Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sermon: St. Patrick

17 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 28:16-20 (Isa 43:1-7, 1 Thess 2:2b-12)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Like Joseph in the Old Testament, St. Patrick was captured and sold into slavery. His entry into Ireland was not by his own choice. While there, however, he learned the Celtic language and the religion of the Druids. God was preparing him for a future ministry. Patrick freed himself from servitude to a cruel master in order to become the servant of the merciful Lord.

Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary bishop, preaching about our Lord Jesus Christ, establishing churches and monasteries, and opposing not only the pagan religions, but also various heresies.

In fact, the hymn we sang, I Bind Unto Myself Today, was written by Bishop Patrick more than a millennium and a half ago. This hymn has been used for centuries in exorcisms, as the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is repugnant to Satan and the demons – especially since this triple name is the one name into which we are baptized, often accompanied by the sign of the holy cross. In her centuries of expelling demons, the Church has learned that Satan’s minions scatter at the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity and the words of Holy Scripture. The demons also find baptismal water and the cross to be repellant. All of these things are reminders of Satan’s defeat.

For Bishop Patrick, and indeed all pastors and ministers, are slaves of Christ with no authority of their own. Their ministry is under orders of Christ, in whose name and stead they preach and administer sacraments. For our Lord Himself said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore,” He spoke to the eleven, delegating this authority to them, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

St. Patrick obediently went to the nation into which the Lord called him to serve. In the name of Christ, he beat back the Satanic assaults of false doctrine and heresy, upholding the Trinity and the divinity of our Lord Jesus, preaching Christ crucified, declaring sins forgiven, and casting out demons as he obediently made disciples through baptism.

He also carried out the Lord’s instruction: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” St. Patrick was held captive by the truth of God’s Word as he bore the authority of Christ to dispel the forces of darkness and set free those held captive by Satan and false religion.

St. Patrick continued the proclamation of the prophetic Word spoken by holy Isaiah seven centuries before Christ, through whom our Lord tenderly says to us: “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, I love you.” He promises to always be with us. He watches over us and protects us from all harm and danger: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.”

The Lord’s chosen people of both the Old and New Testament, those before and after the Incarnation of our Lord, through prophets and pastors of both Israel and the Church, have continued the proclamation of this good news – though, dear brothers and sisters, we Christians have the advantage of being able to look back in history at the coming of God in the flesh, to be able to reflect on the cross, and to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And what a glorious and comforting assurance this is!

The Lord has raised up preachers in every age to deliver this good news to “all nations.” Preaching, teaching, exhorting, calling to repentance, forgiving, casting out demons, baptizing, feeding with the body and blood of the Lord, and casting the seed of the Word of the Lord far and wide in reckless love, fishing for men, and freeing the captives.

St. Paul explains the apostolic office into which Bishop Patrick lived and worked over the course of his long life on this side of the grave: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,” says the holy apostle, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

St. Patrick did not win many friends when he decried the false religion of the Druids. But as St. Paul proclaims: “we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with the pretext of greed…. Though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you.”

St. Paul compares this gentleness to that of a nursing mother, affectionate and loving, as well as being like “a father to his children, we exhorted you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

St. Paul also speaks of the “boldness” that typifies apostolic preaching of the gospel. This boldness is not born of self-confidence. But rather in the victory already won by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, already given to us in Holy Baptism, already transmitted to generations of preachers through Holy Ordination, being called to serve the Holy Things to the Holy People of God. All of this is done in confidence, not in ourselves, but in our Lord who calls and sends us. For to the Great Commission to baptize and preach, our Blessed Lord attaches a promise: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We cannot fail, because He has already won. We cannot be overcome because He has already overcome. Our preaching will bear fruit because we do not preach our own words, but the Word of God, the same potent Word that created the universe out of nothing, the same loving Word that redeemed us out of our sins, the same life-bearing Word of re-creation that always accomplishes the thing for that which the Lord purposed it. God’s Word never returns empty. That, dear brothers and sisters, is the source of our boldness as Christians, as confessors of the holy faith, as those who put their very souls into the hands of the Christ proclaimed by St. Patrick, we who are marked for eternity by the sign of the cross and in the name of the same Triune God of whom St. Patrick taught and whom he served until his dying day.

And with St. Patrick and all the saints who from their labors rest, we pray the prayer that scatters the demons and proclaims the hope within us:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


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

1 comment:

Ted Badje said...

He is a saint for all northern Europeans. I am proud to be married on the 17th to my wee bride. The Irish saved Western civilization with keeping Latin documents in the monasteries. I thank God for Patrick.