A myHT Fortress

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sent & Preached; Heard and Believed: A Homily for St. Patrick's Day

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[I bring you greetings in the Name of the Lord from your brothers and sisters in Christ at St. John’s Lutheran Church & School in Chicago, as well as from Higher Things, a Recognized Service Organization of Synod. HT serves youth through various media, radio podcasts, retreats, and annual conferences.]

About 20 years ago, I was a pre-sem student, sitting in those pews – usually about the seventh row back, pulpit side. It was here at Concordia that I learned that we Lutherans commemorate various saints’ days. For some, this seemed to be strange and unusual; why would we focus on these people, and not the Lord? But they had it all wrong. A commemoration of a saint is not about that individual; it IS all about Jesus!

This morning we don’t have to be Irish or even wear green in order to celebrate. Today is a festival of our Lord, thanking and praising God for the missionary work through which thousands were evangelized, and rejoice to remember Patrick and say of the beloved bishop: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

These words were so appropriate for Patrick, a Christian youth from Scotland who had been kidnapped. He now was living among pagans in Ireland, tending flocks, serving a cruel master who happened to be a Druid high priest. The people of Ireland had not yet heard the Gospel. Patrick spent hours every day as he watched over these flocks, praying and meditating on the love of God, not knowing how the Lord was preparing him to one day shepherd that region – that country!

The Lord was gracious to Patrick and blessed him with escape. He fled 200 miles on foot to a sea port, and was able to return home to Britain. Yet our Lord Christ was still forming Patrick to be the future pastor of Ireland. A life of receiving God’s gifts of Gospel and Eucharist, and responding in prayer continued. And the Lord placed this thought, this understanding from Romans 10 before Patrick.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Sometime around the year 433, the Bishop of Rome sent Bishop Patrick and a number of companions as a great mission to Ireland. The people of that land had not believed. They had never heard. There had been no preaching for no one had been sent. But for the next 60 years, the Lord used Patrick and his fellow missionaries to preach the Gospel and deliver Christ’s gifts. They were sent. They preached. The people heard and believed.

And you sit here saying, “Thanks for the history lesson. So what? How does that apply to my life?”

The Lord still uses the same tools to deliver Jesus to you. You still won’t believe if you don’t hear, and you won’t hear if no pastor is preaching, and the pastor won’t preach if he’s not sent. Jesus doesn’t just wave a Harry Potter wand and *poof* He’s in your heart. No! He uses His means, and St. Paul tells us this morning about the means of the proclaimed Word. Hand in hand with Baptism, the preaching of the Gospel is basic to faith. It is vital – necessary – and a joy to receive Jesus in His Word.

The Lord places pastors in your life to bring that Word to you. He nurtured Patrick as he grew up in Britain. And He then took the young shepherd to later tend the flock of the people of Ireland. Bishop Patrick was sent and preached, and the Irish heard and believed. Yes! By the work of the Spirit, they were brought to faith! “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

So what do we celebrate today? Green beer? The casting out of snakes from the Emerald Isle? The accomplishments and legendary miracles of an ancient pastor whose remains now rest in the Cathedral at Down, Ireland? No. Not at all.

Today, our Lord blesses us to hear His Word and celebrate the Work and Word of Jesus, who sent Patrick to preach to Ireland, and now sends our pastors to preach to us, to form and feed faith that we may live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The Rev. Rich Heinz, Pastor
St. John’s Lutheran Church & School,
Chicago, IL

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