I summon today


I summon today...
all these powers between me and those evils,
against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul…

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

“I summon today…”

In this new stanza, the Breastplate Prayer moves us in part toward a summary or collection of everything we have prayed so far while also inviting us to personally claim “all these powers” as our own, that through all these means God would stand between us and every evil, cruel or merciless power that may oppose our bodies and souls.

What are “these powers” which we may summon or call upon so boldly? Such a small word, “these”, draws our attention back to the mighty strength of Triune God made manifest in countless ways.

Today we not only arise in, but we actively summon strength, obedience, service, hope, prayers, predictions, preaching, faith, innocence, righteous deeds, light, radiance, splendor, speed, swiftness, depth, stability, firmness, might, wisdom, God’s eye, God’s ear, God’s word, God’s hand, God’s shield, and God’s host.

Talk about calling down angel armies. In his discussion of our suffering and weakness in Romans 8, Paul writes,

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?

- Romans 8:31-32 (CEB)

Indeed, if God freely gave up the life of his own son for our redemption, is there anything God would withhold? That is why we not only arise with an awareness of these truths, but also boldly summon these powers in prayer so that we might stand against the forces of evil in our world. We don’t simply believe that God will strengthen us, hear us, or protect us. We actively call upon God to step in and intervene in our lives with all these powers at God’s disposal.

This is not a “name it, claim it” kind of theology. We are not saying that in summoning these powers we will be spared from all pain or suffering in our lives. We are not claiming a guaranteed victory over all of the things that stand in our way. It may be, in fact, that some things which stand in our way are necessary for our own spiritual growth and humility.

All of these powers, however, do give us strength, hope and wisdom in the midst of whatever we may face in life. God also calls us to summon these powers on behalf of others who suffer oppression in many forms, that we may stand in the gap for them as Moses does when he pleads for the people of Israel (Exodus 32-33).

The remainder of this stanza unpacks the nature of the various evils which may oppose us, but for now, let us take some time to read back through the prayer and reflect on these gifts of strength and power which God so freely offers to us as we seek to live in obedience and faithfulness to our Creator.


1. As you reflect on the list of powers throughout this prayer, which one do you need to summon most today and why?

2. What, if any difference do you see between “arising” in these powers and actually “summoning” them to stand between you and evil?

3. Which of these powers may God be calling you to summon on behalf of someone else in your life and how will you do that this week?

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I summon today all these powers…
…Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Just Getting Started



Just Getting Started
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Genesis 18:1-15

He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant.

Genesis 18:2-3

A pastor once shared with me that he found his particular rural community unsafe for door to door evangelism. Unlike suburban or urban neighborhoods where people gather regularly in public spaces, out in their yards or on the streets, people in this community kept to themselves, hidden among acres upon acres of farmland that separated them from one another. He recalled several incidents when he pulled into someone’s long gravel or dirt driveways, and assuming the gate was actually open, drove up to the house only to be met with the click of a shotgun.

From locked gates to “no trespassing” and “beware of dog” signs to the blatant motion of a double barrel directing him to turn around, the message was clear. “Private property. Keep out.” In other words, “You are not welcome here.”

They did not know he was a pastor, but it did not matter. In fairness, I have personally experienced similar “welcomes” in urban areas as well. Our first time in Brooklyn, NY we could tell everyone on the block was closely watching our unfamiliar car with Kentucky tags as we parked in front of our friend’s building. When we called, she told us she was down the road at the store but also warned us to stay in the car for a minute until she got back. Once she arrived and the neighbors saw her welcome us, they knew we were OK. Now we belonged. Walking around that neighborhood the rest of the week, we never once felt unsafe.

Though God has spoken to Abraham on several occasions, the story of God’s people essentially begins with a group of three strangers at the Oaks of Mamre, where Abraham sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. These strangers found Abraham, along with all the men of his household in a weakened state as they recovered from their circumcisions taken as a mark of their covenant with God. They were vulnerable and there is no early evidence as to the intentions of these three men.

