Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For 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. Therefore 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.
Stand therefore, and 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.
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. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Blessed be the Lord, my rock
who trains my arms for battle,
who prepares my hands for war. (R./)
He is my love, my fortress;
he is my stronghold, my saviour,
my shield, my place of refuge.
He brings peoples under my rule. (R./)
To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
I will play on the ten-stringed lute
to you who give kings their victory,
who set David your servant free. (R./)
Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jersalem.'
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
When Paul (or whoever wrote Ephesians in his name) presents the moral life as a battleground, where we need the whole armour of God, it evokes yesterday's warning to "Enter the narrow door."
Are there forces that stand in the way of salvation? Right now we may overlook them or even try to silence them with a guilty conscience. Shund not the struggle; face it, 'tis God's gift. Jesus himself had to struggle with the knowledge of his impending death, by which he would return to his Father in heaven. His ministry was to speak his truth to power, no matter what the cost. And for this he died a prophet's death in Jerusalem. Still, the sight of the Holy City does not stir him to hatred or bitterness. What he says about Jerusalem is a mixture of love and his indomitable hope: "How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her young under her wings." Eventually, love will win out.
Jesus was clearly a keen observer of nature and of the animal world. He would have often seen hens clucking about in the village, gathering their brood and watching over them. He too was bent on gathering people. He wanted to form them into a united community, including people who would not normally relate in friendship, Jew, Samaritan and Gentile, rich and poor, law abiding and sinner, male and female.
He laments the fact that so many were not willing to be gathered by him. He longed to gather them but he was powerless before the mystery of human freedom. He could call and invite and plead, but could not coerce.
When his desire to save people met with murderous resistance, and they nailed him to the cross, he continued to call and to invite, calling them still. "When I am raised up... I will draw all people to myself."
After the resurrection, his work of calling and inviting and gathering continues to this day. He never ceases his work of gathering people for the kingdom of God and he continues to await our response.
Various influences can block us from responding to the Lord's call. To resist such forces we need the strength of grace, the armour of God. For this, says Ephesians, we should pray in the Spirit at all times.