The real St. Patrick

Of this Gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

-- Ephesians 3:7-8, ESV

There is a lot to love about living in Hot Springs, not the least of which is the annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day parade. Though normally averse to crowds, I usually elbow my way in to enjoy the festivities. Seeing national celebrities serve as starters and marshals is interesting. Watching people kiss rocks and cheer giant potatoes is something you don't see every day. And, there is something liberating about enjoying a bratwurst and a brew in the middle of a city street.

However, I always notice one thing missing: the real St. Patrick. After all, it's his day, right? Even when there is some allusion to the parade's namesake, it is usually off-kilter. Patrick was not a leprechaun, he was a man. Patrick wasn't Irish, he was Scottish, but did live and minister in Ireland. Patrick was a saint, a Christian, but he was not a Saint with a big "S," as he was never canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He did not chase away snakes, he did not fancy clovers, and green was not necessarily his favorite color.

Patrick was kidnapped as a youth from his native Scotland and sold to serve a warlord in Ireland. He escaped and made his way to France, then back home to Scotland, where he converted to a fervent, evangelical Christianity. God, who has a great sense of humor, then called Patrick to return to Ireland, where he had been a slave, to set people free with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

His strategy was to target his former warlord and other fifth-century tribal heads. He believed if the leaders converted to Christianity, their followers would become followers of Jesus Christ. His plan worked marvelously, and to this day Patrick is credited with spreading Christianity all over the island nation of Ireland.

Here is the historic Patrick, in his own words:

"My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.

"I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.

"This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.

"I am greatly in debt to God. He gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again in God and brought to full life.

"Christ will never perish. Nor will they perish who do his will but they will abide forever just as Christ will abide forever. He lives with God the Father almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the ages began, and now, and for all the ages of ages. Amen."

Reading a biography of Patrick is like reliving the adventures of Paul in the New Testament. Seldom has the world seen such a humble, devoted, determined minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick dedicated his life to win souls and plant churches in Ireland. Now he is with the true saints in Heaven, reaping the rewards of a life well lived for Christ.

Perhaps next year we can get Patrick into his own parade. Sure, let's have more celebrities. Bring on the music, maybe even have another Three Dog Night. Sell those brats and beers. But maybe, perhaps on a float somewhere between the cheerleaders and the big spud, let's have a simple man preaching the simple Gospel with the singular purpose of seeing people give their lives to Jesus Christ. Now that would be a real St. Patrick's Day parade.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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