Going Green?

Yesterday I wore a green dress shirt and a royal blue tie to church. You see it was the day we honor a rather famous slave-become-missionary who was given the title, “St. Patrick.”  If you were to take a poll and ask people who St. Patrick was, you would likely hear that he was an Irish Catholic who chased the snakes out of Ireland.  But that would be wrong on all accounts. He was not Irish, nor Catholic, and didn’t chase the snakes out of Ireland!  He was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class Christian family with Scottish roots in AD 387. His family was associated with the ancient Church of Britain, and he was never officially canonized as a “saint” by the Roman Church, although the day of his death has been commonly known as “St. Patrick’s Day” for more than a thousand year. And, after the ice age,  there were no snakes in Ireland!

     Patrick was son of a deacon named Calpurnius, and grandson of Potitus, a presbyter. Calpurnius was also a magistrate of noble rank. When Patrick was 16, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish King, who put him to work as a shepherd. In “How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill writes, “The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills.”  Though Patrick had been reared in a Christian home, he had never personally received Christ as his Savior, but now, hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold, Patrick began seeking out a relationship with God. He wrote in his Confession, “I Patrick, a sinner, rude, unfaithful, and despicable. They brought me into captivity in Ireland with several thousand men. This we deserved because we had departed from God…It was there the Lord helped me sense my unbelief, remember my sin, and restore my whole heart to Him…The love of God surrounded me more and more..I can’t keep quiet about how God blessed me in my captivity.”
     Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look–your ship is ready.” What a startling command!  If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave (like Onesimus in the Bible who fled from Philemon and met Paul in Rome, where he was converted to Christ). But he did obey–and God protected him. He walked nearly 200 miles to the Irish coast where he boarded a waiting ship headed back to Britain, but which because of a storm, landed on the coast of France where for 28 days he journeyed through a desert, running out of food. Then he was captured again, but God assured him he would only be held for two months. “On the 60th night, the Lord delivered me.” He finally made it back to his family in Britain. But, Patrick was a changed man, transformed by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, born again into the family of God.  Soon God spoke to him again in the middle of the night. He wrote: “I saw a man named Victoricius coming from Ireland with numerous letters. While I read the one he gave me, I heard the voice of those who were near the western sea. They shouted, ‘We beg you, holy youth, come and live among us.’ Another night, a voice spoke from within me, saying, ‘He gave His life for you; He it is who speaks in you.’ ” As a result, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary in March 433 AD.
     The Irish of the fifth century were a pagan, violent, and barbaric people. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger he faced, writing: “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved–whatever may come my way.”  Through Patrick, his love for the Irish, and his fearless preaching, God converted thousands. As a former slave, his testimony and life backed up the gospel of forgiveness through Christ which he shared and many trusted in His Savior. Because of Patrick, a warrior people “lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery” (Cahill). In his preaching, he utilized the Irish shamrock with its three separate leaves to illustrate the Tri-unity of God. The three-leaved clover has three separate leaves but they are joined together as a single entity, just as there are three divine persons in the one God. Patrick ministered in Ireland for 32 years, dying on March 17, 465. He didn’t “chase the snakes out of Ireland,” but he did introduce the people to the one true God and the Irish people were forever transformed.  Ireland, a land once under the influence of the pagan Druids,  became a stronghold of Christianity, and after the Dark Ages, Irish missionaries brought Christianity back to Europe. 
     As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, the wearing of green (or dying the water or your hair green!), we ought to recover our Christian heritage, celebrate the great missionary-evangelist, and teach our generation about this Christian hero. 
     And, by the way, while most often we wear green (for the “Emerald Isle” and the shamrock)  to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day on March 17th, the day of his death, his color was really royal blue!  It is the same blue color that appears on the Irish coat of Arms and the flag of the president of Ireland.  So, as I dressed for Church yesterday, I wore green to commemorate the Trinity which St. Patrick taught to the pagans in Ireland, and a touch of royal blue, for after all, His life was devoted to serving royalty. He was an ambassador for the King of Kings–as are each one of us who know Christ.
                                                                                                                 Forever His,
                                                                                                                        Pastor “O, Nelson”  

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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