How a Song Can Be a Shield, or, Why St. Patrick’s Day Must Become about More than Green Beer

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March 17, 2021

Psalm 86

To the tune of “O God Our Help in Ages Past” C.M. Sing it at seedbed.com/soundtrack

1 Hear me, O Lord, and answer me;
I’m poor and in great need;
2 Come, guard my life; You are my God.
Save me! I trust in Thee.

3 Have mercy, Lord, I call to You
all day with my heart full;
4 Restore my joy, for unto You,
O Lord, I lift my soul.

5 For You are good and gracious, Lord,
and ready to forgive;
And You abound in love to all
who call on You to live.

6 O hear my prayer, Lord, as I cry
for mercy unto Thee;
7 When trouble comes, I call to You,
for You will answer me.

8 Among the gods there’s none like You;
for only You are Lord;
And neither are there deeds which can
compare at all with Yours.

9 All nations You have made will come
and worship rev’rently,
They will bring glory to Your name;
O Lord, they’ll worship Thee.

10 For You alone are great, O Lord,
and marv’lous are Your deeds;
For You alone are God, O Lord;
Your glory all exceeds.

11 Teach me Your way, Lord, and I’ll walk
in Your truth all my days;
Give me an undivided heart
to fear Your name always.

12 O Lord my God, with all my heart,
to You I will give praise;
And I will glorify Your name
forever and always.

13 Great is the love You have toward me;
Your love that acts to save;
You have delivered me from Sheol;
from the depths of the grave.

14 The arrogant attack me, God—
a band of ruthless ones;
They seek my life with no regard
for You and all You’ve done.

15 But You, O Lord, are merciful
and full of graciousness;
To anger, slow; abundant in
both love and faithfulness.

16 O turn to me with mercy, for
my hope on You is stayed;
Grant strength unto Your servant, save
the son of Your handmaid.

17 Give me a sign of good from You,
so that my foes will see
and be ashamed; for You, O Lord,
do help and comfort me.

CONSIDER THIS

In North America, the month of March offers all sorts of variety. There’s the NCAA basketball tournament and March Madness. Then there’s Lent. And, of course, somewhere along the way March became associated with wind and flying kites. March 3 is the feast day of celebration in the Anglican Church for John and Charles Wesley. And don’t forget to beware the ominous Ides of March, that fateful day marking the assassination of Julius Caesar. Tucked away in March we also find St. Patrick’s Day.

The interesting thing about St. Patrick’s Day is how it has become about wearing green and drinking green beer and four-leaf clovers and parades and virtually everything else but Saint Patrick himself. It seems like our little green friend, Master Yoda, should at least get honorable mention on St. Patty’s day, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, I think the best way we could possibly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day would be for all of the followers of Jesus to walk out into the streets at high noon and together declare the prayer that has come to be known as “the Breastplate of St. Patrick.” It would be an awe-inspiring thing to behold; the body of Christ collectively taking up her shield of faith. Then we would move on to a stadium-styled liturgy of Ephesians 6 and Paul’s admonition to put on the full armor of God . . . but I’m getting carried away now.

As with so much of history, the Breastplate of St. Patrick has been reduced to its sound bites by now. I’m talking about tracking out the whole shebang—witches, smiths, wizards, poison, drowning, burning, and all. Nothing like this ancient prayer brings faith to the fore as a shield. And this is what faith is: a real, live shield; not a sentimental hopefulness, but a Spirit-fueled, tangible reality. Faith is palpable protection. You know it when you see it.

It brings me to Song 86. As I sing it through, it strikes me that the singer here is armoring up with a great shield of faith. Consider the first two lines:

Hear me, O Lord, and answer me;
I’m poor and in great need;
Come, guard my life; You are my God.
Save me! I trust in Thee.

The song goes on to pile on layer after layer of the character, history, attributes, and nature of the Almighty. Promise rises up into prophecy, and protection becomes a song of deliverance.

The great irony of a shield of faith is that it makes the bearer look even more vulnerable. (Get a picture of David in your mind in his bout with the giant.) The shield will appear deceptively invisible to the enemy. The great relief of the shield of faith is the way it graces us with the power to lay down all our tired strategies of self-protection. Self-protection in exchange for God’s protection—it’s a pretty good deal.

Ask Yourself. Share with Another.

Is faith really a shield for you? Can you recount a situation where it was?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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