In our world today, many once sacred things have become so secularized that they have almost entirely lost their original meaning. Though Christmas and Easter certainly come to mind with such a topic, so does Saint Patrick’s Day. Though nowadays often viewed as a silly holiday, Saint Patty’s Day actually might provide your church a unique opportunity to give a reason for the hope that is within you.
Reclaim the Sacred from the Secular
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
(1 Peter 3:15 ESV)
A few days ago I was walking through Target and stopped dead in my tracks because I saw something that I couldn’t believe. At the end of an aisle, the store had a display that was stocked from top to bottom with green sunglasses, green napkins, green t-shirts, green bowties and what seemed like a hundred or so other green things.
“Wow! Where did 2017 go? How is it already almost Saint Patrick’s Day?”
After pausing for a moment, I shrugged my shoulders and walked on, for I’ve never gone to a Patty’s day parade, worn green beads, or gone out of my way to cook an Irish-themed meal on the March holiday that so many others seem to celebrate.
The more that I thought about the actual holiday, however, my heart actually became encouraged in the Lord. For beyond the deliciousness of a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s (or two… or three), the day actually brought to mind the life story of a 5th century believer named Patrick whose testimony still has the power to speak edification to believers and good news to non-believers, even in our modern world today.
In 405 A.D., a young Scottish boy named Patrick was captured by Irish men, brought to their native soil, and enslaved. He remained in Ireland, serving in captivity for 6 years before he was able to escape and return home. After returning home to Scotland, however, Patrick came to believe in the gospel of Jesus and eventually felt compelled to return to the then pagan country of his captors in order to share the gospel with those who had enslaved him.
Patrick’s story is a tremendous illustration of grace, for though he was treated with great evil, he chose to return such action with the unconditional love of Jesus, even though it was entirely unnecessary for him to do so. In light of this, I find it amazing that such a tremendous Christian story has for the most part become lost amidst our culture due to green beer and four leaf clovers.
And then I think on 1st Peter 3:15. Here Peter challenges disciples of Jesus to always be ready to “make a defense” or “share an answer” with those who ask about the hope that we have. Though we might not realize it, you and I are surrounded by people who are subtly asking for a way to hope. The glory of the “yesterday things” of their lives fade quickly and since true hope is future-oriented, many feel as though it is impossible to find. Everyone desires to have hope when it comes to their future, but the older that we become, the more elusive it can seem to be, outside of Jesus Christ, that is.
So what answer for hope do we have as the local church to our surrounding communities? Certainly we have an answer during Christmas and Easter and we proclaim it from the digital mountaintops via social media and email blasts. Perhaps Saint Patrick’s Day is yet another appropriate occasion for us to thoughtfully and gently share the reason for our hope with the world around us. I guarantee that an emerald green Facebook post entitled, “The True Meaning Behind Saint Patrick’s Day” would result in a great deal of clickthroughs by people in desperate need of the eternal hope of Jesus.
Saint Patrick’s Day is not a secular day. It is a sacred day in honor of a godly man who amazingly extended the grace of God to many who had caused him great harm. This March 17th, your ministry has an opportunity to reclaim the sacred from the secular in order to ultimately share the reason for the hope that is within you to your community.
Brett Bzdafka is a former Pastor and Bible Professor. Brett has a BA from the Moody Bible Institute and MDiv from Columbia International University. As Church Development Manager at BoxCast, a live video streaming company founded and led by believers, Brett enjoys connecting with church leaders and enabling them to spread their ministry beyond the walls of their church through technology.