season of Lent, the church invites all followers of Jesus to create many isles of discussion, many times and places where reconciliation might have the opportunity to take place. I wonder if we could create a Isle of Discussion by first praying for a person that we have difficulty forgiving? In some situations, we may send a handwritten card to open a pathway of discussion. Other opportunities could be as simple as an invitation for coffee and conversation, or a walk together around the neighborhood. If needed, our Auburn community is filled with counselors and clergy willing to help discussions take place.
The key to reconciliation seems to begin with a heart willing to listen, learn and discover a renewed relationship with another. Who do you need to invite to the Eilean a’ Chombraidh, the Isle of Discussion?
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.