Every year on March 17th, many people around the world, celebrate the patron saint of Ireland by donning green garb, drinking green beer, parading and honoring all-things Emerald Isle. In fact, my family has thrown the Annual Ryan's St. Patty's Day Huzzah for 13 years now, in which we invite friends over for Irish lamb stew, soda bread, braised cabbage and some of the aforementioned libations. But somehow, the general focus has shifted away from celebrating and/or remembering an evangelist who transformed an island nation with the good news to a watered-down celebration of lucky charms, leprechauns and stout beer. But is there something else worth celebrating?
St. Patrick was stolen away to Ireland by a pirating party when he was 16 years old and was enslaved to watch over sheep in very remote places- fields of endless green. In his "Confessions" he notes that this is when he came to entrust his life to Christ- out in the open fields, praying to God to reveal Himself. After six years of being a slave in a foreign land, Patrick made a daring escape back home to Britain. However, after deepening his faith through studying and becoming a minister of the Gospel, he was called back to his captor's land- Ireland. What a testament of faith that he returned (and if you want to read how his faithfulness in an indirect way saved western civilization, read Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization").
This year Light Up the City has focused our attention on our identity in Christ and at The Advance challenged the Church of Greater Seattle to root ourselves in His identity. St. Patrick is credited to writing this "Morning Prayer", which simply asks us to place our complete identity in Christ: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me...". So, on March 17th, you might find yourself wearing green and some may raise a glass to everything Irish, but I hope we can also remember the work of the Gospel that is the same today as 1600 years ago in a remote part of the Roman empire and that the kingdom presses on with Christ in the lead:
I arise today,
Through the strength of heaven; Light of the sun, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind, Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth, Firmness of the rock.
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 multitude.
Christ shield me today Against wounding
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.