After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ All the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’
Revelation 7: 9-12
Today, as the world knows, is St Patrick’s day. In most of our cities Irish people, those with an affinity with Ireland, and those who want to celebrate, will be enjoying some of the Republic’s liquid exports in order to celebrate this most Irish of saints. Except he wasn’t! Patrick was British, born in the 5th Century as the Roman Empire was falling apart, was captured, enslaved and taken to Ireland and then, after he was released and returned to Britain, trained for the priesthood and returned to Ireland as a missionary.
I thought of Patrick today as I read of two refugee families living in Calais. In each case the father has been granted British Citizenship but because they don’t earn enough money are unable to bring their wives and children into the UK; the fathers have gone to join their families and are living in the refugee camps in order to be with their families. This spoke to me of profound love; Patrick’s love of God and the Irish people led him back to the land of his captivity as a missionary.
The passage from Revelation was designed to give comfort to Christians being persecuted and gives a vision of a future where borders will be irrelevant as God gathers the saints from every nation, tribe, people and language. One day all the distinctions that we have – age, race, gender, sexuality, class will be irrelevant and the only label that will matter is that we’re baptized into Christ.
God of the world,
help us to see past the borders of our world
to see you at work in the
nations, tribes, peoples and languages
of our fragile earth
and, like Patrick of old,
help us to witness to the stranger.
Andy Braunston is the North Western Synod Clerk and is preparing for URC ministry at the Scottish College
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