The following is a devotional given at the prayer/praise meeting on 20 July 2020, the first day of the ASA Summer Something Series.
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)
This has been an intriguing, and frustrating, four months. We have been introduced to some scientific and medical phrases which are now part of common speech. One is Personal Protection Equipment, shortened to PPE’s—at least that is the parlance in Canada, and I am sure it is the same in the States. Even though we are slowly climbing out the peak of the pandemic, or so we hope, we continue to hear about the importance for health workers of the masks, the gloves, the gown, the eyeshield and so on.
Our Ephesians passage talks about putting on the “Whole Armour of God” to combat the cosmic evil which penetrates all things. We might think of such things as a super virus, and indeed I have heard a number of theologians and others use just such a reference. This is a familiar and popular passage, and many of you already know what the armour includes: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation (a favourite of mine for some reason), and, of course, the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.
So I think some of you can see where I am going with this! As we live out our times amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as we plan for how we move out of it, and as we consider the ASA/CSCA’s well-placed ideology for this time, we are to put on not only the PPE’s but also the PPG – the Personal Protection of God. In other words, we will soon be able to move from the focus on PPE’s of our current time to the PPG for what lies ahead, but which is always with us.
We can start with the mask, the mask of truth. It can indeed be homemade, and since it goes over the mouth, it is a reminder about what we say at this critical time. We can ask “Is what we say helpful? Is what we say hopeful? Is what we say truthful? (What a question for these days!) The good thing is that if what we have to say isn’t helpful, it might even be hurtful (sometimes you just have to get it out…)—well go ahead, but just lip-sync those words: with the mask over your mouth, no one can lip read! I encountered a wonderful example of speaking the truth in love and helpfulness just last Friday, as I watched the interview between the ASA’s Dr. Francis Collins, and Wolf Blitzer. Check it out if you can!
We are to put on the gloves of righteousness. Now I am going to be specific here and talk about the kind of righteousness that comes the focal point of so much of Jesus’ teaching, his parables, his actions. Its name is humility. I don’t know why this gets so overlooked these days. The coronavirus, as many of you know better than myself, is a spherical particle some 500 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. It is causing a global disaster. How humbling is that to us human beings! But according to Jesus Christ, that’s where we need to start. I would include all the political leaders in on this as well!
We are to also put on the gown of salvation. I like this one because it covers us up and is rather like our final line of protection, and that is salvation through Jesus Christ. Now, let me be clear, this particular gown is not disposable, although sometimes we think it is. It’s not. It is always there, thanks to the Easter story. Woven right into the fabric of this gown is the power of the Resurrection. It never weakens, fades, or deteriorates with time. It has a lifetime, and a lifeline, guarantee.
Finally, we have the eyeshield of faith. Eyeshields in health care I think are something rather new to many of us, and it has been interesting to see how various manufacturing concerns and Mom and Pop operations can retool to produce eyeshields. The eyeshield of faith, however, is the lens through which we see the world, our neighbourhood, our country, and our family and friends. Now as the Apostle Paul famously says elsewhere, often we see through this shield rather dimly; it gets fogged up. But it is through this eyeshield—and this eyeshield alone—that we can see right through to, and have access to, a loving God, a saviour we call the great physician, and a Holy Spirit whose sword is the vibrant word of God.
So, let us put on the PPG, and place ourselves as individuals, as Christians, and as members of the ASA/CSCA, to move forward in hope. And to God be all glory, honour and praise, AMEN.