Yet Abraham does something that would be unheard of in our modern culture of isolation and self-protective natures. He completely ignores his physical pain and the vulnerable state of his family and runs out to greet these strangers. He does not ask why they are there or question their motives. He does not call for help. He does not fear for his own safety. Instead, he invites them into his home as honored guests.

The writer goes out of his way to show the elaborate measures Abraham took to show hospitality to these strangers, and in this case, it turns out the strangers just happened to be the incarnate presence of the Triune God. At some point, Abraham clearly recognizes this truth, but there is no certain evidence that he knew this when they stood at a distance. The narrator, in hindsight, tells us that it was indeed the Lord who appeared to Abraham, but Abraham himself simply greets them as human beings. “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant.” Servant here is likely not a recognition of their divinity, but rather a submissive posture taken by one who desires to serve them by showing hospitality, as was the custom of his day. Nevertheless, Abraham’s hospitality extends far beyond what mere custom demands.

Throughout this fall season, we will journey with the people of God called “Israel” from this surprising beginning in the promise of a son and we will grow with them as they learn what it means to be God’s children, as they rebel in their adolescence, and as they mature by examining their lives as adults. We too must follow such a pattern of growth in our own life as God’s beloved children.

It all begins with one question: “How will we welcome the presence of the Lord, whether we recognize it or not?”

The Lord has a way of showing up when we least expect it, often when we are vulnerable, and often through strangers. If we are too busy or self-absorbed, it is quite possible our journey of faith may never really begin at all.

Everyone who shall wish me ill


I arise today...
Through God’s host to save me
from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar or near...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

Paranoia and fear blaze through our culture like a raging forest fire. Everywhere we turn it seems there is someone who wishes us ill, both far and near. They may be as distant as refugees on the border or politicians in Washington or as close as the person sitting on the next pew in church or even across the dinner table in our home. More often than not, such fears are rooted in our perceptions rather than in real threats to our being. The people we are most certain are “out to get us” likely don’t view us as significant enough to bother with.

In some ways, our fear of being harmed flows out of our own sense of pride and our inclination to think of ourselves as more important than we are. I once knew a family who had turned their trailer home on a small rural street into a bunker with an arsenal of assault weapons lined up along hatches they had cut in the outside wall facing the street. They said when ISIS came marching through town to mutilate their daughters and granddaughters that those terrorists wouldn’t get anywhere near their house. Clearly ISIS would not be interested in this tiny little rural crossroads in the middle of nowhere, but the perception made this family feel like they were going to be the saviors of their community. It was as much a delusion of grandeur as it was a delusion of terror that did not actually pose an imminent threat.

It is true that we have enemies. St. Patrick spent his childhood in slavery and in his world the threat of death may have indeed been a real possibility. This portion of the prayer may be particularly valuable for those who are serving in war or on the front lines of local law enforcement or security. It may echo the prayers of powerful people who have made many enemies in their lives. It may even be a prayer on the lips of terrorists or drug lords who are always looking over their shoulder despite the fact that they have put themselves in that situation.

For most of us, however, it may just be that in saving us from those who wish us ill, God must first save us from our illusion that we are such a central target to whoever we may view as our enemies. What if being “saved from our enemies” actually involves being “reconciled with our enemies” through love and forgiveness. An enemy turned friend through the love of Christ is no longer a threat. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was onto something when he said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:43-44

I do not want to diminish in any way that there are some who truly do need salvation from dangerous situations. For those suffering from abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, or any other form of intentional harm against your body or soul, this prayer is for you. May God’s host indeed save you from all who wish you ill, afar and near, and may God place in your paths people who will stand with you against such evil.

But for those who simply see enemies everywhere you look, every time you turn on the news, or every time you see someone who looks or thinks differently than you, maybe God wants to save you from your own fear and paranoia. Maybe God is inviting you to turn an enemy into a friend. Maybe, just maybe, hate and fear could actually be defeated by the power of love.

Could it be that we are truly our own worst enemies?


1. Who is it that you feel you may need saving from? Is the threat legitimate or only perceived? If the threat is legitimate, who might God have placed in your path to help?

