Summary: Saint Patrick's Day wasn't originally a celebration of beer, leprechauns and all things Irish. Rather, it's supposed to be a celebration of Saint Patrick sharing the Christian faith with Ireland. This alliterated sermon encourages Christian to follow his
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY: SHARING YOUR SHAMROCK
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Those of you who happened to be in attendance about this same time last year may remember me sharing true story behind Saint Patrick’s Day. But since Saint Patrick’s Day is an annual event, I thought I’d refresh your memories and tell it anew for those who weren’t here last year.
Rather than being a celebration of leprechauns, beer, and all things Irish, Saint Patrick’s Day was originally a celebration of the life and death of Patrick of Berniae and Ireland’s acceptance of Christianity!
Since his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest, Patrick had a very religious upbringing. But when he was about sixteen, he was out working in his father’s field when Irish militia raided the land. Patrick was kidnapped and carried off as a slave to Ireland. There, he worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years. During that time he writes that his faith grew and that he prayed daily. After six years he finally escaped by stowing away on a ship, traveling more than two-hundred miles, and finally returning home. When he was old enough, he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, eventually becoming a Bishop in the church. But in the latter half of his life, Patrick felt called to become a missionary—to go back to the land in which he had been a slave and share the grace and love of Jesus Christ. So in latter part of the fifth century, just four hundred years or so after the death of Christ, Patrick became instrumental in bringing Christianity to Ireland.
Others had tried to bring Christianity to Ireland, but the Irish people could not grasp the concept of the Trinity—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all said to be God. To them it sounded like polytheism at best and nonsense at worst. While other missionaries had struggled to explain the concept of the Trinity, Patrick relied on a simple illustration—he used a shamrock, or three-leaf clover, which was the symbol of national pride in Ireland at the time, to explain the nature of the Triune God of the Bible. Each leaf is separate and distinct, yet part of a whole. It’s just one clover, yet with three individual leaves. By making that simple comparison, countless Irish men and women were able to accept the basic concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, Saint Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of the life of Saint Patrick himself, who died on March 17, as well as a celebration of the birth of Christianity in Ireland.
Last year, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day I attempted to follow in Patrick’s footsteps by unpacking the doctrine of the Trinity. This year, while still following in Patrick’s footsteps, I’d like to take a different route and talk to you about sharing your faith!
We are not all missionaries. None of us are likely to be responsible for bringing Christianity to a country that had rejected it for centuries. But, like Saint Patrick, we are all responsible for sharing the grace and love of Jesus Christ with the world around us.
Before he returned to heaven to be with God the Father, Jesus gave his disciples a very important mission—so important that Jesus repeated it five times, in five different ways, in five different books of the Bible. Matthew recorded it this way: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 TEV).
This mission was given to every follower of Jesus, not just to preachers or missionaries. It belongs to our whole church and to each one of us individually, and it’s not optional. If you belong to God’s family, then this mission is mandatory.
Something most of us don’t realize is that the Greek verb translated go is actually not a command; rather it’s a present participle and should be translated going. We aren’t actually commanded to travel the world; in fact, the only command in these verses is “make disciples.” Essentially, Jesus is saying, “While you are going, wherever you are going, make disciples.” No matter who you are or where you are, you ought to be a witness, sharing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with those around you.
Now, that being said, although we have the same faith in Jesus, we don’t always share our faith in the same way. So I’d like to talk with you about three different ways of sharing your faith—think of them as the three leaves of a shamrock, each one part of the whole. With these three leaves, you can share your shamrock (your faith in Jesus) in just about any given situation. Since we’re remembering Saint Patrick today, let’s start with the approach that he used, which I call the intellectual approach.