In the North Sea, above the land we now call Scotland, lie the Orkney Islands. The rule of these islands, was split between two cousins, Earl Hakon, a mighty warrior, and Earl Magnus, also mighty in battle but gifted in peacemaking. Together they ruled peacefully for seven years until evil men gained the ear of Hakon and turned him against Magnus. There were great arguments until good men, persuaded the two rulers to work out their difference diplomatically. It was agreed that they would meet on a small island during Holy Week to make their peace. When Hakon arrived, he saw Magnus waiting for him in a field before an old church, with his arms outstretched in peaceful welcome. But Hakon was not there for peace. He took the life of his cousin Magnus on that very spot.
Magnus’ men sorrowfully buried their leader in that sparse, rocky field. Although the field had always been full of moss and not good for any kind of farming, that spring it grew lush and green with grass. People came there to pray and sheep came there to graze. It was said that the field turned green with grassy new life because it was not only the spot where Magnus, remembered now as St. Magnus the Peacemaker, died and was buried. It was also the place where his soul was lifted up to God to be with the Holy One in Paradise. And so, God returned the favor and granted the Orkney Islands a bit of Paradise. Magnus died with God and rose with God. And the field is the witness.
Some time after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to Paradise, Peter declared, “We are witnesses to all that he did” (Acts 10:39). At Easter the Church celebrates the good news that Jesus died and rose with God at the end of what we still call Holy Week. But the most desirable manner of celebrating Easter is by being ever open to new life taking root in the rocky, mossy barren places of our lives. Like that field in the Orkney Islands, may the Church always bear witness to the resurrection life pioneered by Jesus by being fertile ground to justice, peace, and righteousness.