2. What triggers your feeling of being threatened? What steps will you take to listen more to the voice of God than the voices of fear in our world?

3. Pray for an “enemy” every day this week by name. If you do not know someone personally, find someone in a news story who you might consider to be “against you” or your beliefs and pray for them. Perhaps a criminal, a terrorist, a politician from “the other party,” etc. Reflect on how God may be changing your view of them as you pray and how God may be calling you to respond.

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I summon today
all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Temptation of Vices


I arise today...
Through God’s host to save me
from temptation of vices...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it…

1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV

Paul does not say that we will never be overwhelmed by difficult circumstances or suffering, but he does say that we will not be overcome by temptation. When we talk about salvation we often think of God’s forgiveness and mercy. We imagine being saved “from the fires of hell” by the grace of Jesus given freely through the sacrifice of his blood. While this may be true, salvation implies a lot more than a “free ticket” to heaven. God not only saves us from the “punishment” for sin, at least in an eternal sense, but from the “power of sin.” We read over and over again throughout the New Testament that in Christ we are new creations, that we are no longer slaves to sin, and that God gives us the strength to resist temptation in any form (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6, 8, and 12; Ephesians 6:10-12; Galatians 2:20; James 4:7; etc.)

There are some who find themselves in various recovery programs because of addictions and other such vices that have taken a significant and painful toll on their lives, but for many of us, the temptation of vices is not so clear. A vice doesn’t have to be an extremely harmful addiction. It may simply be a habitual failing or shortcoming which we easily overlook because, after all, we are only human. Just because we do not participate in what we would consider moral depravity or wickedness does not mean that there are not faults and even idols in our lives which turn our attention away from God.

I confess that it is much easier in the morning to open my e-mail or social media feed than my Bible app. It feels more productive to jump straight into the workday than to set aside intentional time for prayer. Would I rather relax in the evening with a good TV show to unwind or sit down with my journal and the Daily Examen to reflect on how I responded or failed to respond to God’s presence throughout the day? Again, I think the answer is obvious.

What makes vices so tempting is that they are not always “bad things.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary notes that vices may be trivial, using the example, “suffering from the vice of curiosity.” Curiosity may indeed be a strength until it leads us into places we don’t belong. It is not the severity or immorality of the vice that makes it so harmful. It is the habitual way in which such vices, no matter how small, begin to consume our lives and distract us from that which is most important.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul this way when he talks about the failures of God’s children throughout the Hebrew Scriptures:

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

1 Corinthians 10:11-12, The Message

The NIV translates verse 12 this way:

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!


1. Name the three most common temptations, no matter how small, that distract you from keeping God central in your life.

2. How have you tried to be self-reliant rather than relying on God to overcome these vices?

3. What steps will you take to daily put yourself in the path of God’s grace so that you may have the strength to resist such temptations?

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today, through God’s host to save me
from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Fish Out of Water



Fish Out of Water
Sunday, September 1, 2019
Luke 5:1-11

When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Luke 5:4

Imagine this: You grew up going to church. Your best friends were in youth group. Then you went to a Christian college where you met your Christian spouse. The bridesmaids and groomsmen in your wedding were Christian friends.

You moved to a new city to start a family. You made your first friends at church and put your kids in a Christian preschool. You now work 50+ hours a week and don’t have much free time. When you do, you’re volunteering at church.

The reason that your church is only reaching Christians could be as simple as this: You don’t know anyone who isn’t already a Christian.

- Fresh Expressions US

In all of our well-intended attempts to make “church” a priority in our lives, is it possible that we have so isolated ourselves from the world that we no longer have any redemptive influence among those beyond our walls? Is our light washed out by the Sunday morning glow of stained glass? Has our salt lost its value because we spend all our time in the “Dead Sea” of Christendom where the supply of salt never runs out while the world sits at our banks dying of thirst for just a sip of fresh living water?

If Jesus wanted to create a new religion, or even reform a dying religious institution, he would have started with religious people. Instead, we find early on in Jesus’ ministry a radical shift from “religious leaders” to ordinary people.

