In Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day is a BIG deal! There is a parade - rain, snow, sleet or shine! There is partying and all that goes along with it. It's not so much about being Irish as it is about celebrating. Pittsburghers love to celebrate!
My guess is that a poll of "man on the street" in PIttsburgh today would find few if any know that St. Patrick himself was actually a missionary. Well, some might know that, but very few know that St. Patrick actually was a captive taken to Ireland by Irish raiders in Scotland. It was the late 4th century. He was around 16 at the time. Later after enduring years of slavery, Patrick escaped only to hear God's call (after he made his way safely home to Scotland) to return to Ireland as a missionary.
Patrick had seen Ireland "at its worst," but he must have had a heart for the Irish people. He didn't return to Ireland because he loved shamrocks, wearing green, hanging out with leprechauns or even rainbows leading to pots of gold. Patrick specifically returned to Ireland because his heart was drawn to the Irish people and their need for God. He was willing (with God's help) to return to a place of great personal pain (where he was a slave) to bring the Gospel of God's grace and love to Ireland.
THAT's the REAL reason we celebrate a day for St. Patrick!
Patrick was a man willing to forgive the injustice of his slavery and all he suffered. Patrick had a heart big enough to care for people in the very same place where he suffered greatly. Patrick evidently understood that spiritual slavery is far worse than physical slavery. He returned to Ireland to be a living parable to the Emeral Isle and her people of one freed from the chains of slavery (in a literal physical sense). Patrick knew and experienced God's grace in His own heart. He was freed from slavery to sin and adopted into God's forever family! He went everywhere all over Ireland proclaiming God's freeing, restoring grace until his death in the mid-5th century.
There are others who follow in Patrick's train. I think of a friend freed from drug addiction who lives his life serving and leading a ministry to homeless men caught in many traps of sin. I think of others who minister and serve God in places where they have endured terrible injustice. It is that very injustice and pain that bring these faithful, obedient servants of Jesus Christ - like St. Patrick - to be God's hands and feet in a very broken world.
So, should you spy a leprechaun, shamrock or rainbow today - think of faithful servants of God who have given their lives and hearts to spread God's restoring grace to the broken wherever and whenever they are found. Now, that's a REAL way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!
God is looking for restored hearts willing to return to places where brokenness is (which is just about anywhere and everywhere) to show others the way to God's life-giving restoring grace!
Now that is reason to celebrate!