APC 17th March 2021 “Lessons from St. Patrick”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning and welcome to our service of worship. Let me begin by wishing you a very happy St Patrick’s Day. St Patrick is one of the most famous Christian missionaries of all time. Today we’re going to be reflecting on his life and thinking about some of the wonderful lessons he has to teach us. But let’s begin with a short prayer using words from one of the prayers attributed to St. Patrick…
We arise today, through God's strength to pilot us, God's might to uphold us, God's wisdom to guide us, God's eye to look before us, God's ear to hear us, God's word to speak for us, God's hand to guard us and God's shield to protect us…
Heavenly Father we praise you for the gift of another St Patrick’s Day and for this opportunity to worship you. As we draw near to you now, we ask that you will draw near to us. Teach us something new today or remind us of something we’ve forgotten or neglected. Rekindle our love for you. Comfort and strengthen us to endure our present trials. Join with me as we say the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
St. Patrick knew his bible
Before he died, Patrick wrote his ‘confessions’. In these writings he describes some of the main events in his life. He also gives praise to God for His goodness, His help and His faithfulness at every stage during his life. There are over 300 direct references in these confessions to the Holy Scriptures. This shows us just how important St Patrick considered reading the bible and committing it to memory. What about us? You know it’s easy for us to forget just what a privilege it is for us to have the bible in our own language and to be able to access it in so many ways. The question is, are we taking full advantage of these privileges?
REFLECT How might I find more time in my life to read Holy Scripture?
The more I’ve read about St Patrick, the more he reminds me of St. Paul. Like Paul, Patrick was very conscious that everything he had and everything he accomplished was only because of the grace and mercy of God shown to Him in Christ Jesus. Echoing St Paul’s words, Patrick begins his confessions with these humble words, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person and the least of all believers.”
In his lifetime Patrick endured many things that we would consider unimaginable by today’s standards. He was stolen from his family in Cumbria and forced to look after sheep in the glens of Antrim for 6 years. He eventually escaped and found refuge on a ship bound for Gaul, which is modern day France. Eventually he was reunited with his family. Patrick must surely have identified with the many persecutions Paul endured as he journeyed from country to country telling people about Jesus. Patrick must also have taken great comfort from Paul’s testimony that Christ gave Him the strength and courage to endure.
After over twenty years of waiting, training and preparation Patrick finally returned to Ireland to share the love of God with those who had treated him so cruelly. He knew their culture, he understood their customs, he spoke their language, and by the time he died at the age of 76, God had used him to turn the hearts of the Irish people from fear and brutality to the way of Christ and of peace.
I am sure Patrick was also inspired by Paul’s words that He didn’t care what people did to him as long as he remained faithful to his God-given task of telling people that God loved them through Christ. That’s why I want to take a few moments to read some of these words of St. Paul. These would have been words St. Patrick read over and over again until they became the very heartbeat of his soul. You can find them in Chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Romans in verses 28-39.
Reading: Romans 8: 28-39
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These are words that bring us much comfort as we continue to battle with the current restrictions.
St. Patrick Prayed often
Like any true Christian, Patrick was humbly aware of his own failings. I’m sure on a regular basis he spent time confessing His sins to God. But He was also someone who was full of joy and overflowing with thankfulness because of God’s kindness and help to Him in answer to his prayers. He writes, “This I know for certain, that before I was brought low, I was like a stone lying deep in the mud. Then He who is powerful came, and in His mercy pulled me out and lifted me up and placed me on the very top of the wall. That is why I must shout aloud in return to the Lord for such great good deeds of his, here and now and forever, which the human mind cannot measure.” Patrick’s example of confession and thanksgiving is a good one to follow. So we’re now going to take a few moments to say sorry for the ways we may have offended God and also to thank Him for His kindness to us. Let us pray-
Prayer of Confession and Thanks
Dear Lord, forgive us when we have loved other things more than you. Forgive us when we have been too proud to admit that we need your help. Forgive us when we have failed to give you thanks. Forgive us when we have been too busy to make time for you. Forgive us when we have accumulated wealth without being willing to share with those in need. Forgive us when we have shied away from sharing our faith.
Take a moment to bring your own confessions to God…
Thank you for your patience. Thank you that you never stop loving us. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for our sins. Thank you that through His death and resurrection we can be set free from the guilt and power of our sins. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Help us through His presence and power to change our bad habits and wrong attitudes into attitudes and actions that are right and good.
