Today’s scripture: EPHESIANS 6:10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
I grew up in a household of boys. I am the eldest with three younger brothers. Growing up with siblings is one thing but growing up with three brothers can be totally different. There is a different way of interacting and playing. All four of us generally get along and generally liked to find things to do together. We still do. Sometimes though I opt out…when it seemed as though things would get too physical (ie super competitive sports…I would stick in it for a bit) or when the games got too rough I would get out of there. If I was going to stick around, I had to prep myself to have to deal with sports or with making sure I knew how to keep control. When all of my brothers got bigger than me, I had to learn a new set of skills.
In order to keep up with the brothers in college, I took a semester of karate. I think many of you have heard this story but when I came home for some occasion I was talking about my new found skills. I was boasting that I could take down anyone with a swift blow to the ear…nothing that would hurt too much but would get someone on the ground. My brother Grant was chiding me about this and I just couldn’t help myself, I reached up and hit him in this spot and he collapsed to the ground. He was completely stunned. We were in the kitchen and my mom started giggling. My brother Andrew approached and said, “oh yeah, well you can’t do that to me.” Just as he was saying this, my hand reached up and hit him in the same spot….down he went just as swiftly. There was a pile of boys beneath me and my mom laughing out loud by this point nearby. I looked at Colin and he just walked the other way…smart boy. I haven’t done this move since but there is that rare occasion when I raise my hand just so and both boys will walk the other way (it has become a family joke). I had to put on my armor that day with my brothers. Sometimes I have to prepare differently to interact with them…not with violence (that actually never solves anything, especially with siblings) but with more sports lingo or with research or even just a different way to interact. We have to prepare to band together and support each other through life transitions, etc.
Today’s scripture bothers many people with its language of arming up for God. I have actually always kind of liked this scripture because it takes typical Roman, violent, gear and turns it into a communal act of arming with prayer to face the world with God and community. The author, in his letter to Ephesus, is working closely with Isaiah 59 in which the prophet talks about God being the warrior to come in and create change. The writer here is taking that language and saying, “it’s not just God changing things, we all must be ready to change the world with God, together.” This individualistic image becomes a statement about how we work with God and with each other. And then the violent armor becomes an armor that prepares us with faith, truth, peace, and community. The soldier becomes clothed in good qualities to change the world. This whole passage ends with a call to prayer….pray for each other, pray for the writer, pray for our world. What a beautiful way to say that we need to prepare ourselves for the world.
I do this everyday. I prepare to move out into the world and I can’t help but think that I have to put on a little bit of armor. There has to be a way to visualize putting on patience and listening…prayer and new eyes….tenderness and love….ways to be creative and a searching piece of armor and sometimes I need a little protection with GOd’s help so it doesn’t all become overwhelming or boundaries aren’t taken advantage of. Most of all, I have to remember to pray before my day begins to truly say that I am in this with God and with all of you.
How do you prepare for the day? Do you put on certain pieces of armor or do you collect them throughout the day? Hopefully you begin your day with some sort of conversation with God (the prayer piece) whether that be in meditation, quiet time, or just a brief conversation to start the day. Let’s begin that now….
Prayer: O God, remind us of our connection with you and with one another as we begin this new day. Place on us your presence, your grace, your deep peace. Make us ready this season for your call. Amen.