March 19, 2017
This past week we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and that is what inspired the title of my message. St. Patrick was a fifth-century Christian missionary and later bishop in Ireland. Irish Catholics honor him as a patron saint. It has been said that there are no snakes in Ireland because St. Patrick chased them all into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on the top of a hill. But according to naturalist Nigel Monaghan, who is the keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland never had any snakes to begin with; so St. Patrick could never have actually banished any physical snakes. Perhaps instead he banished what those snakes represented – evil. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, and converted a society that practiced a form of Celtic polytheism. Therefore, St. Patrick drove out the ‘serpent of idolatry’ and all the other snakes that accompanied it.
Our Old Testament reading (Genesis 3:1-13) finished with Eve’s words, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Indeed, satan uses whatever is within his power to deceive us into first questioning everything from God’s Word to His very existence, and finally into completely ignoring Him and His Word, and giving into the whatever satan tries to substitute in its place. He will twist God’s Word, try to make God out to be the enemy instead of him, make God seem cruel or uncaring, or even convince us that God is either dead or never existed in the first place - and then hold out the world to us on a platter if we will but listen and heed his offer. But as Eve found out, God does not lie – satan does.
In our next reading (Revelation 12:7-12), we heard that only through the blood of Lamb can we conquer the ancient serpent called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world. But we are also warned that he knows his time is short, and the closer we get to the end of this age, the more his fury will grow, and his attacks on Christians will increase. We pride ourselves on religious tolerance, while satan has no tolerance whatsoever for Christianity, and will do everything in his power to try and exterminate it.
We can already see this happening as satan’s counterfeit religion uses everything in its power to gain a foothold in every country on earth. We need more St. Patrick’s to drive out the snakes who want only to poison us with their lies, and strangle us with their doctrine. Remember, all religions do not lead to the same place! Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)
But not all of satan’s tactics are as obvious as bombings, beheadings, and other such atrocities. Instead, most are quite subtle. As we heard in our epistle reading (2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15), one of the serpent’s favorite ways to undermine Christianity is to pervert Scripture, and those who preach it. Whether it be by watering it down, or by taking verses out of context, and then constructing false doctrines that seem good; he convinces people that this new interpretation of the gospel is better, more full of love and compassion, and will bring more happiness to the listener. But remember the words of Isaiah (5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” I don’t think I need to elaborate on the perversions that are tolerated more and more each day, and the hatred that is spewed upon Christians that dare to speak up in defense of God’s Word.
In closing I would also like to mention that while the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland is allegorical, the resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning is not. It is a very real event that our eternity hinges upon, and which I will be speaking about during our Easter service. Also during this service I will also be handing out a book titled “The Case for Easter”, written by Lee Strobel, who was an award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, and a best-selling author, with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in law degree from Yale. If any of you have doubts about Christ’s resurrection, or have relegated it to nothing more than religious symbolism, or even a nice fairy tale; then please attend this service, and bring your skeptical friends as well.
In closing, I would like to share the lyrics to a song written by Al Wilson in 1968:
On her way to work one morning, down the path along side the lake,
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake.
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew.
"Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you."
"Take me in tender woman, take me in, for heaven's sake; take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake.
She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk, and laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk.
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived, she found that pretty snake she'd taken to had been revived.
"Take me in, tender woman, take me in, for heaven's sake; take me in, tender woman," sighed the snake.
She clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful," she cried, "but if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died".
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight.
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite.
"I saved you," cried the woman, "and you've bitten me, but why? You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die".
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin, "you knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
So now instead of reviving a snake, let us revive our faith and our church, by singing “Revive Us Again”. Amen.
Are you afraid of snakes? Why do you think Eve wasn't? Because fear is a result of sin. If Eve had trusted God and not been deceived by the snake (the devil), she would never have known fear. And when we fully trust God, we need not ever fear.