Showing Your St. Patrick’s Day Colours

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happy-stpats-wordart1Food and Mouth Warning

In 2001, the UK and Ireland were struck with a horrible outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease. The livelihood of the nation’s essential agricultural industry was at risk of dying and people and governments began to panic. Transference of meat and mud into Ireland and between farmland was strictly regulated. Concern grew to such an extent that even golf-players were taken to a specially set-up Department of Agriculture ‘cleansing room’ to have their golf shoes and clubs disinfected.  As the rest of the world was preparing to celebrate all things Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Emerald Isle itself, had gone into a state of national emergency overdrive. It wasn’t just the rural, farming west that had been brought to a standstill. As the Irish Times pointed out, ‘Foot-and-mouth disease – or at least the threat of it – has brought the country’s recreational life to its knees….We face a St Patrick’s Day without any parades’ (Irish Times, 14 March 2001). They were not joking – St Patrick’s Day in Ireland was cancelled.

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Eventually the worst of the outbreak passed over, and that Summer the Irish finally celebrated a postponed St. Patrick’s Day. I was in Dublin at the time, and after spending a beautiful morning at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I joined with my friends to watch the parade wind its way through the streets. The excitement of that day will never escape from my memory.

chicago-river-green-2012However, as much as I love St. Patrick’s Day, every year as it comes around, I’m a little saddened by what I see. Very little of it represents the testimony of the man for whom the day is named after. Instead, like the Chicago river, people are adorned in green and found spilling out into the streets, as they celebrate with drunken revelry. People put their faith in the luck of the Irish and search greedily for the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. To them, Ireland is nothing more than shamrocks, beer, leprechauns and Riverdance.

It really is a tragedy to see the excess that is glorified, because the Irish have given us so much throughout history that we can truly celebrate. We can look all the way back to the 5th Century, with the life of Maewyn Succat, a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. In addition to his really cool name, his life is a fascinating story of pirates, slavery, missions and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the folks at Veggietales put together a fun little history lesson for all of us.

patrick_shamrock_0Now you know… the rest of the story. But what a shame that so many don’t know about this missionary whose name they invoke as a reason to party. We, as Christians have an opportunity even today, to share the same Gospel of Christ that Patrick proclaimed. The message has not changed, and the Word of God is just as powerful to us today. As we see friends, coworkers and colleagues celebrating all things Irish, take advantage of the time and share with them about Patrick and the God whom he served. How wonderful would it be for someone to celebrate the joy of salvation tonight and wake up tomorrow with the hope of eternal life, rather than a hangover?

protestantThe Protestant Reformation had its marks upon Ireland, and is reflected even today in the colors that people wear for St. Patrick’s Day. Do you know why people wear green? Some people sport the color orange instead, and you may be interested in knowing that you might be sporting some “gang” colors.

 

Of course, when I think of Ireland and St. Patrick, I think of the rich, incredible gifts of music with which they have blessed us. I remember learning about St. Patrick’s Breastplate when I was in College. As my choir director read the lyrics to us the first time, each word seemed to drip with an understanding of the utter dependence my life must have upon Christ. The English text, which was translated from a Gaelic poem, strongly represents the Trinitarian God, but also the supremacy of Christ in all things. Fiercely applicational and doctrinal, we can be encouraged as Patrick was, to bind ourselves to Christ.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

st_patricks_breastplate_poster-r55dd25c03577425487f6622259365c41_blv_8byvr_512I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard. 

Perelachaise-croixCeltique-Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. 

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
(Click here for the full lyrics)

blog_be-thou-my-visionAnother beloved Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” stirs the heart to set aside self and reminds me so much of Hebrews 12:1-3 which says:  “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” I love the humbling, challenging and reassuring words which say:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

 

imagesWhile Ireland has given us a rich heritage of hymnody, it continues to share it’s gift of music through Northern Irish couple Keith & Kristyn Getty. In 2009, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter Sunday landed in the same week, which hasn’t happened for over a century. Kristyn Getty wrote lyrics to match the well-known Irish melody which continues the theme that marked St Patrick’s life.

So I will go wherever He is calling me 
I lose my life to find my life in Him 
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him

 

Have a blessed and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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  • pastorandylynch

    Thanks for sharing the real reason we should celebrate the life of Patrick – he answered God’s call upon his life to take the Gospel to people who knew it not and were even hostile to it!

  • “How wonderful would it be for someone to celebrate the joy of salvation tonight and wake up tomorrow with the hope of eternal life, rather than a hangover?” Where I’m from, in a small Midwestern town, I grew up seeing “St. Patrick’s Day,” year after year, as another day for Irish Catholics to dress up and act like kids while being in a drunken stupor.

  • Matt Tarr

    Man! I’m never wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day again!

  • Darren Wiebe

    And for a little more theological St. Patrick humor.

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