Jesus knew the “fish” were not waiting around in synagogue and the temple to be caught. That’s why he went where the fish were. That’s why he called people who were already there, living and working among the ordinary people who needed to know that they were immensely valuable to God. The church may teach us how to fish, but as a fishing hole, the church is tapped out. Jesus tells us to go out into deeper waters. If you want to fish, you have to go where the fish are.

Jesus has come into the world to reveal God and to redeem the cosmos. But he is known to us only through the witness of his apostles. The call of the first disciples marks the beginning of a movement that culminates in the founding of the church. The church did not come into existence through a group of persons who wanted to start a good, even benevolent, organization.

Arland J. Hultgren

If the disciples did church the way we do today, would the world still know about Jesus?

Jesus is about to ask them to re-imagine what it means for them to be fishers - and to re-imagine who "fish" might be. So the moral of this story is NOT, "Let's keep doing what we have always done before and trust that one day God will fill our nets." If anything, the moral is, "Let's stop fishing the way we have always done it. Let's re-imagine who we are and how we are and what we are called to do now. Let's be fish out of water!"

Rev. Dr. George Hermanson

Snares of Devils


I arise today...
Through God’s host to save me
from snares of devils...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

I arise today through God’s host to save me…

… from snares of devils,
… from temptation of vices,
… from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near

These next three lines of our prayer seem to fit nicely together. Essentially they summarize what we have been talking about over the past few weeks, that God guards, protects, and saves us. Plain and simple.

It is one thing, however, to say that God saves, and quite another thing to wrestle with what exactly we need saving from. In general, we feel pretty good about ourselves. Most people don’t think they need saving. Even Christians, who believe in Jesus to forgive their sins and save them for heaven, do not always recognize that God’s saving work goes much deeper than handing out golden tickets for Saint Peter to collect at the pearly gates.

Patrick’s prayer says specifically that God’s host saves us from the snares of devils, from temptation of vices, and from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

Today, let’s zero in on those “snares of devils.”

In the C.S. Lewis classic, Screwtape Letters, uncle Screwtape trains his nephew on how to be more effective as a demon leading his “patient” away from God. In one letter, Screwtape writes:

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

Snares are generally hidden. If they were clearly marked, they would not serve their purpose for no one would willingly walk into a trap. Often we don’t even realize that we have been caught by a snare. Last spring my daughter and I took a “Lobster Boat” cruise off the coast of Portland, Maine. As we pulled up the traps I realized the genius of their design. The lobster can crawl right in to get the bait without even noticing. The only problem is, they cannot get out. There is plenty of room in the trap for them to crawl around. They can live comfortably in their cage without realizing anything is wrong until they suddenly find themselves out of the water.

Granted, I doubt the lobster has much awareness of such details, but as humans we often find ourselves resting comfortably in traps we never knew we had crawled into. Paul warns Timothy of such snares when he says:

Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap [or snare], where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.

- 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (The Message)

I am particularly struck by the reference to inane discussions that end up in fights and the call not to be argumentative, even with those who “refuse to obey.” This is perhaps one of the most common snares we have fallen into as Christians. We always want to win the argument, and we are even more determined because we believe that “being right” is literally a matter of eternal life or death, heaven or hell. Yet Paul seems to imply that such methods will only drive others away. “You never know,” he says, “when God may change their heart.” The method God uses to change their hearts, it would seem, will not be our arguments, but rather our gentleness, patience, and love.

We may not visibly stumble into the Devil’s fiery pit, but how often have we found ourselves falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of our twisted logic and desperation to convince everyone else how right we are and in turn, how wrong they are? Are we more concerned about loving others or about winning them over to our way of thinking? This argumentative way of being is increasingly common among Christians, but we must call it what it is, a snare of the devil and a trap that we don’t even realize we have entered.

Perhaps it is “we”, not “them”, who need to pray for a change of heart that we might escape the snares that have so subtly captured us into lives and purposes that are far too small.


