I love St. Patrick’s Day.
No I don’t want to kiss any Blarney Stone, I don’t drink Guinness Beer, and I haven’t pinched anyone for not wearing green – yet. In fact, it truly distresses me how the world has woven Irish culture into the commemoration of the death of a man who wasn’t even Irish. They’ve layered the life of a great man with lucky clovers, legends of leprechauns, and plenty of folklore.
I celebrate this holiday because I love to honor the man who died on this date centuries ago. One source I read labels St. Patrick as one of the five greatest Christian influences of all time.
Patricus was born to a Romanized Britain family. That means he was probably civilized and cultured. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest – that meant he came from a faith-based family. At age 16, he was kidnapped by raiders and taken as a slave to the rough and tumble country of Ireland. (See? Human trafficking happened even back in the 5th century!) He was forced to spend long, solitary years herding sheep. During that time of solitude, he renewed and deepened his faith in the God of his heritage.
After six years, guided by a dream, he escaped and returned to his family. But after some time, also through the personal guidance of a dream, he decided to return to the land of his captors and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Was he crazy? Would you be willing to return to a people who had abused you, starved you and harmed you? Would you willingly turn and face the danger that at one point almost killed you?
That’s what St. Patrick did – for the sake of the Gospel message. That’s how important faith in Christ was to him. The danger was worth it. The eternal destiny of the Irish people was more important to him than his personal safety and well-being.
Christ calls us to love our enemies. Patrick showed the greatest kind of love hat one could show. He was willing to help the people who once had hurt him.
God blessed his efforts. Patrick’s autobiography, Confessions, records that he baptized thousands. Entire clans came to know Christ. Single-handedly through the power of the Holy Spirit, he turned an entire culture around.
If God can change an entire culture through one man, what can He do through you?
We often see difficulties as obstacles toward accomplishing God’s will. God sees those roadblocks as stepping stones. He uses the rocks on your road to shape you and ready you for what He has for you to do. Just think – Patrick’s six years in slavery was a crash course in language and culture study! And he didn’t even have to raise mission support for those six years. Who better to go to Ireland as a missionary than someone who had already been there!
We are not powerless. We can change our culture. We can bring Christ to those who would do us harm. We have the power of Christ to do anything, even forgive and love those who have hurt us in such a way that they come to know Christ.
So, as you pin on your green shamrock and put your corned beef and cabbage supper in your slow cooker, here are some other ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Pray for a missionary. Who do you know that is reaching beyond cultural lines to share the gospel? Pray for their influence. Pray for their boldness. Pray for their protection.
Praise God for His power and for His redemptive use of bad situations.
Pray that God will show you how to bless those who have hurt you with the life-saving message of the Gospel. Pray God’s protection over whatever you do. Take Him with you in all that you do. Patrick realized and we should too – you can’t do great things for Jesus by yourself. You have to do it in His strength.
And finally, please, don’t pinch anybody. Not today.
Here is a portion of St Patrick’s prayer. You can use it to guide your own preparations for taking the Gospel into your corner of the world today.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.