Now it’s a well-known fact that Patrick was Scottish.
At a young age he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to the Emerald Isle, where he spent six years in slavery. It was there, while he was working as a herdsman, Patrick met the locals who would eventually help him escape his captors and get off the island.
Once he was safely home, Patrick longed to return to Ireland and those wonderful people he met. And it wasn’t just for their corn beef or corny jokes.
However, while his life was shrouded in myths and legends, Patrick’s story isn’t so much about herding snakes into the sea as it is about sharing love. The kind of love that would make Patrick risk everything he had for the people he cared deeply for.
Think about it, for Patrick to go back would be not only risky but an extremely dangerous mission. First off, the island itself was not very accessible. Getting there would not be easy.
He’d need to catch a ride on some kind of vessel going to a place that was visited less by merchants and more with the pirates and runaways.
And let’s not forget, Patrick was also considered a fugitive on the island. If his old captors found him, there’s no telling what they’d do to punish him.
Then, on top of the many dangers, there was the problem of language. The Hibernian people had not been conquered or influenced by outsiders and so their language was oral and not written out. I would argue one of the greatest gifts Patrick gave to these people was translating their sounds into words. If you’ve ever been in a real Irish pub, and talked to one of the local patrons, you know how difficult a language it is to understand.
After years of this tenuous work, Patrick was finally able to share the Gospel with them in what today we call Gaelic. As he was learning their language, Patrick taught them the gospel in a different way – by living in community with the people, working closely with them, building trust by becoming one of them.
The only word he had to speak was Love. Well actually, two words: God’s love. Patrick understood what God’s love meant to him. And nothing could stop him from sharing it.
So what then do we know about love? In the 3 chapter of his first letter, John wrote this to the Christian churches.
READ: 1 John 3:16-24
John’s gospel is Jesus’ gospel. That is to say they both tell the same truth or good news of God’s redemptive love. I like to think of redemptive love as the highest form of love out there.
It can only come from God. It has the power to redeem us and transform us into who God made us to be. Like Jesus’ own story reveals, God’s redemptive love can help us, heal us, lift us up and liberate us when nothing else will.
Now, it’s one thing to love someone. It’s another thing to love as confidently as Jesus did; setting aside his wants and needs for everyone else. Such confidence and love go hand in hand.
For example, if you know that God loves you no matter what, and if you truly understand that there is nothing you can do to earn that love, or ever run out of that love then you have all you need to go and do the same to anyone and everyone.
As someone once said, “To love fearlessly and faithfully is to love confidently before God and before your fellow human beings; without worrying about what others might think or do.”
John seems to understand God’s love as more than an emotional feeling. It is also an action. Love sets everything else into motion. Like Patrick, he also understood the depth and complexity of God’s love. And described as such: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
Is he suggesting we take a bullet for someone? Or interfere when you see someone hurting another? Yes, love could me that. But it doesn’t have to be so dangerous or complicated. If you “see a brother or sister in need, have pity and help them.”
Love is bold, and daring, and risky. Patrick knew this. He was willing to risk all that he had for it. I understand that feeling. God’s love is so overwhelming that I’m compelled to share it.
I know how important it is to let people know that God loves them. I try to say this every week. But words are not enough. Especially if the words of my heart don’t match the actions of my hands. Like John wrote, “Don’t just talk about love; get out there and practice it.’
Moving into Anamesa, our call, our mission, is to demonstrate love in the same way that Jesus did. Which is the same way Patrick did.
As we traverse the sacred space between our heart and hands, we are called to act – especially towards the poor – by addressing poverty. We must stand up against the injustices that keep people from thriving in God’s Kingdom. I mean even bigots and racists have words. Yet their actions often lead to the very things that God abhors.
Our words must build bridges, not walls; embrace peace, not war; offer forgiveness and hospitality, hope and care to all people, especially the least of these our brothers and sisters. Love is bold, and daring, and risky. It requires us to be that as well.
Which makes that space between our head and heart the longest, most trying journey we will ever take. However, one cannot live into their faith alone. The love you have been given needs to be shared – to be lived out in community. It’s in practicing God’s love with one another that Christ comes alive in our communities, healing and transforming whatever space we’re in.
As Richard Rohr wrote, “To live out Christ in the world is not to speak about Christ but to live in the surrender of love, the poverty of being, and the cave of the heart.”
Lent is a time to align our heart and hands with God, with Christ, and with one another. We need not be perfect, just willing. Even through imperfect love the Holy Spirit can do amazing things.
By seeing and doing what Jesus did, Patrick was able to open up his heart and showed the people what God’s love looks like in real time.
We should do the same. My challenge to you this week is simply to go out and be the gospel.
John boils it all down to this: Accept the divine love that comes in the name of Jesus Christ and to share that love with one another.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate St. Patrick than with corn beef, cabbage, soda bread, a wee dram of Jamesons...and opening your heart and hands to share a feast of God’s love with everyone in the world.
*From an original "The Luck Of Us All" on March 17, 2019.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”