#TheologyInIsolation 1: Simon Cuff
Over the next few weeks, we're giving over our blog for #TheologyinIsolation - offering words of theological hope in anxious times.
Today, Fr Simon Cuff shares with us a sermon preached on Sunday 15th March, during Evensong at All Saints Margaret Street, London.
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.
Words from our second reading, the letter to the Ephesians, the 6th chapter, beginning to read at the 14th verse.
The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the Spirit.
You can choose the shoes.
It’s quite an outfit that the author of the letter to the Ephesians suggests makes up the armour of God. As a self-confessed Anglo-Catholic, I know the importance of wearing the right thing.
Our readings this evening are all about preparedness. Preparedness is an apt theme for reflection this evening. As a nation we have all been told to prepare ourselves for a an outbreak of coronavirus that may well affect many of our families. We have all been called upon to take precautions to delay the outbreak of the disease. To wash our hands, to be careful about touching our eyes and mouth, to avoid non-essential meetings or travel. To stay at home if we are vulnerable. These are all sensible measures to protect them most vulnerable in our community.
Lent is a good time to think about preparedness. It’s the season of the Church’s year when we’re invited to ask questions of ourselves, to consider how well we’re equipped to live the lives which God is calling us to live.
The letter to the Ephesians sets out ways in which we might prepare ourselves to live those lives. Not by putting on this or that item of clothing - not even vestments! - but by living lives of faith, aimed at truth and righteousness, focussed on the word of God and proclaiming the Gospel of peace.
Our first reading finds us with Joshua after the death of Moses. Joshua had expected to follow Moses into the land to which he was leading the people of Israel. Now he finds himself stepping into Moses’ shoes - being called upon by God to be the one who is to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.
No doubt Joshua was a little anxious and perhaps even somewhat afraid at the prospect of this new commission. The Lord reassures him: ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous’.
‘Be strong and very courageous’, he repeats, ‘being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you’.
‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
When Joshua is given a commission for which he is initially unprepared, the Lord tells him to have courage, to keep to that which he has been taught in the past, to keep the law of God in mind.
Joshua is able to lead the Israelites into their promised land because God with is him. This knowledge that God is with him means that Joshua does not need to be afraid. He does not need to be anxious because God is with him as he leads the people of Israel in to the land promised to them.
In the days and weeks to come we may well find ourselves living through a situation for which we feel very unprepared, but God is with us. We may feel anxious and afraid, but God is with us.
God is with us, and we know what we must do. We listen to those in authority over us, our Bishops and other authorities, as they guide us in the days and weeks to come. We keep living the Christian life which has been revealed to us: to prioritise the vulnerable and the needy, to be aware of the isolated and elderly and the needs of those around us.
We remember that God is with us, and if God is with us, there is no need to be afraid.
Just as God is with Joshua as he guides him into the promised land, so God is with us now and will continue to be in the days and year to come.
This evening, and at every service of Benediction, we sing the O Salutaris, and ask that God may ‘grant us life that shall not end, in our true native land with thee’.
May God continue to lead us to our home with him, to our true native land, even as we lay our worries and fears before him when we adore his presence with us in the Sacrament this evening.
Fr Simon Cuff is a Tutor and Lecturer in Theology at St Mellitus College. He studied Philosophy and Theology and Jewish Studies at Oxford University. His doctoral research was on the reception of Scripture in recent philosophy and critical theory. He is Coordinating Fellow of the Centre for Theology and Community. He is the author of Love in Action: Catholic Social Teaching for Every Church, and his new book, Only God will Save Us: The Nature of God and the Christian Life, is due to be published in June
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