I Bind Unto Myself This Day
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
As a child, this day was marked by two things: green milk and wearing something with at least a little bit of green so I didn’t get pinched at school. That, and maybe the story of using the shamrock to teach about the Trinity, was about all I knew of St. Patrick until I read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill as a teenager and learned a good deal more about this ancient saint.
I was surprised to learn that Patrick was not Irish—as I always assumed—but a Briton. He first came to Ireland not as a priest but as a slave. He had been captured by Irish slavers as a youth and spent years enslaved in Ireland before he escaped back to his native land.
When he became a priest, he was recognized as being in a unique position of knowing the pagan Irish and was sent back as a missionary to convert them to Christianity. He met staunch opposition by those who feared him and the message he bore. The prayer, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, is attributed to him; purportedly his daily prayer for God’s protection from the dangers he faced. (The prayer is the basis for the hymn, “I Bind unto Myself Today”— #450 in our hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship.)
By the end of his life, however, he succeeded in reaching a significant part of the population with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian communities he established throughout the Emerald Isle became a source—though not the only one—of preserving the knowledge of the ancients throughout the period in Europe commonly called the “Dark Ages.”
In reflecting upon the life of this famous saint, I am struck by the fact that he spent his life in service to the gospel working to save the very people who had enslaved him. He dedicated his life to the sanctification of the very culture which had been a source of pain for him. Here we see a reflection of Christ, our Savior, who came to die for His enemies (see Romans 5:6-11)—who, even as He was being crucified, forgave those who were executing Him (see Luke 23:32-34).
So, whether or not your breakfast today was in hues of green (we had green smoothies in our house), and whether or not you’re sporting any green clothing, nevertheless, there are meaningful ways to observe this day. Perhaps, in light of our Savior’s mercy and the way it took shape in the life of Patrick, we also can look at those who have caused us pain and heartache and consider how God is calling us to reach out with love and forgiveness.
Your servant in the gospel,