In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to share here my newsletter article for March 2015 at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton. It’s a different way of thinking about St. Patrick. Read on…
MARCH IS A MONTH FILLED WITH POTENTIAL. It is, after all, the month in which spring arrives, at least on the calendar; given the frigidity of this winter, it takes a certain de- gree of hope to believe that spring will come later this month! (I imagine it will take even more hope for our friends in eastern Canada to believe that, with all the snow they’ve received!)
March also is the month that brings March Break. Students and teachers look forward to that time with great excitement, since it offers them a rest from learning, and teach- ing, and from each other! For some families and individuals, March Break affords the opportunity for some respite from the chill; for others, it’s a chance to make the most of the cold weather. For still others, it’s an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, irrespective of the weather.
The month of March is known for the feast day celebrated on the 17th. St. Patrick’s Day is marked not only by Christians, but by many others who simply use it as an ex- cuse for a party. And why not? While many people don’t realize it, Patrick is a saint worth celebrating. Why is that?
Patrick is best known as the patron saint of Ireland, and anyone with as little as a drop (or less!) of Irish blood within willingly makes the most of the opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the Emerald Isle with great merriment (and green-tinted libations, I un- derstand). But Patrick is worth celebrating for other reasons.
St. Patrick gives us reasons to celebrate good theology and evangelism.
We can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because Patrick was perhaps the most popular theo- logian to articulate a doctrine of the Trinity. A lot of folks assume it all has to do with the three-leaf clover, which might be more of a legend than an illustration of One God In Three Persons. Patrick lived not long after the doctrine of the Trinity was first ar- ticulated by the early Christians, and he helped popularize this important point of Christian belief among the people of Ireland, who had not been that well acquainted, because of distance if nothing else, with some of the basic doctrines of the church.
While the Trinity is a difficult theological tenet to explain – it remains a mystery which is clearly alluded to in Scripture but not completely spelled out – it is a hallmark state- ment of faith among followers of Jesus. The one true God, made known in the three Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is beyond our complete comprehension. Yet by faith, we can apprehend this truth and experience communion in community with the God who is, in one sense, the very definition of community!
For a humorous yet accurate take on Patrick and the Trinity, check out this video.
Patrick also gives us reason to celebrate as Christians because he was a master at evan- gelism. He might better be remembered for driving snakes out of Ireland – also a tale of mythical proportions – but his greater feat was leading countless people to faith in Christ. Ireland, in those days, was primarily a land of religious people whose faith was druidic and pagan in nature.
He was a missionary. While this is debated hotly, many believe Patrick was born in Scotland, and that he believed God called him to bring Christ to the Irish. He was a master at understanding the culture he sought to transform. He learned what the cul- ture of druidism and paganism meant to the people, and he explained the gospel to them using terms from their own lexicon of faith. As a result, today, Ireland is a nation very faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. (There are many Anglicans and Presbyte- rians there, too, among other denominational groups.) The testaments to Patrick’s ef- forts may be seen in the numerous large and ancient church buildings which still stand from Cork to Dublin, from Londonderry to Belfast.
Patrick reminds us of the importance of good theology, and sharing our faith.
So March really is a month filled with potential, even for the church! Enjoy it and em- brace it, with God as your guide.