Reading (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
Along one side of my mum’s garden runs a hedge. It is well over six feet tall and is comprised of hawthorn, holly, mahonia and brambles. It is a haven for small birds and the occasional hedgehog. August marks the beginning of hedge trimming season. The birds that have been using the hedge for nesting have no need for their nests anymore as their young chicks have fledged and it is safe to cut back the hedge. So last Friday my younger brother trimmed mum’s hedge for her and put all the clippings in her two green waste bins.
Once he had finished the hedge my brother discovered that he had lost his house key. This in itself did not overly bother him, as you can always get a new one cut, but what did bother him was the fact that he had lost the key fob that the key goes on. The fob was given to him as a present by his husband at the beginning of their relationship, some 15 years ago, and it held a great deal of sentimental value.
By Monday the key had still not turned up even though a great deal of searching had taken place over the weekend. Mum was concerned that he might have dropped it in the green waste bins while he was clearing up the hedge trimmings. There was only one thing for it, the bins needed to be emptied and checked. So yesterday I found myself checking through hedge trimmings. I emptied the contents of one of the bins onto a piece of plastic and then carefully put it all back in the bin. Carefully being the important word, as the trimmings, some of which were almost a foot long, were very prickly. Hawthorn in particular has very long thorns which can pierce through clothing and the soles of shoes. I had to make sure that I wore some protection; on my head I had a hat, as I was working outside and it was sunny, on my hands I wore gloves to make it easier to handle the trimmings, on my arms I had long sleeves to stop the thorns scratching and most importantly on my feet I wore thick soled shoes which protected my feet when walking on the thorns. I haven’t found the key fob yet, I still have the second bin to do, but the protection all worked and I was kept safe from harm.
I was reminded of the passage from Ephesians where Paul uses the image of armour in order to illustrate the protection that we all need as Christians as we live in this world. I would have been foolish to have attempted sorting through the hedge trimmings without protection, yet sometimes we forget that we need to have the protection of God to keep us safe in the world in which we live. Paul encourages the Ephesians to trust in God, hold firm to their faith and keep praying. This is good advice indeed.
Father God, may we always remember to rely on your strength and not our own.
Song: O Church Arise (Getty/Townend) (MP1213)