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The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
“Put on the whole armor of God.” Every three years, the Common Lectionary asks the church, throughout the world, to read those words from today’s epistle lesson. And, every time they roll back around, it is important for us to remember that putting on the whole armor of God is not something we do all at once, or once and for all, but, rather, over and over, day after day; getting up every morning and preparing ourselves to face another day, which is what it means to put on the whole armor of God.
To put on the whole armor of God is to get ready, to prepare ourselves to face whatever is coming next, to center ourselves spiritually, so that we might actually go through an entire day in a thoughtful, mindful, prayerful way; ready to live deeply, fully and faithfully into each new moment and conversation; paying attention to, and seeing the image of God in, every person who crosses our path that day.
Which is why putting on the whole armor of God is something we have to do all over again, with each new day. Some people do that by reading from scripture each morning, some by going on a long, slow prayer walk, others by sitting silently for a few moments in centering prayer. Some turn to a favorite daily devotional guide, such as Henri Nowen’s Bread for the Journey, or Richard Rohr’s amazing book, Yes, And . . . Others find writing in a daily prayer journal to be a helpful centering discipline.
Some do all of the above. And, some do none of the above, because they can’t, because the minute their feet hit the floor, their household is an incessant blur of family responsibility which leaves little space for any stillness of any kind.
In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, the writer Elizabeth Gilbert tells about renting a small cabin on the isolated island of Gili Meno, and embarking there on a silent retreat; a spiritual retreat Gilbert launched with the vow that she was closing her mouth, and would not open it until something inside her had changed; the kind of retreat many of us might love to take, but a luxury few of us can afford. Rather, most of us have to “build the airplane while we are flying it”; putting on the whole armor of God, each day, a little here and a little there, when and where and how we can.
But, for even the most hurried and breathless of us, some kind of daily centering of the soul is so important, because that is how we get ready to face whatever we might face, that day, in a mindful, thoughtful, prayerful way.
All of which is to say that what this morning’s epistle passage calls “putting on the whole armor of God” is a spiritual discipline as daily as waking up and getting up, to start, all over again, another day; a dailyness which the poet Mary Oliver captures with her simple sentence, “Another morning, and I wake, with thirst, for the goodness I do not yet have.”
Which is a truly beautiful, deeply spiritual way to live; waking each morning with thirst for the goodness we do not yet have; our daily longing to take another step along the path to depth; each new day, tied to, and yet free from, every day which came before, like the days of creation in the book of Genesis, each day building on, but going beyond, the day before, each day another day bent with the weight of every day already done, but free from the weight of every day yet to come; each new day, another day to practice living in a mindful, thoughtful, prayerful way; putting on the whole armor of God; getting ready to live deeply, fully and faithfully into, and through, whatever is coming next.