Monday, March 17, 2014

Patrick & the Pagans

On a day where some of us imbibe green beer (not a fan of beer - even less if it's colored day-glo green) and others wear green clothes in order to avoid being pinched (one of my least favorite holiday traditions), I thought I'd write a bit about one of the guy this celebration is named for... St. Patrick.

It's fascinating that we here in the U.S. remain mostly ignorant of the reason Patrick is historically important - it's not the casting out of snakes (probably a legend) but instead the fact that he was a wildly successful Christian missionary.

And, in a twist of fate that will surprise no one who's read their New Testament, pretty much on the outs with the religious establishment of his time...
One would naturally assume that the British Church which ordained Patrick and sent him to Ireland, would continue to affirm his mission and celebrate its achievements. This was far from the case. The British leaders had expectations that he was to be administer to local churches and care for faithful Christians. The British leaders were offended and angered that Patrick was spending priority time with "pagans", "sinners" and "barbarians". (George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism)
Reminds me of...
Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:29-32, NLT)
I love the way the New Living Translation catches an all-important truth in this story - as Jesus suggests that the "sick people" are not simply the "sinners & tax collectors" or "pagans & barbarians" - but those who are unwilling to see their need, no matter what religious title or background they have.

Those of us who claim to be Christ-followers could honor the memory of St. Patrick by examining our own hearts & lives - and then attempting to get into the same kind of trouble as Patrick & Jesus because we choose to spend our priority time investing in the lives of people who need the grace & love of Christ.


Luke Holzmann said...

I love the way you put it: St. Patty's Day exists because "he was a wildly successful Christian missionary." A celebration of missions? Sounds good to me!


Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Thanks, Luke... just read a great article this morning from James Emery White (who's much smarter than I am) entitled "May We All Be Irish" that treads similar ground to my post: