From the Pastor’s Desk March 2018

February 28th, 2018 by Kali Lewis

Dear Irish and Irish Wannabe Saints,
St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish culture on or around March 17th. It particularly remembers St. Patrick, one of Ireland’s patron saints, who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. I am part of the Wanna be Saints on St. Patrick’s day. I may have some Irish blood but mostly I am English, with some German and just a touch of Irish. Polly is about fifty percent Irish, part of the Coryell Clan. Her mother is almost one hundred percent Irish.

Despite having just a touch of Irish in me, I will provide this message as someone with Irish roots (at least some Irish roots). In doing so I want to draw your attention to March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, a day that has been used as an excuse to party in way that place many persons’ lives in jeopardy in more ways than one. Saint Patrick the patron saint of Ireland, was born in A.D. 387 and died March 17, 461. Thus Saint Patrick’s Day commemorates the day of his death. The Roman Catholic Church has never formally canonized Patrick as a saint; however, his acknowledgement as a saint occurred in the days before the Pope canonized people for sainthood. Of course Methodists and other Protestants do not accept the notion of canonizing people for sainthood. We do, however, use the word “saint” to refer to all Christians who are walking in the Way.

Saint Patrick had an interesting story, although much of it is open to question. There are only two writings attributed to him, and much of the rest of the story is the stuff of legend. Many of you will wear shamrocks and green clothing on March 17th to recognize the day. You who are Irish will celebrate the day with Irish pride, while those who are Irish wannabes will celebrate all the more. “Kiss me I’m Irish” and leprechauns will be seen on tee-shirts. I thought it would be interesting to share a portion of St. Patricks Confession in which he recounts his coming to the Lord while being held as a slave while a young boy in Ireland. “And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn will all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my young and ignorance. And he watched over me and before I knew Him, and before I learned some sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing Him our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.

This confession is very much like the confession of many Christians who find themselves languishing in sin or lost somewhere off the beaten track of righteousness. Saint Patrick went on to become a bishop in Ireland and is credited with bringing the Irish people to faith. Among his credits are acts which have been proven to be legends rather than the truth. Here are two that are credited to him. Legend has it that Saint Patrick used the shamrock (the common clover plant, three leafed variety) to teach the Irish about God, in particular the nature of God. He would ask his parishioners and students whether the shamrock had one leaf or three. The answer would be “one” and “three”. In that way he would explain the Trinity to the listening. The leaf is one, with three distinct parts. So using a common plant, he was able to help those who were new to the faith understand God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Part of the problem was that the pagan Irish had used the shamrock to represent three gods in their pantheon of belief. So, imagine the difficulty they have have had in making the transition from a polytheistic belief system to a monotheistic system which still talked about God in three persons. Christians today often find themselves in the same predicament when trying to explain God to unbelievers. Perhaps simple objects such as a shamrock can aid us in this endeavor.

Legend also has it that Saint Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland, explaining the reason there are no snakes in Ireland today. In fact, it has been shown that snakes have never been in Ireland. There is a worm that is actually a legless lizard, which inhabits Ireland, but no snakes. Some research suggests that this legend stems from the fact that Saint Patrick’s efforts involved preaching against the pagan Druids who wore snake tattoos on their arms. In converting the Irish from these pagan beliefs he in effect drove those of the snake tattoo out of Ireland.

Whether or not that is totally true, the truth is that Saint Patrick was a tireless evangelist for the Lord and was even tried for standing up against a slave trader making raids on Irish and Welsh villages. Saint Patrick’s conviction and assurance gave him the strength to speak the truth in the face of the conventional wisdom of the pagans in Ireland. It also gave him the strength to stand for what was right even in the face of possible punishment. When we give ourselves to the Lord completely, we become invigorated with the strength of the Holy Spirit so that we can speak and act for God with the assurance that God is with us. During this season of Lent, may we be imbued with the knowledge that out trinitarian understanding of God leads us to a greater understanding of the importance of community in relating to fellow Christians and all peoples. I pray that this understanding will enable us to proclaim the Word even in the face of entrenched resistance. I close with this traditional Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall softly on your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Pastor Don