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Who Was St. Patrick?

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

Who was St. Patrick?  Why is there even a day named after him?  What is a sermon idea that can be useful from this man?

Why is Patrick Called a Saint?

In the first place, all believers are called saints (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 14:33) so that is nothing new but normally we don’t meet people in church and says “Good morning Saint Bob” or “Hello Saint Martha, how’s it going?”  This man had a great history and there is every reason to call him Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick is called the patron saint of Ireland and for good reason.  Some have even called him the Apostle of Ireland.  He is given credit for being the first bishop of Armagh or what is called the Primate of Ireland.

The truth be told, he didn’t banish all snakes from Ireland because there is no evidence of there ever having been snakes on Ireland in the first place due to its post-glacial history.   Although his father was a Christian deacon, he was more than likely a deacon for tax incentives so as to avoid the heavy British taxes at the time.  There is no solid evidence that the family was overtly Christian.

A Prisoner to a Christian

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

When St. Patrick was only 16, he was captured by Irish pirates and held captive for six years before he was finally able to escape but from what he wrote, he believed that God spoke to him and told him to return to Britain, which he finally did.

He apparently had another revelation from God while in Britain in which an angel supposedly told him to return to Ireland as a missionary for Christ. Instead of leaving right away, he trained for the ministry for more than 15 years before leaving for Ireland.  After his ordination as a priest, he went to work with another missionary to help Christians in Ireland so it is blatantly false that St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland…he simply went there to help those Christians who were already living there.  This happened in the last half of the fifth century and by the seventh century, he had already become known as the patron saint of Ireland.

The day of his death, March 17th, is the occasion of the holiday called Saint Patrick’s Day.  In Ireland it is a holy day of convocation but also a national holiday and celebration for Ireland itself.

The Shamrock and the Trinity

The legend is that St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, as a symbol of the Trinity when trying to explain the Three Persons of the Godhead.  The fact that the shamrock is green seemed to fit the idea of the rebirth of the individual as well as the idea of eternal life.  The appearance of three things with living organisms has always fascinated St. Patrick who saw it as a symbol of the Trinity and reminded all of the earth’s inhabitants that God is everywhere present or He is at all times everywhere.  There is some truth to that about the nature of God since there is no place a person can flee to escape or avoid the presence of God (Psalm 139:7).   In other words, you cannot hide from God; just read Jonah’s story!

Today’s Saints

There are still unreached people groups in the nations of the world where the gospel has not yet been preached and one wonders if St. Patrick were still alive today, where would he go?   Would he go to Ireland again or back to his native Britain?

That he was in inspiration for Ireland and his passion for the Word can, hopefully, inspire us to go where God would have us bring the gospel, even if it’s next door.  We are to bring the good news of the gospel to those who are presently separated from God by their sins (Isaiah 59:2) as we once were.  Should not St. Patrick’s passion to preach the gospel and to leave all that is familiar to him at least inspire us to go to those we know who are not yet saved?   This means those co-workers of ours, our family members, our neighbors, and even those on the street who have yet to hear the bad news of the wrath of God that abides on those who have rejected believing in Christ (John 3:36b).  Therefore we should be compelled to tell them since we ourselves were spared from God’s wrath and at one time were enemies of God (Rom 5:10).

St. Patrick's DayLet His Passion be Ours

If someone were willing to leave the comforts and familiarity of their own home for the sake of the gospel and with the purpose of recusing the perishing, should not our own hearts burn within us for the same purpose (Jer 20:9)?

Since God saved us by someone else’s proclamation of the Word, shouldn’t we feel a sense of obligation to tell others?   The answer is obvious.  Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 that “God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 

As ambassadors of Christ, we represent the King of the kingdom and as ambassadors, we must leave the comforts of our own home or land to take this message of hope into all the world as the only possible way that they might be saved (Acts 4:12).

If we do not go, who will?  Must we depend on others to enter into the fields to labor for His glory?  Can we not see the desperate condition of a world that is headed down the broad path to destruction (Matt 7:13) and tell them that “the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matt 7:14)?

Conclusion

Let St. Patrick inspire us to leave our own comfort zone and take the gospel to others in the hopes that they might be saved.  Were we not “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zech 3:2)?

Should we not help “save others by snatching them from the fire [and] to others show mercy” (Jude 1:23)?  The Prophet Amos reminds us again, as Zechariah did, “You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire” (Amos 4:11).

Let us use St. Patrick’s passion for the Great Commission to help inspire us in the rescuing of the perishing.

 

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

A stained-glass window in the United States depicts St. Patrick with his staff and holding a church.

When many people think of St. Patrick, the first things that come to mind are shamrocks, leprechauns, and maybe pinches for people who don’t wear green.

