Category Archives: Mercy

“I, Patrick…”

In my mind I could still hear the old priest reading from the Scriptures. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

I thought little of these words at the time. Like many of the others of my age, I was too caught up in the world as it is to give much thought to the world to come. I cared little for the things of God; indeed, I had forsaken Him. To me, His commandments were burdensome and unnecessary. His priests were no more than the spoilers of my sport, and just as I did not see the kindness and patience of God toward me, I did not see that the old man who spoke to his flock of God’s kingdom did so because he loved us.

And then, like so many others, I was taken.

I remember only a few details of when the Irish slavers first captured me. All of us had been laughing and enjoying a rare cloudless day when they came. There was no fighting them. The Roman Legions had left our island years before, and the only defenses that remained were the small militias we could muster; but the raiders struck so quickly that these were of little help. I was captured, then tied to others, then led to their ship, and then across the Irish Sea to what would be my home for six years.

How quickly my life became a walking parable! I, Patrick, who had been a slave to sin, was now a slave to men, forced to do work for which my only recompense was scant sustenance. I served my new master well; what else could I do? From my first day as a slave I tended my master’s sheep; six years I continued in forest and mountain, in all kinds of weather, caring for another man’s flock.

All the while I prayed. Sometimes I would pray a hundred prayers a day; sometimes I would pray all night, until, in the morning, both the ground about me and the cloak drawn across my shoulders were covered in frost. I couldn’t have imagined, wasting my life on lesser things back in Britannia, that here in the Irish wilderness, my freedom taken from me, I would find in Christ what it was to be truly free. It was good for me that I was so afflicted, for my affliction led me heavenward. The God I had forsaken had not forsaken me.

My Companion, my Lord, was always with me. I knew He was present, and often He brought to mind the things I had long forgotten, things my father or our priest had said about following Christ. Often, I would hear His Word in my mind, and it was more precious to me then than all the riches of Rome. I lamented only that I could not remember more! But then, God spoke a Word I had not heart before.

One night, as I lay sleeping, I heard a voice speaking. I saw no figure, no vision in the night. But, like Elijah, I heard a whisper. “Soon you will return to your own country.”

I woke. But the whisper did not cease playing and replaying in my mind. Could it be true? Was this You, O Lord? The Apostle told us to pray without ceasing. How ceaseless were my prayers the following week! I hardly breathed without uttering my sincere hope that what I had heard in my dream was indeed the voice of my God.

I was not to wait long for confirmation. A few days after this dream I had another. The same whisper spoke to me, “Your ship is waiting. Go.” When I rose from my sleep, I knew that I must obey. The journey would be difficult. The ship He had shown me was some two hundred miles from where I was. But, I trusted Him. I knew that He had loved me even before I knew Him, before I loved Him. He Who had not forsaken me, would not forsake me.

I left my master without his knowledge. The Lord was my Master now, and I knew I must obey God rather than man. But as I left in the twilight, the sheep stirred. Even as I made my way over the first hill and they could no longer be seen, I heard them bleating. A tear warmed my cold cheek. How affecting is the cry of the sheep who have no shepherd!

But where my Lord called, there I would go. I found my ship waiting where He had said, and though the captain refused me at first, my Captain softened his heart and they brought me aboard.

I returned home, no longer the man I was. But it would not be long before I dreamed yet another dream from the Lord. In my dream I heard the cry of sheep without a shepherd, a people dwelling in darkness and crying for the light. I knew them. I had seen them before, heard their voices. In Ireland.

Where my Lord called, there I would go.

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There have been many myths that have built up around the historical Patrick, Bishop of Ireland. However, the true story is one of a loving pastor who, being freed from slavery in Ireland, one day returned to the place of his slavery in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those enslaved to sin. We have only two works by Patrick – his Confession and his Epistle to Coroticus. The tale I related above is a dramatized account of his own testimony in his Confession. Of course, the Feast of St. Patrick occurs this month in the liturgical calendar, but St. Patrick’s Day, like many of our holidays, has become something completely different than what it was originally. This 17 March, perhaps we can instead set apart some time and meditate on God’s gracious working in and through the life of Patrick of Ireland.

An Opportunity to Serve Our Neighbors

Several folks have asked me how they might be of help to those affected by the flood here in Powell County. At the moment, the damage is still being assessed, and we’ve been advised to not send large groups of people into the area. But, some other practical ways you can be helping are:

  1. Monetary Donations. The financial impact of this flood will no doubt be quite burdensome on many. As such, monetary donations can be dropped off at any Whitaker Bank; please make sure that your donations are clearly marked for “flood relief”. The money donated will be distributed through the Powell County Ministerial Association.
  2. Cleaning Supplies. One of the biggest needs, of course, will be cleaning supplies. To donate cleaning supplies, just drop them off at the Stanton Tourism office on Main St. They will make sure the supplies get to where they’re needed.
  3. Prayer. As always, we should be praying for those affected by the flood. Let’s pray that the Lord would meet the needs of our neighbors (Matthew 6:11), and that we would reflect Christ’s love in seeking ways to help them (James 2:15-17). Tomorrow evening (3/3/21), we’ll be meeting for Wednesday night Bible Study, and a large portion of that time we will spend in prayer for our neighbors.
  4. Be a Neighbor. As more ways of helping become available, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, be calling friends, brothers and sisters, family members, and even folks you just kinda know who have been affected by the flood. Let them know that you care about them, that you want to be a help to them if you can, that you’re praying for them, and that they’re not alone in all of this.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

-Pastor Lucas

Sojourn: A Brief Meditation

The world is quiet around me. And yet it’s not. The bright white of the falling snow, the underlying ice that has frozen the earth, the occasional sing-song chatter of hungry birds, the icy crying wind, and the passing of those who will not be deterred by the winter’s stormy countenance – I see, feel, hear all of these. And yet, there’s something quiet about a snowy day. It is as though, under its milky blanket the earth silently and eagerly awaits the thaw. It may be a cliché that has long been played out, but it is one we do well to remember: winter is awaiting its end, and even in its stillness it presses on to the spring, when the pure white will give way to brilliant greens and the multitudinous colors of God’s gardens, just as light shone through a prism reveals itself to be more than what we first saw. I am an exile, a sojourner to a home I’ve never yet seen, to a spring that will not end. This home is promised to me, the city of wholeness and peace, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27); I wait, and at the very same time, I press on. I wait… for the Lord must come again and consummate His kingdom. I press on… “I journey to find the place where I will be resurrected,” as the missionary disciples of Columba said. I am a knight of heaven, a son of the King, in this world and in the next. This winter will end; it will not always be this way. In “this world with demons filled” (Luther), we are the church militant, the church sojourning; but the Son will come, and with this winter past, we shall be the church victorious, the church at rest at last. Let us wait for His salvation; let us press on to know Him, to do the works He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10), and one day to see Him with our own resurrected eyes.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:12-25

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62:1

“Toil passes, and rest will come; but rest only through toil. The ship passes, and you arrive at home; but home only by means of the ship. We are sailing the high seas, after all, if we take account of the surges and storms of this world. The reason, I am convinced, that we are not drowned is that we are being carried on the wood of the cross.” Augustine, Sermones ad populum, sermon 104.

Prayer: O Lord, God of sojourners, Who brought His ancient people from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and to the Promised Land, and have in Christ vouchsafed to bring Your church unto Yourself in the New Jerusalem, protect us as we journey on, and strengthen our waiting faith that the homeland we behold with the eyes of faith now will be the homeland we see in joy with our resurrected eyes when Christ returns to judge the world. We ask in the name of Him Who bore the winter that He might bring His people to the everlasting spring, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.