Ferreting around to find a good book to read on holiday, I made a surprising discovery. It appears most popular at the moment are paranormal stories where zombies, vampires and invisible worlds abound. And that’s a problem if you just want a good down-to-earth thriller like The Day of the Jackal or House of Cards.
Yet if we listen to Saint Paul, these genres of fiction are similar. Since, in this morning’s passage, he is saying that people alone don’t do malevolent deeds. Repressive regimes, endemic corruption and mass brutality are not tares just of the human mind. Instead, he sees these being inspired and encouraged by supernatural forces. For Paul then, the world’s ills are due to real entities of wickedness and evil.
But is he being a shade melodramatic? Maybe, he is headline grabbing?
Well, just looking at last week. The news alone suggests that various nasty viruses are once more running riot. Since we hear of outbreaks of racism and segregation and partition. And it is believable that these violent outpourings come from a cosmic power of nastiness. It is easy to think of genies being let out of bottles. It is easiest of all to connect with David Keig who wrote:
I dreamt I saw the devil
The devil I did see
I know it was the devil
Because the devil is in me.
How then does Paul suggest we defeat this malicious entity?
Well, he suggests we strap on the armour of Christ. Or, put in the way of the current crop of penny dreadful books, we need supernatural charms to fight off supernatural foes.
If you are of a certain age, you will remember Dixon of Dock Green. At the end of each programme, the worthy constable gave a homily dressed in his helmet, tie and tunic. Today we see police officers dressed more appropriately for their demanding roles. Yet, in all honesty, I still find their grey and masked anti-terrorist outfits a tad daunting.
However, the lesson is clear. We too need to don Christ’s armour and weapons suitable for today and not the past.
Take the belt of truth. Nowadays, like Pilate, we can all ask – what is truth? Because we face an incessant swirl of comments, opinions and views. We hear about fake news. Statistics, reports and dodgy facts drown us. And this uncontrollable deluge tempts us to change heart even to lose heart. But we can still find truth can with calm thought, quiet prayer and keeping in mind what we believe. Since if we remain certain we have experienced a loving God and a living Christ, we will find the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the divine truth.
Next, we can build on this truthful experience. That means using the shield of faith. For if have known God’s safety and guidance in the past, we can have faith that these gifts will continue. We can use this guarantee to bat away the naysayers. Those who say today’s problems are too complex. Those who are convinced that the world is irretrievable. Worse still, those who dismiss our own difficulties and maladies as insoluble. For it is with the shield of faith we will deflect those stings which deflate our hope and undermine our determination.
Finally, let us not forget the adage ‘the best form of defence is attack’. Because we must also wield the sword of the spirit. As a result, we must read scripture and listen to the word of God in finding our response to this world’s evils. That entails thinking through what God want us to do in every situation of conflict. That means requesting Christ to show us the way to action, resolution and reconciliation.
Is all this effortless?
In 1961 the Soviet Union shocked the free world by sending the first man into space. One month later, the USA followed with a 15-minute sub-orbital flight by Alan Sheppard. Everyone was excited, but problems abounded to actually putting a human into orbit. Yet that did not stop President John F. Kennedy making an almost unbelievable announcement. Because he then called on his nation to land a man on the Moon. Many thought this was impossible. But he then said,” We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”
Planet-wide problems have not been solved because they are hard. Our community’s issues appear intractable because they are difficult. Our own tribulations seem insoluble because they are so complex.
But today we have a choice. We can join people everywhere who are giving into a spirit of helplessness, lassitude and even wickedness.
Or we can, like Kennedy, be undaunted even inspired to do what is hard. We can put on the armour and weapons of Christ. We can indeed fight the good fight.
Will you then this morning proclaim, “With the Lord’s help, I will fight that fight. I will serve this year. I will make a difference?” Because this is the year. Today is the day. This is the moment.
So, go on, sign up now.