Readings: Psalm 125; I Kings 18:1-18; Ephesians 6:10-17
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. [Ephesians 6:10-17, NRSV]
I have struggled with this portion of scripture most of my life. One of my valued spiritual writers Richard Rohr, in one of his homilies stated, that both Jesus and Paul radically reframed the human situation and invite us to live a vulnerable human life in communal solidarity with both sin and salvation.
Especially in times of fear and anxiety such as we are in today during this Covid-19 crisis, I’m conflicted about how to separate sin and salvation. Putting on the whole armor of God, I believe, is telling us we need to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and the power of His love and our hope is in the Lord.
No matter how hard I desperately tried to put on the whole armor of God (as I stood it to mean throughout the different seasons of my life) it was never enough; trying to separate sin and salvation, there was always something missing, an empty hole. The something missing, human solidarity, could not be filled with moral superiority or the goal of perfection that had been part of my life’s journey. Imposing my truths and views on other people and situations was not being obedient to the will of God which is love for the world.
Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I now believe that those who agree to carry and love what God loves, both the good and the bad, and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves, are the followers of Jesus Christ.
John of the Cross stated, We grow not by knowing or understanding, but only by loving and trusting. I used to believe that evil must be eliminated, instead of holding it, suffering with it, and learning from it as Jesus did on the cross.
There is a fierce love that wakes me up every morning, blesses me with the capacity to be silent, alone, and grieving when I most need to be. We all have been through an exceedingly difficult season these past nine months. God’s infinite love (the sword of the Spirit), and our ability to draw upon His love is what gets us through.
Human solidarity shows itself in patience, love, and forgiveness toward all things, and as Richard Rohr also stated, We find a positive and faith-filled way through the world, the flesh and the devil.
May all beings be seen, held kindly, and loved.
[Photo by Donna Eby, Chihuly, Cheekwood, Tennessee]
Offered by Donna Eby, photographer bound for Bethlehem.