The Commemoration of St. Patrick
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church Kurtzville, Ontario Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
Isa 52:7-10; 1 The 2:2-12; St Matthew 28:16-20
Patrick, it’s his day today, the day the Church remembers a saint who by God’s rich grace brought Jesus to the Irish. Patrick, a servant of Christ, captured at 16 that he might one day set his captors free; enslaved in a foreign land that he might one day lead his slave-masters home; a herdsman to pigs that he might one day shepherd the sheep of Christ.
The luck of the Irish has little to do with the fact that Patrick’s day happens to be the same day that we his fellow servants have gathered here. Although I can claim to be 1/8 Irish, my ¾-plus German content, I am sure, overrules it. Fortunate? Providential? Fortuitous? Whatever it may be, it is noteworthy. As we gather to ponder the work of the Church with her young people, how helpful to have such an example to reflect on, to learn from, to imitate.
This stalwart missionary heading back into not only a foreign culture but an enemy culture to teach them about Christ has something to say to all of us as we consider work with youth. They too at times can seem like a foreign culture to many of us, even though we too were once a part of it, and perhaps in a rather delusional kind of way think it was not so long ago that we left it behind.
Six years of slavery amongst the Irish without a doubt prepared Patrick for true service to the people of the fair green isle. He learned their language. He learned their thoughts. He learned their ways. Our recollections of our own journey through our difficult teen years, as well as careful observation and study of today’s youth, in a similar way can help us to serve the young sheep of Christ.
Yet while Patrick’s knowledge of the Irish was a help to him, it was not what brought him back to his captors’ land or gave power to his work amongst them. What drove Patrick back to Ireland and empowered him to drive the Great Serpent from her shores was not a love and knowledge of their smiling Irish eyes, since they smiled little on him in his time there.
What drove Patrick back to Ireland, what empowered him for the great work he accomplished there, was the authoritative sending word that our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the Eleven… "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
Patrick was drawn into that great sending out that began in the heart of the Father, took on flesh in the incarnation of the Son, flowed out in the giving of the Spirit, and flooded the world in the life of the Church. As Patrick returned to the land of his captivity he was part of that great sending out that the nations might be caught up and returned to the Lord. He was drawn into God’s glorious work of drawing back and binding up again what sin had broken and torn apart.
As Patrick went to the nation of the Irish he went as a part of that sending ministry, that apostolic ministry whose work is to bind the children of man back to God and to one another through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sending ministry, the gathering ministry, is always centered and focused on the Sent One, the Gathering One; it is always about Jesus.
And so that ministry is always a baptismal ministry, where Jesus is given and shared so that through Him poor sinners may be brought back into life with the Triune God. The baptismal ministry then unfolds in the life of the disciple in nurturing, nourishing, building up the disciple in the communal life of Christ through His life-renewing forgiveness, His life-creating Word, and His life-imparting flesh and blood.
Although Patrick’s day has been hijacked to be a celebration of those he was sent to return to the Lord, the Irish, what this day is actually about is the ministry accomplished by God through this poor miserable sinner, who wasn’t even Irish himself. In a similar way the Lord wants to keep us mindful that our work amongst the youth is about God’s ministry to them. As Patrick’s day has come to be about all things Irish, so too our work amongst the youth can be in danger of becoming about all things youthful instead of all things Jesus.
In our rapidly changing world, in an increasingly hostile culture, we have a great task, what sometimes can seem an insurmountable task, to serve the young people of today, and to help them to remain faithful to Christ. The temptation is ever there to look to other things, to other means—other than those that Christ has given to us—to try and keep what so often seems like such a feeble grip on our young people. Yet if the ministry of the Church is to be the ministry of Christ, it must do the things that Christ has given it to do.
Undoubtedly as Patrick looked to those shores where he had been cruelly enslaved and mistreated, I am sure he had misgivings about the task that the Lord had given to him. Yet what propelled him forward, and what is here to propel us forward, is the beautiful bookends that our Lord gives to His sending mandate. All authority in heaven on earth has been given to me… and behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. The sending ministry is not only all about Jesus but it is carried out with Jesus; it is carried out in and through Jesus.
The all-authoritative Christ is always with us, brothers, to do His work for His people. He has promised to be with us always until the end, until the work is finished. In confirmation of this truth He stands before us today in His flesh and blood, the flesh and blood in which He suffered and died to save us, the flesh and blood in which He rose from the grave that we might have life in His name, the flesh and blood in which He stood on the mountain and spoke those powerful words to the Eleven.
In this flesh and blood He speaks to us today also in the midst of our fears and failures, our worries and our doubts, and says, “Behold, see, all authority has been given to Me, and I am with you always; and so do not fear, go in peace, and in Me you will bear abundant fruit.” Amen.