25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.
29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a day when everyone is Irish, if only for a day. This includes St. Patrick, who was from Britain, born to a wealthy family there around the end of the third century (390’s A.D.), but he was captured by Irish pirates from his family’s estate when he was just 16. Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave, where he was forced to live remotely, as a shepherd and laborer. In his loneliness and despair, Patrick turned to God for help and began to hear God’s voice and calling on his life.
Eventually Patrick escaped some six years later by walking 200 miles to the coast, and then stowing away on a ship back to Britain. Although this was the case, God let Patrick know that he wasn’t finished with Ireland just yet. After his religious training, Patrick would return to Ireland because of a vision that told him to go and minister to the people there. In fact, Patrick is often credited with converting many in Ireland to Christianity, as much of the county worshiped pagan gods during that time.
So why might I mention Patrick in regards to today’s scripture? I can’t help but think of how Patrick’s feelings and attitude had to change by taking his hurts and confusion to Our Lord. We can only imagine that having been stolen away to a far off land and forced into a different life, Patrick would be more than a little angry and bitter. Likely, he had been desperate to return to his family and the life that he had known. By any measure, we wouldn’t blame Patrick if he had remained bitter, angrily hating his captors for the rest of his life. But that isn’t God’s way and Patrick’s life confirms it. St. Patrick’s life is a testimony to putting aside our anger to change despite the hurt and harm that was caused. It is testimony to take what happens to us, and use it for good. Despite the injustice to ourselves, we can still begin to forgive and even help those that have harmed us – and not with an “I’ll show you, holier than Thou” attitude. It is just one example of thousands that we can find that point to choosing forgiveness over the bitter condemnation that divides our lives and keeps us longing for someone else’s redemption.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Another interesting fact is that St. Patrick was never actually canonized by the Catholic Church. This was because the church did not begin that practice until the tenth century, some five hundred years after Patrick’s life. Despite his former captivity, eventually Patrick used his knowledge of Irish culture and language to help propel his mission work there. How is God calling you to support someone, perhaps even an adversary, in this world? How can knowing this story of forgiveness help challenge your perspective?
Prayer: God, thank you for the life lessons of St. Patrick and others that you offer as testimony to choosing forgiveness over hatred and condemnation. Help me to live with such a forgiving heart and to return to trusting in you. Amen.
Our Lenten Series
For our Lent series this year, we’ll be using the Adam Hamilton book Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws. At his website, you can find a 40-day reading plan to help you read through the Gospel of Luke during Lent. And join us for worship, in-person or online, at 9:00 & 10:30 every Sunday.