I don’t have an ounce of Irish in me. I’m not very fond of Guinness beer. I’ve never been to Ireland, and I don’t believe in leprechauns. However, I love Riverdancing. I’d travel to Ireland in a heartbeat. I can make a wicked Irish stew. And, I love the story of St. Patrick!
Most Americans do not know the true significance and history of St. Patrick’s Day. Like Christmas and Easter, the “real” story has been overshadowed with decorations, parades, food, and drink. And, most Americans do not know much, at all, about the one and only St. Patrick.
Growing up, I thought this was a pagan holiday having nothing to do with God. But, as a school teacher, I finally did my homework, and taught the real story of this extraordinary holiday and St. Patrick.
Around 400 A.D., at the age of 16, Patrick was abducted from his village, in Great Britain, and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland. In spite of his Christian upbringing, Patrick had no interest in God. Interestingly, it wasn’t until he was held captive in a pagan nation that he began to seek God.
Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God — God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit. See Reference
Eventually, through his prayers, he was led to a ship that brought him back home, to Britain. His experience in Ireland led him into the ministry. And soon after, he was drawn back to the pagan nation that enslaved him. But this time, he would share the good news about God, Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
I knew this much, about St. Patrick, up until yesterday. But, there was something extraordinary that I was missing. This revelation came to me, yesterday, in church.
YES. I finally went to church! Scott and I went to a new church, yesterday. It was the first time since leaving a church I had grown to love, before we moved to The House on High Street.
I really didn’t want to go, yesterday. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never really jumped out of bed on a Sunday morning with excitement to go to church.
I’ve never really been a “church” person. I have gone to several, in just about every town that I’ve lived in, but never consistently. I guess I’ve never felt 100% connected. I don’t know. I get bored easily. I am not a morning person. Come to think of it, I can think of a zillion reasons why it’s easy for me to skip church. Yesterday was just a classic example…
First, I woke up later than I have in the past several weeks. (Probably because it was a Sunday and I was thinking about going to church, so of course I overslept.) I was tired. It took me longer to get ready. I changed my outfit about seven times since the majority of my clothes are at least one size too small. I was getting frustrated. (Scott, of course, got to hang out in bed with coffee for like a half hour longer than I did, and mosey into the bathroom five minutes before departure with ease.) Meanwhile, I was having a full-blown wrestling match with my wardrobe. I may have even said out loud, “You SEE, God?! This is why I don’t like to go to church!”
I wasn’t happy leaving my bedroom with piles of clean clothes on the floor…with deodorant stains. And, of course, my hair was now a mess. We left ten minutes later than I had anticipated. But, I was determined to go. Of course, Scott sped into the church parking lot. And through the exit way. “That’s just great babe. Really great.” I mumbled under my breath.
I was hoping to kind of sneak in, casually, and blend in with the crowd. We barely got passed the main greeter who practically clothes-lined me with a “Wait! Hello! Can you sign our new visitors page? And take this gift bag, please! Allow me to escort you to the main worship area.”
So much for getting there a little early.
Thankfully, the service was rather nice. The people were friendly. The setting was casual. The worship music was really good. The girl who sang was incredible! I was thinking about which judge on The Voice would have turned their chair around for her. (I get distracted a lot in church, too.) The associate pastor gave a sermon on the first few chapters of the book of James, which was so practical and relevant, I paid attention for like 90% of it. Before leaving, we were approached by a couple who had been following us, and The House on High Street, on LE Woman. Scott and I thought that was pretty cool.
Overall, I’m glad we went. I liked the church, and the message really spoke to my heart. (That’s key when it comes to finding a good church.)
The message was about a few key points in the first few chapters of James.
James offered numerous practical examples to illustrate his point: faith endures in the midst of trials, calls on God for wisdom, bridles the tongue, sets aside wickedness, visits orphans and widows, and does not play favorites. He stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world. While James recognized that even believers stumble (James 3:2), he also knew that faith should not coexist with people who roll their eyes at the less fortunate, ignore the plight of others, or curse those in their paths. Reference
Today, as I was thinking about a recipe to make on St. Patrick’s Day (tomorrow), I got thinking about St. Patrick.
St. Patrick did everything that James is talking about!
St. Patrick wasn’t just an ordinary guy who believed in God. He was persecuted. During his persecution, his faith was strengthened. He engaged in the lives of people. He cared about people. And, not just “any” people, the ones who persecuted him. He did more than execute faith, he devoted his life to good works!
On St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll make my delicious Irish Stew (I’ll post a recipe on it, soon.) But, most importantly, I’ll remember St. Patrick. I’ll reflect on how, like all of us, St. Patrick went through persecution. But, it was during his persecution that he found God! His life was changed. And, he was given a purpose that would change history. I’ll remember how extraordinary St. Patrick was!
I’m not sure where you are in your life right now. You may be in a good season. You may be in a season of persecution. (I’ve been there, remember?) But, please remember something…
God loves you. Your trials are refining you. Seek God and He will reveal himself to you and enrich your life in ways you cannot even imagine! Remember those less fortunate than you. Forgive those who persecute you. (Read the first few chapters of James. It will inspire you!)
Think about how St. Patrick was able to go back to a place that enslaved him in order to share the gospel of Christ.
Let’s do a little more than wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s follow the example of St. Patrick…who followed the book written by James…who literally walked with Jesus.
I leave you with something you may have never seen while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. This is one of his many writings; a poem of faith and trust in God. It’s called, “The Breastplate”.
Profound. And, simply extraordinary. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
PS. Here are a few key verses from the first few chapters in James that truly spoke to me. I hope they speak to you, too.
Chapter 1: Dealing with persecution.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James vs. 2-4.
Chapter 2: Favoritism Forbidden & Faith Without Works is Dead
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26
Chapter 3 Worldly vs. Godly Wisdom
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18
Chapter 4 Submit to God
Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4: 8, 10