Oswald is best known for bringing Christianity back to Northumbria. When his father, King Aethelfrith, died the throne was taken by Edwin, his uncle, and 12-year-old Oswald fled to Iona. He remained there in safety until Edwin was killed and Oswald returned and claimed his kingdom for himself. He became part of the monastic community, trained by the saints of Iona to follow the old paths and those who had learned Christ’s ways long ago. Thus Oswald found himself praying for God’s guidance and timing.
Soon the difficult decision was made: Oswald would return to Northumbria, reclaiming his throne and crown and heritage by battle. He would bring an end to years of fighting and division, giving life back to his people. He planted a wooden cross in the good ground of Heavenfield, setting it up as a waymark. Then he and his companions knelt together at the turn of the road, at the foot of the cross, and prayed. Oswald won his kingdom back and set about uniting Northumbria in peace. The victory in the Battle of Heavenfield made many ask questions about the God of the Christians, whom Oswald served, and he sent messengers to seek missionaries from Iona to bring the Christian message back to his kingdom. Unfortunately the mission failed, and those involved returned to Iona.
Nevertheless, Oswald continued to pray and trust, and it wasn’t too long before Aidan came with a band of helpers, and a very different attitude to the task. Oswald gave them the tidal island of Lindisfarne as their base, just across the water from his own stronghold at Bamburgh. He himself joined in the mission, going along willingly to interpret what Aidan was saying, since the Northumbrians did not understand the Gaelic Aidan spoke. Under Oswald the Kingdom of Northumbria is said to have spread out to its greatest ever extent, reaching the Firth of Forth in the north, the Irish Sea in the west, and the Rivers Trent and Humber in the south.
Almighty God, when the future seems unclear, help us to be faithful in prayer and to trust what You have already revealed to us. When we have the opportunity to advance Your work, give us courage and perseverance to play our part well. When we are able to give something to help Your work, make us generous with our money, time and personal gifts; to the praise of Your name. Amen.