Before I forget, let me begin by wishing all of you a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
We had a beautiful service this week on a number of different levels. First off, both of my children were home, and that’s always a blessing -- though the reason that they were both home this weekend was because they came back to attend the funeral of my Uncle Bill, who passed away this week after years of struggling with cardiac issues. In keeping with his character, Uncle Bill’s funeral was about the least formal, least “churchy” version of a funeral that we could do, while still making a point to put our assurance of eternal life in Christ at the center of things. It was a joy to hear people laughing, even while we all mourn the passing of someone whom we love.
In the service itself, we hosted Graham and Leah League, sharing a Minute for Missions focus on their ministry at Great Oaks Camp, as well as celebrating their new marriage. We even had the opportunity to provide a simple soup and salad lunch for everyone so that the whole church family could love and encourage the young couple as they launch off into their new life together. I genuinely appreciated that one family in our church made it a point to make me some absolutely delicious Irish lamb stew and homemade Irish brown bread to go with it -- not only because they knew of my affection for the day, but specifically as a way of showing that they love and support our family in our time of grief.
In the message this week, we deviated from our norm just a smidgey bit and -- instead of expositing a Bible passage -- we took a page out of our Church History class and briefly went over the life of Saint Patrick, using him as an example of everything that we’ve been talking about recently. Too often, we as Christians assume that we either need to love people well or take a stand for Truth, as if those actions were mutually exclusive. But Patrick was an excellent example of how to blend both of those together.
A wealthy, spoiled, “churched-but-disinterested” teenager in Wales was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave... where he remembered the teachings that he’d so casually disregarded in his youth, and ultimately gave his heart to the Lord. After escaping his captivity, he spent the next 22 years studying, growing in the Lord, and preparing for ministry.
Amazingly, God gave him a passion for returning to the very people who had enslaved him earlier, armed with an unwavering commitment to the unchanging truths of God’s Word, as well as an unwavering commitment to lovingly sharing that truth with the lost.
So what is God calling you and me to today? Who might He be leading you to reach out to? Maybe it’s someone who makes you uncomfortable (such as a scabrous beggar like Lazarus in Christ’s parable -- or, conversely, the sort of self-absorbed rich man who would ignore a beggar like that), or someone who makes you angry (such as the ungrateful younger brother in another parable -- or, conversely, the older brother who refused to forgive him), or maybe it’s someone who makes you afraid of being wronged again (such as the Irish slavers who had wronged Patrick in his youth). But when you’re deciding how to react to God’s leading in reaching out to others, remember to ask yourself whose example you most wish to follow -- those who love and obey the Lord, or the very people whom you’re uncomfortable reaching out to?