Tuesday 19 April: Lent 2011

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You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘And let me belong entirely to God the Father’

Galatians 3

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Before the first Christian missionaries came here, Britain was dominated by the fear of endemic. People had fewer illusions about their mortality. Life was uncertain. A season could yield a harvest or a crop failure. A woman’s labour could decrease as easily as increase the family’s size. A fever could end in health or in death.

Pagan religion offered spells to weave for protection and charms to wear in the hope of warding away any unseen dangers. It would be too easy a Christian alternatives to simply satisfy every old religious impulse. Instead of a charm, to wear a cross. Instead of the words of a pagan incantation, the words of a Christian prayer. Thereby, making it possible to switch religion without obtaining freedom from fear and insecurity.

Our prayer carries us far beyond this fear-driven, charm-weaving life. This is not a prayer for protection at all. It is instead a prayer of self-offering. Daily, in detail and with words, we simply do what Paul commands in Romans 12: ‘Offer your bodies,’ he says, ‘as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your acceptable act of worship.’

Body part by body part we have offered again our lives to God. And unlike those fear-driven pagan spells and incantations for protection, our motivation is not fear, but thanksgiving and worship.

What is mercy? It is that God’s Son came to us clothed in humanity, calling people to put themselves right with God by believing in Him. He gave himself freely to save Jews and Gentiles from the powerful effects of sin; to give life to our bodies; to connect our spirits with the Holy Spirit. He ascended so that Spirit might fill our hearts with love and the cry of worship, setting us free from all fear of judgement and death. This, says Paul, is God’s gift ‘to you whom God has called to belong to Christ’.

In view of such great mercy, I will dedicate my body, and I will do so with no specific outcome in mind other than that I might belong entirely to Him. This is my most fundamental act of thanksgiving for all that God has already done. So it is not in fear but in view of all that mercy that I will tell my Saviour today:

‘And let me belong entirely to God the Father.’