“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.” — Ephesians 6:11-12
I am sitting at a picnic table next to a lighthouse, watching for whales. We have heard that there were humpbacks here yesterday, and they were even breaching. Today the ocean is swimming-pool blue, blurring into sky in the distance. There is not a sea mammal of any sort in sight.
What a place in which to reflect on the armor of God — belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit! Why did this reading stand out from all the possibilities for today? There is nothing further from view here than cosmic powers of darkness.
Well, that’s true until you notice the orange tint to the sunlight, caused by the wildfires burning across the west. And the fog is particularly tenacious this year because of the very hot weather inland, the result of climate change. The drought is causing a local water shortage. And a new mask mandate has been put into effect here in response to the delta variant.
The powers of darkness are strong — have been all along, in all places. They are the forces of Empire-building, a competitive, me-first outlook that plunders the planet and its communities for the sake of capital gain. Out there in the world or here in my own heart, they destroy.
Like all Christians, I am called to be an emissary of the Good News. There is another way to live, and it manifests in care for other people and for the planet. Christ teaches us this way. All that we have belongs to God; we are merely stewards. We are cared for, so we don’t need to hoard or struggle to possess. We all exist in the largesse of God.
The armor of God is gentle and flexible. Truth prevails through its ability to speak love to the soul rather than through forceful bludgeoning. Righteousness is always a gift and often a bit of a surprise to the one manifesting it. Faith gives us the understanding that we are loved beyond all our best hopes. Salvation supplies us the awareness of our bonafide worth to God as exactly who we are. And the sword of the Spirit? It is as often an old hymn or lullaby as it is a piercing statement. It is that smile behind the mask that reaches the eyes and so is seen. It is “doing our bit”, just as in London as Hitler was bombing the city, people helped one another in countless little ways.
The other piece of armor the Ephesians passage mentions is footwear — whatever footwear equips you to spread the Gospel. Choose and wear whatever you need to speak truth about what really matters. Do it all the time.
The armor of God helps us to take a stand. We bring what we have and do what we can. Wrapped in love, inspired by love, and in the service of love, we live as God intended us to. So I sit at the edge of the continent and watch for whales, these awesome creatures who share this planet with me. I pray that their songs will be strong and their food abundant. I hope to catch one last glimpse of them before I go home to Colorado.