What Does St. Patrick’s Day Have To Do With Christianity?

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Courtesy of morguefile.com

Wear green or you’ll get pinched.

Silly traditions associated with today, March 17. I am Irish (Scotch-Irish) through my maternal grandmother.

I don’t wear green; it makes me look half-dead.

As I helped my grandchildren choose clothing that ensured they wouldn’t be pinched black and blue today, my mind wandered to traditions and how they manifest over time. Many traditions come from a Biblical perspective, including St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on this day in 461. He brought Christianity to Ireland, so the Irish have celebrated this day for over 1000 years. That means this is a religious holiday.

Wait! What? But people have drunken parades and behave frivolously on this day. Yep. That’s true.

The original holiday, the Feast of St. Patrick, allowed the Irish to ignore their Lent observances for the afternoon. It gave them a break from fasting, but by the next day, they returned to their Lent observations.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the religious aspect of this day. That may or may not be true everywhere, but I don’t recall any connection to the church with this holiday.

Why? Maybe it’s because the holiday is not a God-ordained holiday:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? Matthew 15:3

In this verse from Matthew, Jesus and his disciples failed to wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in the wrong and pointed out their lack of faithful behavior. The problem? God didn’t create the hand-washing commandment. Man did. Jesus pointed this out and took it a step further, implying they followed their traditions over God’s.  Oops!

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the spread of God’s word, if that’s what we’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with feasting, or wearing green, or giving a neighborly kiss…if that’s what we’re doing. But, when it steps on the toes of our faith, when it overrides the commands of God, we’ve got a problem.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only man-made tradition focused on our faith. Look at Easter and Christmas. God never commanded us to celebrate the birth of Christ. He did command us to celebrate the resurrection EVERY day, especially Sunday. It’s not a once-a-year celebration.

If you examine these well-known holidays, you can see how far we’ve strayed from the faithful plans of the people who first chose to celebrate them. When man establishes something, it’s easier to lose sight of the original focus.

Can commandments from God disintegrate? Absolutely! Just read the Old Testament, and you will see it over and over again. Still, thanks to the timelessness of the word of God, the people always returned to true faith.

So, today, if you wear green or kiss someone who’s Irish, it’s ok. Maybe, while you’re at it, give thanks to God that you can celebrate the life of a man who brought Christianity to Ireland. Just remember, St. Patrick is not who we should celebrate. The amazing story he brought to Ireland is the point.

Courtesy of morguefile.com

Seeds of Faith

green plant breaking through the earth

Seeds fell on my soul for years before I began to understand the message of salvation and grace.  I can look back through my story and find seeds planted by a variety of people throughout my life.  For many years, the seeds lay dormant, waiting for water and fertilizer to make them grow.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

I’ve attributed a lot of my salvation to the church I attended in my early twenties, but it’s not the church that saved me.  The church embraced me so I could accept the water and fertilizer and sunshine needed to help those seeds sprout and grow.  My revelations during the singles retreat  allowed the seeds to crack open, bits of green pushing against the soil.

From that point on, I chose to expose myself to the teaching and study of the Bible.  Even doing this, it took another year before I truly understood the crucifixion and resurrection. I had begun to study the Bible through other books as well as reading scripture.  One of the books I read was Max Lucado’s book about the time Jesus spent on the cross, Six Hours One Friday.

I remember vividly the moment I understood.  I often  read before bedtime and had reached the part where Lucado explains how Christ took on our sins and God, his father, could not look on him while he did this. This is why he cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  Matthew 27:46

For the first time ever, God left Jesus.  He was completely separated from the father.

As a child I thought the point of the cross was to show that Jesus could return from the dead thus proving he was the son of God.  I did not understand that he took on all of the sins of the world. No one explained it to me before.  No one.  I guess everyone assumed that as a Christian I knew this.  I didn’t.

What a revelation!  Now, everything began to fall into place.  My little seedling pushed through the crust of the soil and reached toward the son in humility and joy.

I wonder how many people have seeds just waiting for those first drops of water, for that one point when the life inside their shell pushes forward to blossom  into a life of grace?

A Piece of My Salvation Puzzle

domestic violence

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

I tell my story because I have to.  I feel the need to reach out to others and provide some hope where it might be lost.

Even though I share this journey for any one in the world to see, my story has not been an easy one to tell.  Some posts led me down agonizing hallways of memory.  God led me through those dark days, and, in writing these posts, I’ve discovered more ways He guided me than I ever realized before.

Through it all, God was with me.

My awareness of this didn’t happen overnight.  It happened over many years, one step at a time.

My first awakening to the truth came during a singles retreat.  Our speaker taught from Ecclesiastes.  I listened to this man’s teaching unaware of what was to come.  I wish I could tell you the verses that hit me in the gut, the passage that changed my world, but I can’t.

One moment, I was fine, a person in the crowd, the next, an overwhelming awareness engulfed me. God could love me in spite of the stains on my life.  I was worthy of His love and forgiveness.

I can point to many reasons why I didn’t understand this before.  The first, and most obvious, stems from those who first taught me salvation.  They preached living right.  They told me God was not a respecter of persons (whatever that means).  In the next breath, they told me no one can be perfect, but we have to try to be, but we will never succeed.  They described to me a vengeful God.  One who wanted our perfection and punished us if we didn’t make the grade.  Their understanding of salvation missed the boat.  They saw Him sitting in judgment of our failures.

Is there any wonder that I didn’t think my life worthwhile?  How could I ever measure up?

Yes, we should strive to live as Christ. No, we will never succeed.  That’s the point.  They missed it.

When this point hit me, I ran out of the session.  It didn’t take long for the singles minister to follow me. I’ll never forget how he sat down on the curb beside me, a look of concern on his face.  I tried to tell him, through my tears, what I felt.  He nodded, then first told me he had been keeping a close eye on two other single moms in the crowd, aware of the emotional trauma they had experienced.  He never thought to watch me.  He never suspected how I felt.  I had become so good at being present without grace that no one knew my struggle.  (This is one reason my story amazed so many people when I started sharing it.)

We talked for a while and then again later.  But I had the most important piece of the puzzle: I could be blameless and whole before God.  I would screw up, but I could have the salvation I wanted.  I could have grace.  I just needed to seek to do His will and accept His grace when I fell.

Alleluia!