This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Spanish Golf Villas now sell at 30% of original price
The Whole Armour of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.11Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12For 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.13Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.16With all of these,* take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,*20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Personal Matters and Benediction
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord.22I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts.
For the writer of this letter, the oppressive violence and moral degradation of the Roman Empire were not merely this-worldly phenomena but manifestations of evil spiritual powers “in the heavens” often identified with particular planets or stars. It was taken for granted in the culture of the empire that the heavens ruled the earth, determining individual and national fortune. Christian writers on the whole did not deny this conviction but rather announced that Jesus Christ had ascended beyond the heavens to the place of the one God, from where he could exercise rule over all subsidiary powers. Today we may dissent from the cosmic machinery of this belief system but our social philosophers still point us to the cross- cultural forces which influence and often control the lives of men and women: the world economic system, religious fundamentalism, the internet, consumerism, what are these if not the kind of spiritual powers of which Paul’s disciple speaks in this passage? He/she argues that Christian militancy is not against flesh and blood people, but against the ecomomic, technical and moral powers of the civilisation in which the church community lives. Spiritual battle demands spiritual weapons and the author finds these in the old bible picture of the God who goes to war on behalf of his people. The armour that God puts on to fight evil can also be used by his people: truth against lies; justice against oppression; good news of peace aganist bad news of war; trust in God against fear of wordly powers; rescue (salvation) against hopelessness; spiritual discrimination against moral chaos. These remain the weapons of choice of all who are touched by God’s goodness and are demonstrated daily in our world by those who know that the most important battle is spiritual. They are are not violent but they fight fiercely. Some of them are christian believers and many are not but the battle is the one battle for which God provides faithful people with his weapons. Writing in Paul’s name, the author reminds his readers that the suffering of God’s troops is another weapon against evil and perhaps the greatest of them all.
A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
18 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue* came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’19And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.20Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,21for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.23When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a commotion,24he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him.25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.26And the report of this spread throughout that district.
Matthew tones down the very dramatic way this story is told in Mark’s gospel which is one of his main sources. Mark wants to emphasise the battle of Jesus against demonic forces which for him include the powerful religious taboos affecting women. Matthew wants to emphasise instead that Jesus is engaged in healing, about which he has quoted Isaiah 53, “He himself bore our diseases and carried our pain.” Jesus quietly rebels aganst the acceptance of illness and death. He praises the woman’s conviction that she can be healed (faith) and he scolds those who think that nothing can be done for an apparently dead girl. He does not keep his own body inviolate but approves the woman’s touch and takes the girl by the hand. The fight against the powers that diminish human life is carried on in the “village miracles” of Jesus of Nazareth and in many unobtrusive miracles today, not least those of the medical staffs who volunteer for work in places of violence, poverty and disease.