1. What kinds of snares have distracted you from God throughout your life?

2. How have you personally experienced the futility of arguments?

3. What truth is God speaking to you that may help you escape the snares that keep you feeling stuck or trapped?

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today, through God’s host to save me
from temptation of vices…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

Come and See



Come and See
Sunday, August 25, 2019
John 1:35-51

Nathaniel responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Philip said, “Come and see.”

John 1:46

In her most recent book, “Inspired”, Rachel Held Evans describes her earliest memories of Jesus. She, like many of us, learned to pray around the dinner table. “Thank you Jesus for my mommy and daddy, my sister and my food.” “The first thing I knew about Jesus,” she says, “ is that he was responsible for the existence of my parents, my sister, me, and my food. That seemed like good enough news for me.”

When asked as a teenager to share how she “came to Jesus,” she responded with confusion. There had never been a time in her life when she did not know Jesus, but she never “came to him.” Rather, Jesus had always come to her. Jesus had simply “always been there.”

We spend a lot of time and energy in churches trying to figure out the latest and greatest strategies to get more members and more money in the offering plate. On the whole, the church has become quite proficient at mass producing Vacation Bible Schools, Community Meals, polished worship services, and countless other programs and events in hopes to “draw people in.” We try hard to be “seeker sensitive.” There’s only one problem. There are fewer and fewer “seekers” to be sensitive too. People are not looking for a church. They have no need for church, no matter how impressive it’s programs and ministries, or at least that’s the general perception for so many valid reasons.

Somewhere along the way, in our desperation to “get back to the good old days” when church stood at the center of our community, we have lost our ability to introduce people to what they really need… the Good News of Jesus. Yes, people may meet Jesus in church, but more often than not, Jesus did not meet people in the synagogues or at the temple. He met them in the marketplace, at their jobs, in their homes, on the streets, in the leper colony, among the sick, at funerals, at weddings and parties and feasts.

What if the church itself has become our idol? Just like the golden calf, church has come to function like a mediator between us and God so we don’t have to climb the mountain in the cloud of thunder and lightning where God’s Holy Presence may consume us. Instead, we are content to sit at the base of the mountain saying, “This church is the god who brought you out of Egypt.” So long as we are in the church, we feel comfortable and safe. We have “come to Jesus” by building walls between us and the rest of the world. We want to leave each Sunday morning feeling good about ourselves, having been encouraged and inspired in worship, but not challenged or convicted. We want just enough of “Jesus” to fill up our Spiritual gas tank for the week, but we are not overly comfortable with the thought that he might just walk out the door with us. Like the imaginary ghosts in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Jesus may just follow you home, or to the restaurant or the bar, or to work, or anywhere else you may go.

In John 1:46, Nathaniel wonders, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” In truth, there are many people in our world to day who might ask us, “Can anything good come from the church?”

Philip did not reply by inviting Nathaniel to Nazareth. He didn’t talk about how great the town was, about all the hidden gems there that nobody noticed. He didn’t tell him about all the great meals and fellowship opportunities or the amazing entertainment that was available. Nazareth was not the point. Philip didn’t need to defend the goodness of Nazareth. He wanted Nathaniel to meet Jesus.

What would it look like if we stopped trying to defend and promote our churches and instead just invited people to meet Jesus? They may come to your church or they may not, but in the end, attending a service or an event at church is not the point. The Good News is not that the church came into the world. The Good News is that God came into the world, wrapped in flesh, to dwell among us.

When we invite people to “Come and see,”, what exactly are we inviting them to? Do we want them to come see our beautiful sanctuary, our inspiring choir, our brilliant Sunday school teacher, our new preacher, or our fall-off-the-bone BBQ? Or might we simply invite them to Jesus.

“Can anything good come out of church?”

I don’t know. God can make beautiful things out of the dust, so surely he can bring something good out of Nazareth or the church. But that’s not the point. It’s not about Nazareth. It’s not about the church.

It’s about Jesus. Come and see him for yourself. Come and see the God who has stepped out of heaven to find you.

Come and see.