Take a moment to bring your own thanks to God…
Lord, help us, like St Patrick, to love you, to forgive those who have hurt us, and to share your love with the people we rub shoulders with each day. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
St. Patrick was humble and gave all the credit to God
I think if Patrick came back to Ireland during one of our normal St Patrick’s Days, he would be a little bit embarrassed that we were throwing a huge party in his honour. That’s because throughout his writings, Patrick is very clear to point out that he takes absolutely no credit for anything he accomplished. In his mind everything he had become and everything he was able to accomplish was only possible because of the grace and help of Jesus Christ. As St Paul says in Ephesians, our salvation from start to finish is a gift from God to us in Christ Jesus. It is only through the help of God’s Spirit that we can become more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions every day.
Reflect How do you feel when you think about Christ dying for you? In what practical ways are you relying on the Holy Spirit and giving God the credit in your life?
St Patrick looked to God for help in life’s battles
St. Patrick's Breastplate is a popular prayer attributed to St. Patrick. According to tradition, he wrote it in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity. The term breastplate refers to a piece of armour worn in battle. Here again we see the influence of St. Paul on Patrick. For in chapter 6 of his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul reminds them that the Christian life is a spiritual battle. He encourages them to put on spiritual armour in order to withstand the attempts of the enemy to get them to turn away from Christ. Let’s listen to this passage that was obviously such an inspiration to St. Patrick and can be a great encouragement to us.
Reading: Ephesians 6: 10-20
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Reflect This Pandemic has created many battles for us all. What battles are you facing right now and how might the armour of God help you?
St. Patrick spent His whole life sharing God’s love
In response to God’s grace and call, Patrick gave his whole life to the task of sharing the love of God with the people who had treated him as a slave. There is no greater example of the Christian way of caring for others as Christ did. One of the ways we can follow in Patrick’s footsteps is by bringing other people and their needs to God in prayer. That’s what we’re going to do now. Let me encourage you to include a few people you know who need God’s help. Let us pray:
Prayers for others
God of all comfort, we bring to you the people we know who are sick or in hospital. We pray for those who despite this being St Patrick’s Day will find this a day of sorrow, of loneliness and of pain. We pray that through the help of medical staff and the support of friends and family that people may find the hope and the encouragement that they need. We remember all those who are struggling financially. Watch over each one and provide for people even in miraculous ways as you did for Patrick.
We thank you that many of our children have returned to school and for all the continued efforts of all the staff. Give them continued wisdom, energy and enthusiasm. Protect each one, and grant that soon our other children and young adults will also be able to return to school and university. In the meantime grant them the emotional and physical strength that they need to keep going.
We pray that any issues around the vaccination program may be able to be resolved and that soon the most vulnerable in our societies throughout the world will be protected.
Lord we pray that soon our churches will be reopened for worship and that in the meantime like St. Patrick may we even find that these adversities enable us to cling to you more closely.
We pray that the legacy of St Patrick will continue to lead people throughout our world to consider the message of Christ. Fill us afresh this day with your Holy Spirit. May we know you like St. Patrick knew you and may our lives be a blessing to those around us just as his life was a blessing to so many.
We pray especially for our children, our family members, our friends and the people we work with. Lord may all these people see Christ in the way that we live. May we in some way be enabled to help them to come to know you as their heavenly Father…
Take a few moments now to bring one or two people or situations in your own mind to God in prayer…
All these prayers we offer in the name of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
Again, it’s been a joy and privilege to share in worship with you this morning. Thanks for logging. I do hope that despite our restrictions you have a very special St Patrick’s Day with your family and get a chance to relax in each other’s company.
Do join us again on Sunday when we’ll consider one of the most intriguing statements of Christ as he reflects on the reality that the hour of His death draws nigh..
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
As we come to the end of our service we are reminded that our worship has not ended it has only just begun, for all of life is worship…So as you go into another week to serve your Lord may you know what Patrick knew- Christ is with you, Christ is before you, Christ is behind you, Christ is in you, Christ is beneath you, Christ is above you, Christ is on your right, Christ is on your left, Christ is there when you lie down, Christ is beside you when you sit, and Christ is at your shoulder when you stand….And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be wit us all now and forevermore, Amen.
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