Friday this week brings us to St. Patrick’s Day and everyone will wear their green to remember the missionary who ministered for the Lord Jesus on the “Emerald Isle.” St. Patrick’s story is one that comes down to us from Christian History and, as one book title puts it, his story is “More Than Shamrocks and Leprechauns.” Patrick’s story can be easily remembered this way:
- Calling: As a sixteen-year-old boy living in 5th century Britain, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. It was there that he turned his life over to Jesus of whom he had heard teachings in the church as a child. His devotion to the Lord as a slave earned him the name “Holy-Boy” among his captors. At last, a chance to escape unfolded and he made his way back to Britain and home. It was there that he had recurring dreams of the Irish in which they said, “Holy-Boy, we beg you, come walk with us again.” Through these dreams, God called him to return to Ireland with the Gospel. He wrote, “I did not go back to Ireland of my own accord. It is not my own nature to show divine mercy toward the very ones who once enslaved me.”
- Conviction: Patrick loved his family and did not want to leave them but he was convicted that he had to return to Ireland. He said, “Leaving home and family was a costly price to pay; but afterward, I received a more valuable thing: the gift of knowing and loving God.” He had to navigate relationships that would dissuade him from his conviction: “Many friends tried to stop my mission. They said, ‘Why does this fellow waste himself among dangerous enemies who don’t even know God?’” So, he returned to the Emerald Isle.
- Christ: It is believed that Patrick used the easily-found shamrock of Ireland to illustrate the message of Scripture. The three-fold lobes of the shamrock quickly showed how Creator (Father), Redeemer (Son), and Power (Spirit) were simultaneously the presence of God in the world as revealed in Scripture. Patrick used what he could to proclaim Jesus. In fact, the day came when the Druid custom of “calling the sun back to the north” had everyone focused on the annual practice of extinguishing all the fires in the land at the time of the vernal equinox. The chief wizard would ignite a bonfire and from it runners would take the fire to each village thus proving that their enchantments brought the warmth back to the nation. On the night of the ceremony, as warlords worshipped in the darkness, a huge bonfire could be seen on a nearby hill opposite them. Patrick had built a blazing fire for the Easter celebration of Christ, the Light of the World. He was arrested and made to explain his actions at which time he shared the good news of Jesus, God incarnate and risen from the dead.
Patrick’s story is a reminder of the missionary calling given to the church in a place where there was no Christian church at all. It’s a great reminder to us as well. Patrick did all he could to lift up Jesus so that people could encounter the truth of the Lord for themselves. Herein is our challenge as well! Let’s do all we can to lift up Christ together!
In the Love of Jesus,