The Whole Armour of Christ
Last updated Tuesday, 24 March, 2020
The Priory Church. Choral Evensong. Sunday 15th March 2020. Lent 3.
Ephesians 6. 10 – 20. The whole armour of Christ.
On Tuesday, as everyone in Ireland should be able to tell you, the Church remembers St Patrick, their patron saint. This is some of what we know about this man of faith. He was born on the west coast of Britain around the year 390, and was captured by Irish raiders when he was sixteen and taken to Ireland as a slave. After six years he escaped and seems to have gone to the continent. He eventually found his way back to his own family, where his previously nominal Christian faith grew and matured. He returned to Gaul and was there trained as a priest and much influenced by the form of monasticism evolving under Martin of Tours. When he was in his early forties, he returned to Ireland as a bishop, and made his base in Armagh, which became the centre of his See. He evangelized the people of the land by walking all over the island, gently bringing men and women to a knowledge of Christ. Although he faced with fierce opposition and possible persecution, he continued his missionary journeys. Despite being unsuccessful in his attempts to establish the diocesan system he had experienced in Gaul, his monastic foundations proved to be the infrastructure required to maintain the faith after his death, which occurred on this day in the year 460. (Source: Celebrating The Saints.)
When looked at from a literal point of view, we can be forgiven for thinking that Patrick held very little in common with the man clothed in full fighting attire described by St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, our New Testament Reading this evening, described by the term, the full armour of God. But in all truth, actually St Patrick, through his life and in his ministry very closely mirrors the qualities depicted by St Paul. We can see this very clearly when we strip away each piece of this body armour and replace it with the human quality they represent. He put on and fastened around him the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes on his feet to proclaim peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and carried the sword of Spirit, the very word of God, and all of these were highly visible to those he met and drew to faith. His life was encircled in trust in God through Jesus his Lord.
Patrick sought and found God within his life and recognised the Spirit of God at work within him. Both in the good and the bad times of his life he held fast to faith, he trusted in God, he developed a personal relationship with God through prayer, he trusted in God and central to all of this, he allowed God to make his dwelling place in him. Patrick used the full armour of God in his ministry.
During this season of lent we are being encouraged to consider our prayer life, what works for us in this pivotal relationship with God and what areas we perhaps at times struggle with. I find it particularly useful to look at the example that those who have lived and welcomed Christ into their lives can offer to us. I take comfort that they rarely got it right all of the time, that they had a past before turning to Christ which at times they were not so keen to publicise, but they also offer hope for our own future and in particular, just what we can go on to achieve when God and his whole armour and protection is welcomed into our lives in faith and truth. St Patrick is just such a role model for each of us today.