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Discovering God in a shamrock

March 14, 2011 No Comment

by Kelly Klages

Many stories and legends circulate about St. Patrick. Maybe you’ve heard how he is credited for driving all the snakes from Ireland, or how he explained the concept of the Trinity to the pagan druids using the three-leafed shamrock.

What we know for certain is that Patrick was born around 387AD of a high-ranking Roman family in Britain, and was abducted at the age of 16 by Irish raiders, forced into slavery in the land of his captors. Several years later, he escaped and returned to his native Britain, only to return as a missionary and pastor to the Irish.

By all accounts, he was a man of fervent prayer and zealous for the salvation of the Irish people. He is believed to have died on March 17 in Ireland in the middle of the 5th century.

Patrick’s commitment to Christ, his love for the Church and the spread of the Gospel continue to inspire and endear him to many believers throughout the world. The famous poem attributed to him, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, is featured in our Lutheran Service Book.

“I bind unto myself this day the strong name of the Trinity by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three” (from St. Patrick’s Breastplate, LSB #604).

Like so many celebrations, the Christian origins of St. Patrick’s Day has given way to a rather crass and commercialized mishmash of silly superstitions, ethnic pride, and green beer. Just as the Church begins its austere season of Lent, the world is already looking forward to the big drink-up and revelry to come on the 17th.

Even if we’re not into the heavy partying, let’s face it: who among us is taking the time  we should this season to pray for the sending of faithful pastors with the Gospel message, and for the lost? Two minutes’ reflection on the bold faith and courageous deeds of St. Patrick, and I have to shamefully admit that I spent more time last March 17 looking for something green to wear than I did thanking God for mercifully sending the Gospel message to my ancestors and to people everywhere.

So, I suppose it’s easy to feel not-so-sanctified when considering the faith and example of one of the greats like Patrick. I’m not exactly facing a nation of hostile Druids, but what about the ordinariness of life, the struggle and temptation, the fears ranging from “What will people think?” to death itself?

Martin Luther encourages us to bind unto ourselves each day the strong name of the Trinity

Patrick knew where to turn. In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther encourages us to bind unto ourselves each day to the strong name of the Trinity. Both morning and evenings prayers teach: “Make the sign of the holy cross and say: ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer…”

Who’d have thought such a simple devotion could contain such power? Our Baptism into Christ is the strong name of the Trinity placed on us by God. Give the devil a visual reminder of the cross that saves you and it sends him packing.

Need a refresher course on just what a “strong name” the Triune God has? Confess the Apostles’ Creed, and hear what each person of the Trinity does for you and for your salvation.

Tempted and oppressed? Say the Lord’s Prayer and be free from every doubt of God’s love for you. Remembering to Whom we belong, and what our faith confesses, is the secret to the strength of every Christian. In Christ, we have been baptized and made children of God. His cross is ours, and His forgiveness is sure. For Jesus’ sake, our Father hears and answers our prayers.

Luther writes: “If the devil puts it into your head that you lack the holiness, piety, and worthiness of David and for this reason cannot be sure that God will hear you, make the sign of the cross, and say to yourself: ‘Let those be pious and worthy who will! I know for a certainty that I am a creature of the same God who made David. And David, regardless of his holiness, has no better or greater God than I have.’ There is only one God, of saint and sinner, worthy and unworthy, great and small. Regardless of the inequalities among us, He is the one and equal God of us all, who wants to be honored, called on, and prayed to by all.” 

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, remember this bold pastor who defied the devil in the name of his Triune God. Let the nearest shamrock remind you this God is yours, too, and that you are His. He has bound Himself to you forever.

Kelly Klages is an author, artist, mom and member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Winkler, Manitoba