Last week at Scargill House Phil, the director and head honcho there, was speaking about Jesus’s script – the guidance for his life. It comes from Luke 4 and Isaiah 61, and is all about bringing good news to the poor, healing broken hearts and setting captives free. Jesus lived by this script and never forgot it. He had absorbed it into his being so that it influenced every breath he took. Every step he made. Phil asked us to consider what the script might be for our living and it reminded me of something the apostle also known as Paul once wrote in a letter to a bunch of folks in a place called Ephesus.
Paul’s picture of the kind of armour we can put on for life is a meaningful touchstone for lots of people and has been turned into readings and prayers of many kinds down the centuries. But in the past few years I have become increasingly convinced that Paul meant it as some kind of metaphor. A parable which turned something evil into something good. A reminder of a script we can live by. You see back then in Paul’s day Roman soldiers were everywhere, and Paul was writing this letter whilst imprisoned in Rome. The Roman empire may well have given us straight roads, baths and decent sanitation – but they also brought crucifixion, fear, high taxation and tyranny. As this little sketch from the HH folks shows…
So Paul probably sat there and studied a thug of a soldier who was guarding him and thought, ‘I know, I’ll use these guys as reminders of the script for our lives.’ And he panned down the huge body in front of him and picked out the helmet, breastplate, shield, sword, belt and sandals and used these as metaphors for justice, salvation, faith, God’s spirit, truth and peace. There were no direct connections, Paul just made them so that when his readers next saw a bunch of footsoldiers they’d be reminded of the good things in life, rather than the bad things. And so be encouraged to weave these things into their lives as a script for healthy living and a guide for the way to treat others.
So when I led the next session after Phil’s I asked the question – how do we remember our script? We don’t see Roman soldiers any more, so what do we see every day that can nudge us towards the ways of God? Things that keep slapping us in the face because they are ordinary and always hanging around.
And so the TV Remote of guidance, the keys of the way and yes – the toaster of joy all got a mention. After all, toast is great comfort food to many, and that ping! as it shoots up can be a little reminder of the satisfaction and joy God can weave into our lives, often in the unexpected times. So I wonder what things might be the equivalent of the armour for you? Things that you come up against every day which can be useful reminders.
The 4×4 of justice? The photocopier of kindness? The shovel of humility?
What do you think? Let me know…