March is the month when we start to think ‘green’ – the temperatures are warming, the snow is gone, and it won’t be long before all the brown grass in my yard and all of the bare trees start to turn green again. Of course, we also think of little Leprechauns in their bright green suits, four-leaf clovers, and some food coloring in a glass of beer to turn that green, also. I’m not Irish (that I know of) but, because it is March, I am sure that I will eat some corned beef and cabbage at some point this month. And, who knows - I might even be lucky enough to catch a Leprechaun, and when I set him free, he will give me his treasure (a pot of gold) and I’ll be rich.
Okay, that last part isn’t going to happen, but it’s an interesting legend that got me thinking about the difference between being lucky and being blessed. Many people use those two words interchangeably – and while they are similar in some ways, they are also quite different as well. The similarity is that the words ‘luck’ and ‘blessings’ both refer to something good that happens to, or for, a person. The difference is in the source of that ‘goodness.’
My understanding of luck it that it is something which happens by chance. It has no rhyme or reason, it comes out of nowhere, and it is quite random. Blessings, however, are a positive result which come about through a relationship with something or someone (and as Christians we believe that blessings come through our relationship with God.) Blessings are something we hope for, even though we do not necessarily deserve them – because blessings are not random occurrences; they are based in a relationship that is rooted in love and grace. God blesses us (gives us good things) because he has established a relationship with us. He has made a covenant to love us and provide for us, even though we don’t deserve it. That isn’t ‘luck,’ that is a ‘blessing!’
In the fifth century, according to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about sixteen years old Patrick was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave. He lived there for six years, taking care of animals, before escaping and returning to his family in Britain. Some would say that he was ‘lucky’ to have escaped. But the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Just like the Old Testament story of Joseph being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt - so that through him the entire nation of Egypt and the future nation of Israel might be saved – the same result comes from Patrick’s experience. After escaping from Ireland and returning home to Britain, Patrick becomes a priest. Eventually, out of concern for the people, he returned to Ireland to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with his former captors and owners, and Christianity took root and spread throughout the entire country. Was it luck? No - it was a blessing! God was at work; and because of His love and grace for all people He used Patrick’s experiences to bless both Patrick and the people of Ireland.
It’s March. Wear green if you like, and eat corned beef if you want to. But most of all, thank God for the blessings He pours into your life – health, hope, love, happiness, family, friends, Jesus, and so much more – and then be like St. Patrick and become a blessing in someone else’s life by sharing the good news of Jesus with them.