Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day 2010

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he did spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25

I can't help but think of St. Patrick on this day. A man, born, bred and educated in England (as well as on the continent) who was taken as a slave to work in Ireland, only to return there to be their most famous and beloved missionary. He could have had great anger at the abuse he took at the hands of the Irish people. And they could, have resented this upstart foreigner for bringing a foreign religion to their shores, the new faith of their most constant oppressors. And yet, all these generations later, he is probably the most beloved and most highly revered Englishman in the history of Ireland. He brought the Christian faith, not by sword or dominance, but through love. He gently and completely loved the people and found ways to connect their lives and faith to the Gospel. Some said he was able to "indigenize' Christianity - that is making it real within the local context within the story of the people. Whatever he did, Ireland is a very Christian nation despite her many conflicts and trials. St. Patrick, following his Savior, brought new sight to people, through a gentle, hands-on approach. They knew they were loved and honored by him and so could readily embrace his Jesus. He brought a Gospel of love and forgiveness, and a Gospel that was already in love with the people he encountered. He brought the story of the God of history, who is love, and who is constantly aching to heal and renew all people.

Today, on this St. Patrick's Day, no matter how you celebrate it, I am reminded that we all owe Patrick a great deal of gratitude for his model of leadership and ministry. He brought the Gospel with love. The enormous love of a people who had once enslaved him, to a land that was far from home across the rough and desolate Irish Sea. He did not come with swords drawn but with arms open wide. He loved them and they found their way to Christ. May we all have the courgae to live like Patrick, fiercely loving, constantly forgiving and willing to go into enemy territory with God's love as our breast plate.

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