Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Celtic Worship


Our Celtic Worship this morning is a collection of short ‘sermonette’s’ which are reflected below.

Introduction to Celtic Worship
Today in thinking about the influence of St. Patrick on our relationship with God, we gather to worship in a Celtic fashion. The Celts were those people living mainly in Ireland, Scotland and Wales which is the origin of our Presbyterian denomination. The Celts often looked at worship as a journey. And while we think of a journey as going somewhere in a physical sense, there is also the journey of our spirit as we allow that spirit to take us to places where we are sustained by God’s love. Celtic worship encourages you to leave what is familiar and to travel to find one’s personal understanding of being resurrected with Christ.
A Celtic service is set up like a journey as we travel closer to God - rich in liturgy and singing and the reading of God’s word.
It is appropriate that St. Patrick’s day comes in Lent. The Celts really liked the idea of Lent and in fact participated in 3 Lents during the church year. The traditional Lent like ours, a Lent during late July leading up to the Sunday where they recognized the Transfiguration and their Advent was actually a 40 day Lenten period. So almost a third of the Celtic year was taken up in the practice of reflection and prayer during Lent.

St Patrick’s Breastplate
St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a prayer of protection attributed to St Patrick in the 5th century. It is based on the passage of Ephesians that tells us to put on the armor of God. St. Patrick would pray this prayer during the many spiritual battles he encountered as he worked to spread Christianity throughout Ireland. his prayer outlines Saint Patrick's spirituality and his keen awareness and perception of the battle between good and evil and thus the importance of praying for protection on a daily basis. He would also prayer this prayer during the several times he would encounter physical violence at those who wanted to prevent his work to show God’s love.

“Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
This Lent we are spending time with the Lord’s prayer - a phrase each week. This week we take this petition, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” because this idea of God’s kingdom and heaven coming together was very important to the Celtic people. Back in the days when people believed the earth was flat, they believed that Ireland was the closest place there was to heaven. As you stood on the western coast of Ireland and looked out over the sea, right at the horizon was heaven.
It was also the Celtic people who came up with the term ‘Thin Places’. Thin places are those places where you feel closest to heaven; a place you can go where you have a real connection with God. For me it was the place where I went to church camp my whole life. I went there a lot, the last time I was there was right before I moved down here.
The phrase, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” wants us to think of that concept of heaven and earth coming together.; Of the picture you have of heaven becoming a reality here and in your life.

St. Patrick
Patrick was born in England where both his Father and Grandfather work for the church as a priest. However, even though he was brought up in the church Patrick was not a believer.
At age 16 he was captured by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland where he worked as a shepherd. It was here working as a slave and tending sheep that he realized that God had mercy on his youth and his ignorance and opened up for him the opportunity to be forgiven and to become a follower of Jesus. As he worked as a shepherd he developed a very rigorous prayer life that was the hallmark of his later ministry.
After 6 years of captivity he had a vision that told him he would soon be able to go home and that there was a ship waiting for him. So Patrick fled his captivity and traveled to a port 200 miles away where there indeed was a ship waiting for him. He boarded the ship and after 3 days of sailing he landed in England and walked 28 days in what he called his wilderness journey where he found himself extremely hungry. Patrick prayed for food and stumbled upon a herd of wild boar where he could eat his fill. He returned home to his family and
continued in his studies to learn more about his newly found faith. He then had another vision where a man came to him from Ireland. He said in the vision he could hear the voices of the people of Ireland calling him ‘to come and walk among us’. He goes to Europe to study to become a priest and he was ordained into the

priesthood. Remembering he vision he had, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Patrick was not always welcomed by the locals in the areas he traveled to and his work as a missionary forced him to often leave the areas in which he was teaching about the grace of Christ. In fact he was arrested several times and placed on trial where he was accused of taking bribes to perform baptisms and to ordain priests. He writes that he "baptised thousands of people" He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became 
nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.He does claim of the Irish:Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!Throughout Ireland there are many legends stories that surround the ministry of St. Patrick but we do know that he had a profound affect on the people of Ireland and turning that country from a pagan, idol worshipping nation into a people of God.After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.Since then March 17 had become a feast day for the Catholic Church and we still honor St. Patrick for the work he did which influenced our work and worship to this day.

Celtic Knots:
The journey of Lent, like the journey of our Christian lives, is seldom a straight path. There are twists and turns, highs and lows, overs and unders. We are called to go in mission. To stop for rest and restoration. To reverse our course in repentance. To lower ourselves in humility. To hurdle obstacles impeding our progress. The journey of Lent, like the journey of our lives, is seldom a straight path. Each of you received a Celtic knot. It is also made up of twists and turns, ups and downs, overs and unders. I invite you to spend the next few moments holding the knot in your hands while you reflect on your Lenten journey, following its crooked path before we ready our selves to leave and continue our journey into Lent.

(Time for silent reflection)

The weeks ahead may be difficult, the path turning and churning beyond our ability to see. But we do not travel alone. Woven into the knottiness of our complex lives, beside, behind, within, beneath and above us, is Christ.

In your pews you will find strips of cloth. These strips are called ‘clooties’. The Celts would take strips of colorful cloth and write a prayer on them - not a full prayer, but a name or a situation or a desire of their heart. They took the clootie and tied it to the branch of a tree. They believed that the wind was the breath of God and that every time the wind blew the breath of God would continually blow that breath of God to heaven to God’s ears!
I encourage you to sometime during the remainder of the service write a prayer request on a clootie, or several clooties if you want and as you leave today to tie it on one of the trees outside - or take it home and tie it to a tree at home and to know that every time the wind blows - your prayer goes to God!