On this day, the entire world celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day.
It is especially celebrated in the United States as a day of Irish Pride.
Although there are historical reasons for that, today I lift Saint Patrick up as an example of Christian witness… and his story closely matches with the scriptures.
Our scriptures echo human distress and pain:
emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Our scriptures also echo human lamenting, or deep cries, to God.
God not only is able to handle our laments, but desires these because it signifies an intimate relationship and holds God accountable to God’s promises.
Our gospel is Jesus aware of and being warned of the danger that awaits in Jerusalem including his arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death. After all, Jesus is a prophet and that is the fate of the prophets.
Jesus, however, would not be deterred (distracted) from his mission/ministry:
to heal, to release, to forgive, to love, to serve, and to gather ALL people/creation
into God’s protective and maternal love, like that mother hen.
But, what does this have to do with Saint Patrick?
Patrick was a Roman born in Britain to a priestly family, who lacked in faith and served while simply “going through the motions”.
Depending on the source, Patrick ran away or was kidnapped at age 16, but either way he would be enslaved by some of my ancestors:
the uncircumcised, pork-eating, stubborn, and relentless Celtic Pagans of Ireland.
During the six years of enslavement, Patrick re-connected to and was reconciled to God who gathered him into God’s protective and maternal love.
I am confident it included Patrick lamenting to God.
Patrick did escape slavery and was reunited with family. However, Patrick would dream of the Celts crying and calling for his return to bear witness to Christ among them.
Patrick, wisely, fled in the opposite direction…
to be educated and ordained into the priesthood. But, those relentless Celts would continue calling him in his dreams.
Although at great risk to self, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary priest. He would become the Bishop of Ireland.
According to tradition, Patrick converted all (or at least the vast majority) of Ireland to Christianity while under threat of those with power and authority. However, Patrick’s success was not by force, threat, compulsion, or demeaning Celtic culture. Instead, he gathered the Celts together in God’s protective and maternal love.
Patrick used Celtic symbols to communicate Christ, such as:
the Trinity Knot (in our narthex) and the Shamrock.
Patrick absolutely fell in love with the Celtic people and culture becoming accepted as and self-identifying as an “Irishman”.
As I stood at Patrick’s grave (shared with St. Columba and St. Brigid) in Downpatrick (Northern Ireland), I pondered Patrick’s lasting witness to Christ among the Irish.
Although the Irish were not completely transformed by Patrick and Christianity, Patrick and Christianity were forever changed by the Irish.
Patrick’s in gathering of the Celts into his own and God’s protective and maternal love and the continued influence on Christianity, is what I give thanks for on this day.
This sense of ‘gathering’ remains today within the flag of Ireland for:
- the green symbolizes the Roman Catholics;
- the orange symbolizes the Protestants; and
- the white symbolizes the deserved peace between the two…
perhaps as God continues to gather us all into God’s protective and maternal love.
May we bear witness to God gathering ALL humankind and creation
into God’s protective and maternal love by reconciliation.
May we bear such witness to God’s work, despite the risks,
such as Saint Patrick and Jesus the Christ did.
Scriptures were Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; and Luke 13: 31-35.
Originally Preached on 17 March 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).