This Sunday, March 17, I am planning a message based upon the Old Testament minor prophet Zephaniah, focusing upon Zephaniah 3: 8-12. This passage offers insight into the anger of God, but the anger is clearly followed by an image of people who are “humble and lowly”, who are able to seek refuge in the Lord of all creation. When we get to those humbling places in our life journey, the power of the gospel is that our Lord invites us to rest in the assurance of a release from fear and worry, if we will only trust in Christ.
Of course, March 17 is also St. Patrick’s Day, and the real story of Patrick is inspiring. Patrick grew up as a wealthy, spoiled Roman citizen who was living in Great Britain before he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was an Irish slave for six years, and he was an atheist when he arrived in Ireland. However, he converted to Christianity while in Ireland. After he escaped captivity and returned home to Great Britain, he surprised his family by choosing to live out God’s calling on his life by returning to Ireland to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick faced great opposition in his ministry, and he was haunted with many insecurities and failures. However, he persevered to live out his calling despite every hardship.
I believe that the people referred to in Zephaniah’s prophecy have something in common with St. Patrick. I call it “convicted humility”, borrowing the term from leaders of our United Methodist church. Convicted humility is found in the pure, honest hearts of people who know how God has spoken to them, but who are not so presumptuous as to make their context and mission definitive for everyone. St. Patrick knew he was called to serve the people who had been his captors and enemies, but his ministry to them was rooted in helping them see the gospel message through the lens of their context and experience. He knew that God could reveal the gospel to people of all nations, races, tribes, and traditions.
I am so grateful that Grace UMC is a church where people from many different life stories come together to worship and serve with “convicted humility.” I covet your prayers for me and our worship team. Please wear your name tags to worship Sunday, and come expecting to welcome new friends.
As a pastor friend of mine loves to remind his congregation, “we are all the hands and feet of Christ.” Amen!
Pastor Steve Hart