A number of years ago there was a character featured on Saturday Night Live which just celebrated it's 40th anniversary on TV. A depressed-looking, bug-eyed, frumpy woman named Debbie Downer had a knack for sharing negative information when others were trying to celebrate. Hang with me for a moment as this commentary starts with a Debbie Downer moment.
• Patrick was not Irish.
• As a young man he had no interest in God.
• He never drove out any snakes because there were none in Ireland.
• His use of a shamrock to teach the Trinity is cute for children but it's just a myth.
• There is no such thing as a leprechaun.
• Patrick didn't drink Guinness beer because it didn't exist.
Now I'm not a party-pooper. I enjoy a celebration but enjoy it even more when I understand what's legitimate and what's legend. With St. Patrick's Day and all the green, the parades, parties with Irish stew and toasts to the "luck of the Irish," let's get behind the blarney to focus on an incredible man of God who transformed a nation through the proclamation of the Gospel and the planting of churches.
The Real Story of St. Patrick
Years ago when I ministered in Ireland, I recall the descent of the plane and how absolutely awestruck I was as I beheld for the first time the Emerald Isle. This deep green countryside is the picture conjured up in the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of Irish celebrants who annually dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day. And in celebrations throughout America this special feast day is a sign of spring, bringing welcome relief after the cold of winter.
But what's really behind this day and the man we honor? After all, he died over 1554 years ago on, guess what, March 17, 461.
Patrick was born in Britain in 390 A.D. He was raised in a Christian family but his interest in God was almost nonexistent. He also was illiterate.
Teens are often apt to wander and Patrick sure did, reaping the consequences. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by thugs and taken hostage on a ship to Ireland.
Imagine the trauma and grief his parents experienced while praying for God's miraculous intervention and the return of their son.
What was he doing while being held captive in Ireland? For six agonizing years he was trapped as a slave working as a shepherd on hills where he tended the sheep. He was alone. He was scared. In desperation he began to cry out to God to rescue him from his plight.
Picture your teenage son or daughter on that hillside, trembling and fearful for their very life.
Yet God was at work in Patrick's soul (just as he is in your wayward son or daughter!). In his classic Confession he painfully wrote, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" until finally God broke through and revealed Himself in a dream and specifically said the following to this young, lost soul, "Your hunger is rewarded. You are going home. Look, your ship is ready."
Risking his life but pierced to the core by the call of God on his life, Patrick journeyed some 200 miles to the Irish coast! He bravely boarded a ship that was going to Britain and he knew instinctively God was taking him back home.
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