Saint Patrick's Day doesn't fall on a Sunday very often. We honor a great missionary and visionary on this day. Most of us will wear green, watch or march in parades, green dye will be dumped into the Chicago River, and schoolchildren who are not wearing green with be pinched by their classmates. But, another missionary saint had a dramatic vision that would lead to so many parallels with Saint Patrick's story.
In Acts, Saint Paul was known to have had some big visions. One of his most famous visions was one that came to him and told him to go to Macedonia. He went, built relationships, preached the Gospel, and encouraged thousands to come to Christ.
Patricious lived in the 600s. As a 16-year-old born into wealth, he made fun of the clergy. However, some Celtic Pirates invaded Ireland and he was captured. He was enslaved and forced to heard livestock. Alone with his thoughts, he prayed to God, the One who he so ridiculed. As he prayed, he began to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit. Without outside help, he began to become a devout Christian. His captors even began to see the Triune God that Partick saw. Patrick saw his captors as humans, not barbarians. After six years in captivity, he saw a vision: "You're going home...your ship is ready." He walked 200 miles to the seacoast and boarded a ship bound for England. He rejoined his family. Once there, he had another vision: He received letters from his former captors and heard voices begging him to come back and walk and speak among them. Patrick said that he had received a "Macedonian Call" and he indeed returned to the same place as the captors lived. Saint Patrick was now the captor, capturing souls for Christ, reaching thousands for the Love of God.
See, the Irish were known as fearce warriors. They would carry the heads of their defeated enemies after battle. However, Patrick was not afraid because he had the Power of the Lord on his side and the Irish were converted to the saint's radical approach. He didn't ask them to come to church; he went to different tribes and villages and met them where they were. He prayed for the people and built great relationships. What Saint Patrick discovered was that going out among the people and praying for them and with them, the people could discover the Greatness of the Lord. He planted 700 churches in Ireland. He had men and women serving side by side to help connect with communities. The effect of his ministry was a total transformation. The illiterate Irish soon became the people who saved civilization. The slave trade ended. The ministry began to move out and spread the Gospel rather than wait for non-believers to come to them.
What does this story have to do with us. God can use terrible, tragic events to transform nations. God wants us to reach everyone and when we put the enemy on notice, we need to understand that we will run into opposition. We need to realize that all people are important to God: Saint Patrick, his captors, outsiders, outcasts...and us.
There were no parties, there was no green beer, and there was no green t-shirts with cheesy saying when Saint Patrick planted the churches. However, the rejoicing was in Heaven for the people and the relationships that were developed in Ireland; disciples made disciples. We need to be in the ministry and in the business of building relationships who create ministries and build relationships. God wants to use everyone to lead others to His Kingdom.