Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Whenever there are remembrances or celebrations of some important historical person or period of time, I welcome it. It provides a time to teach, to remember and to learn. Today we remember Patrick, missionary to Ireland.
There is much more to Patrick than what is remembered and celebrated during the annual St. Patrick’s Day. Even though the “much more” consists of some myth and legend, it also consists of a true disciple of Christ who had experienced new life and was given a new mission.
There are a few things that Patrick did that were exemplary.
As we consider history, this is also an opportunity to share one of the periodicals that has been very insightful over the years: Christian History (I have every issue published, and it is a periodical I commend to you). Issue 60 addressed “How the Irish Were Saved” and Mary Cagney wrote the article on “Patrick the Saint.” Here is her conclusion:
It is difficult to separate fact from fiction in the stories of Patrick’s biographers. It is historically clear, however, that Patrick was one of the first great missionaries who brought the gospel beyond the boundaries of Roman civilization. According to tradition, he had established bishops throughout northern, central, and eastern Ireland. Only Munster, in the south, was to remain pagan until a century after Patrick’s death.
Patrick was the ultimate model for Celtic Christians. He engaged in continuous prayer. He was enraptured by God and loved sacred Scripture. He also had a rich poetic imagination with the openness to hear God in dreams and visions and a love of nature and the created.
He is, then, most worthy of the appellation saint, as one “set apart” for a divine mission. As such, he became an inspiring example. Hundreds of Celtic monks, in emulation of Patrick, left their homeland to spread the gospel to Scotland, England, and continental Europe.
It is a legacy Patrick was proud of: “For God gave me such grace, that many people through me were reborn to God and afterward confirmed and brought to perfection. And so then a clergy was ordained for them everywhere.”
Today we remember and thank the Lord for those who served the Lord faithfully in their generation (cf. Acts 13:36). Patrick was one of those. May we be challenged today to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in our own setting in our own generation.