 

What’s easy to miss in these celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day is the fact that the real Patrick was a devout Christian and a missionary.

 

Patrick was a Roman Briton, born to wealthy parents.  His father was a deacon, but Patrick wasn’t particularly religious.  Around the year 430, when Patrick was sixteen, Irish raiders kidnapped him.  Patrick became a slave, watching his Irish master’s sheep.  In his loneliness, he turned to the God of his father and entrusted his life to Jesus Christ.

 

Six years later, Patrick escaped from the Irish and returned to his family—but soon afterward, a dream changed his destiny.  He saw an angel, and the heavenly messenger told him to go back to Ireland.

 

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

This sculpture of St. Patrick stands in a Aghagower, County Mayo, Ireland.

For fifteen years Patrick studied theology and Scripture; then he returned to Ireland not as a slave but as a missionary.  He used familiar Irish symbols to explain Christian theology—the three-leafed shamrock, for example, became a metaphor for the Trinity.

 

According to tradition, Patrick died on March 17, 493.

 

Of course, we call him a saint now and have reduced the remembrance of him each March 17 to a vague and often corny celebration of all things Irish. 

But maybe what’s really worth remembering on that day is the example of an individual who not only understood the strength of forgiveness, but the transforming power of the gospel to turn those who don’t know God into His very sons and daughters.

In the Bleak Midwinter…

Gloucester Cathedral Choir - In the Bleak Midwinter

Gloucester Cathedral Choir – In the Bleak Midwinter

A favorite Christmas carol uses the words of the poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti.  (Click on the image at left to hear the Gloucester Cathedral Choir and congregation sign this beautiful carol.)

Set to a wonderful, expressive melodic line by Gustav Holst, the first verse reads:

In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter,
long ago.

This Winter, in many places throughout the United States, the words of this old hymn have painfully come to life, as unrelenting cold and recurring snow storms slowly envelope familiar streets and walkways in layers of snow and ice.  Many folks are finding it difficult to get about for work, for food, and for other basic necessities of life, venturing out only when they must.

In such dangerous conditions, it is advisable for most of us, and essential for some, to remain safely indoors whenever we can.  Church attendance is one among many areas that suffer as a result.

Winter in Switzerland, by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)

Winter in Switzerland, by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)

With regular Church attendance no longer a priority for many, the congregations of many small local Churches have also dwindled over the years as faithful members age, and few move in to bolster their ranks.

As is true for many of us individually, local Churches can little afford to miss regular financial infusions as they strive to continue doing God’s work in their communities.

Many years ago, the offering envelopes that Central Church provided to its members in January for use throughout the year bore a short message on the front reminding members that although you might have to be away from your local Church for a week or two, its expenses continue to accumulate.  As a matter of basic stewardship, our members were encouraged to send in their tithes and offerings regularly, even when they couldn’t be in Church themselves.

While Central Church is located in a somewhat sheltered river valley in downtown Beaver Falls, three of our sister Churches are located in the more exposed surrounding countryside.

While recent conditions have substantially impacted attendance at Central Church, our three sister Churches have been forced to cancel their Sunday worship services for the past two weeks.

During this midwinter, as the frosty winds are blowing and the “Earth stands hard as iron”, please remember your local Church with your prayers, your presence (when you safely can), your gifts, and your service.

Time Flies – Remember to Adjust Your Clocks!

Daylight Saving Time Clock

As we move deeper into Lent, here is a quick reminder to adjust your clocks for Daylight Saving Time!

 

 

When we change our clocks

Today, approximately 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time in at least a portion of the country. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving.

Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time.

In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment.

Spring forward, Fall back

During DST, clocks are turned forward an hour, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.

 


United
States


European
Union

 Year 

DST Begins
at 2 a.m. 

DST Ends
at 2 a.m. 

Summertime
period begins
at 1 a.m. UT

Summertime
period ends
at 1 a.m. UT

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

March 9

November 2

March 30

October 26

2015

March 8

November 1

March 29

October 25

2016

March 13

November 6

March 27

October 30

(The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.)

 

When in the morning?

In the United States, clocks change at 2:00 a.m. local time.  In spring, clocks spring forward from 1:59 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

In the European Union, clocks change at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time.  In spring, clocks spring forward from 12:59 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

 

Some U.S. areas

For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona.  The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states.

 

A safety reminder

Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because Daylight Saving Time provides a convenient reminder.

“A working smoke detector more than doubles a person’s chances of surviving a home fire,” says William McNabb of the Troy Fire Department in Michigan.

More than 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but one-third are estimated to have dead or missing batteries.