Remembering Patrick beyond the Green.
I’ve always been a HUGE fan of St. Patrick Day. No, not for the Guinness Green Beer. Though I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, so who knows. Some of you may know that March 17th is my birthday so that probably explains a lot. That’s why I always feel exempt from having to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But the real reason for my fondness for this day is its name sake, St. Patrick himself and the beautiful Irish folks that he gave his ministry and life for. What do we know about Patrick? Well there’s a lot of legend and lore surrounding him, but what we do know is that somewhere around 400 AD he was taken prisoner from Great Britton by Irish raiders and enslaved. Eventually Patrick made his way back to Britton after experiencing a Christian awakening of his own and later sensed a call to return to Ireland to share Christ with his captors in the 420s. History tells us that God used Patrick in a mighty way to leads countless Celts to the love of Christ. The picture that we have of Patrick is a man who was profoundly committed not only to Christ, but to the people of Ireland as well. He loved God and he loved the people.
The fruit of Patrick’s labor has much greater reaching ramifications than what most people realize. In fact, many church historians note that it was the monks that Patrick ordained who continued to spread the love of Christ, preserve scripture, write, and create monasteries even into Europe. This dedication to Christ held back some of the darkest days following the destruction of the Roman Empire. The historian Herbert Kane observed:
“What is the debt the world owes to primitive Celtic Christianity? The answer is that it produced the greatest missionary effort the world has ever seen; that when Europe was overrun by the barbarian hordes, these wandering Irish saints pushed their settlements right into the heart of European heathendom . . . and not only made possible the Christianization of barbarian Europe, but educated and supplied the greatest teachers down to the time of Charlemagne.”[i]
Yes, I love Ireland. I love the Gaelic music, castles, and history of this beautiful land and people. However, the picture of Ireland is much different today. I’m saddened over the political unrest that has blanketed the land over the past 2 centuries. I hurt over the fact that probably less than 1% of the Irish people would consider themselves evangelical Christians and those who side with Catholicism know little more than tradition even if they practice their faith at all. The Irish people today just don’t know Christ. Patrick though reminds me that there is still hope, not only for Ireland, but for the globe. St. Patrick’s Day reminds us that one man can make a difference. Patrick’s dedication to Christ and the people not only changed Ireland, but maybe even the world. This Green Day should be a reminder that one person, in love with God and people really can bring about profound change.
This reminds me of a conversation between the great evangelist, D.L. Moody and one of his mentors, Henry Varley. Henry told Moody, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” Moody responded, “I will try my utmost to be that man” and he was.
The truth constantly remains the same whether that is with Patrick or Moody. God is looking for women and men who are fully surrendered to Him and His mission. He doesn’t call for great people, just humble men and women through which He can do great things. So what about you, what is holding you back? The Word tells us that Jesus is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” and maybe he’s looking for someone just like you. Who can you share the love of Christ with today?
In conclusion I’ll leave you with a portion of one of Patrick’s most famous printed prayers. Enjoy and go and do!
“I bind unto myself the Name,
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.”
BTW If you’re interested in supporting the need and opportunity in Ireland, here’s a great young couple to consider partnering with. They’re doing a great job in a land desperately needing a 21st Century Patrick.
[i] Kane, Herbert J. A Concise History of the Christian World Mission. Grand Rapids: Baker Bok House. 1982. Pg 38.