“The Wearin’ o’ the Green”
Today is a day for the wearing of the green. It’s the feast day of St. Patrick, known for driving the snakes out of Ireland, and for using the shamrock to teach about the trinity: three leaves, but still one stem. Strictly speaking, it is doubtful he did either of these things. But these legends point us to a deeper truth--Patrick’s experience of the “green”, renewing power of Jesus, which led to his own “resurrection”, and that of a whole nation.
I. Our text today concerns a man in the tomb. The finality of his death was beyond dispute. Not even a miracle could save him—he was too far gone.
A. But the presence of Jesus brings hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.
B. He spoke to his disciples, and to Martha and Mary, about God’s power to overcome even the “last enemy, which is death”.
C. Their faith seems to remain closed to such a possibility in this life. For them, true fulfillment is postponed until the next life. But Jesus emphasizes the present potential when he says, “I am the resurrection and the life”.
D. “Wood hath hope”, says a song. “When it’s cut, it grows green again: wood hath hope. Root and stock, although old and withered up, and all such in earth corrupt…will revive!”
II. Now we consider Patrick, and the “tomb” he found himself in.
A. He was born Patricius in the year 389, the son of a minor Roman official in western Britain.
1. His grandfather had been a Christian priest, but his parents were only nominally Christian.
B. At the age of 16 Patrick was captured by pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland.
1. It was a kind of death experience. He was torn from family, country, and all that had given his life meaning.
C. But during his 6 years of slavery, he experienced a new reality growing in his life.
1. Later he would record in his Confessions, “More and more did the love of God, and my awe of him, increase”
2. In that “death” of enslavement and exile, the love of Christ was calling him forth from the tomb, and bringing the “green” new life of faith to him.
3. By a series of divine interventions, Patrick found his way back to Britain. He was a changed man, committed to God’s service.
III. Now we return to the scene of Lazarus’s death.
A. The two women had lost their brother, and Jesus had lost his good friend.
1. Deep emotions swirled. Sadness, blame, regret, even anger can be discerned in John’s account.
2. Jesus himself is said to experience powerful, upsetting emotions, and he weeps along with the others.
3. The gospel understands the seriousness of human loss, and the emotional and spiritual toll they take.
4. Jesus is not aloof from these realities but in his oneness with humanity he shares them.
B. But Christ also has a word of hope and renewal. His presence brings life out of death, the green of spring from death’s winter.
C. Martha and Mary recognized his greatness, but now they would realize his Lordship over all existence in a powerful new way. Others present would also witness the miracle and come to faith in Jesus.
IV. St. Patrick committed his life to serving Christ and the gospel. Now, he would be called back to the land of his enslavement, to bring a green springtime of faith to the emerald isle.
A. In a dream, he saw the people of Ireland asking him to come and help.
B. Exemplifying Jesus’ solidarity with those in need—even at personal risk—Patrick returned to a land of fierce tribes and hostile Druid priests.
1. Having been “raised to new life”, Patrick now went at God’s call to bring life to others.
C. After 10 years of Patrick’s leadership, the Christian Church was firmly established in Ireland.
1.Patrick’s amazing ministry of power, energy, and miracles brought the “greenness” of new life through Christ to a land that had dwelled in darkness.
V. At the end of our gospel story, Jesus hollered in a commanding voice for Lazarus to “come forth” from his place of darkness.
A. But then, Jesus called on the community to “unbind him, and let him go”.
B. This symbolizes the nurturing ministry of the Christian community.
1. As Christ calls people forth from places of brokenness and death, he calls us to free them into fullness of life through love, care, and acceptance.
C. Patrick was both recipient of grace, and nurturer of new life in others. He is a wonderful pattern of the Christian life.
Conclusion: The color green is symbolic of the Christ-Life that came to Lazarus; to his sisters and friends; to Patrick; and to each of us through Christ. Like saints and apostles before us, we are called to share the Good News, and to minister the green, life-giving power of Christ to others.