God's Host


I arise today...
Through God’s host to save me...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

Over the next few weeks we will explore what exactly God’s host saves us from, but for now, let’s take a few moments to ask, what exactly is “God’s host?”

This is not a term we hear very often but it has a rich tradition throughout church history and in Scripture.

Most often this term refers to the angels or “angel armies” as the “Heavenly Hosts.” (Psalm 148:2, 1 Kings 22:19, Luke 2:13-14). The problem with angels is that we don’t always recognize them when we see them. The writer of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). When the three visitors came to announce the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, Abraham welcomed them and showed them hospitality as strangers in his midst (Genesis 18:1-22). They appeared as ordinary men and had Abraham not shown hospitality, we do not know if they would have stuck around to deliver the message.

Similarly, Jesus himself walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus but they did not recognize him (Luke 24:13-35). He was going to continue on his way until they showed hospitality by inviting him to stay for dinner, and there around the table, their eyes were opened to the presence of God in their midst. Consistently throughout scripture we find that recognizing the presence of God’s host, or even of God’s personal and immediate presence, begins with an act of hospitality toward a stranger. How often have we missed the presence of God’s host among us because we ignored the stranger in our midst?

Traditionally the heavenly host has also expanded beyond angelic beings to include all of God’s creation, for God is enthroned in the heavens and “the earth is his footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). The point here is not that God treats us as lowly beings to be walked over, but rather that all of the created order is just that, something created or made by God. When the Psalmist declares, “Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!”, it is a reminder that even the sun and moon and stars bow before God (Psalm 148:3). In Jeremiah 31:35 the prophet reminds us of this truth and explicitly refers to the God who created these celestial bodies as the Lord of Hosts, implying in part that the sun, moon and stars may be among God’s host. Zephaniah 1:5 refers to these as the “starry host.” Rather than being gods themselves, as so many ancient people believed, they serve the purposes of the God who made them (Deuteronomy 4:19).

In some cases, even human beings can serve as God’s host. Consider 1 Samuel 7:45 where the “Lord of Hosts” commands Israel’s armies in battle. This is not to say that any human army is the Lord’s host, but those who surrender complete authority to God as their commander may indeed serve in such a role as they carry out God’s saving work in the world.

No matter how broadly or narrowly we define the Heavenly Host, we can say two things for certain. First, the host of God is many… myriad upon myriad. The word host literally means multitude and was often used in the ancient world to refer to massive and intimidating armies. Whether in the form of angels, celestial bodies, or even human beings called for a particular purpose, the host of God is many.

Host also hearkens us back to the image of hospitality. To be a good host is to show hospitality to others. The second thing we can know for certain about the Heavenly host then, is that they are servants of the Most High God, extending hospitality so that God’s presence may be welcome in their midst. Perhaps this is why some parts of the church refer to the bread in the Eucharist as the “Host”, for in this ordinary bread, the holy mystery of God’s presence his “hosted” or made welcome, so that God may enter into our bodies and make us His body for the sake of the world.

May we also serve as hosts of the Lord, always extending hospitality both to the Holy Spirit and to the strangers among us, so that God’s presence may always be welcome in our midst.


1. How do you understand the idea of God’s host?

2. What new insights is the Spirit speaking to you about the role of God’s host in your life?

3. Reflect on a time when God clearly showed up in an act of genuine hospitality toward a stranger.

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today, through God’s host to save me
from snares of devils…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

The Time is Now



The Time is Now
Sunday, August 18, 2019
Mark 1:14-20, Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 28:19-20

“Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.”

Mark 1:17

Whose job is it to make disciples? The prophets? The preachers? The Sunday School Teachers?

We are quick to read between the lines in Mark 1 and Matthew 4 as Simon, Andrew, James and John leave their nets and follow Jesus like a group of children who have nothing better to do than join in a playground game of follow-the-leader. We struggle to find ways to excuse ourselves from such unreasonable demands. We have jobs and mortgages and kids and aging parents and pets. We have responsibilities that in our minds, are far more crucial than the lowly fishing business these early disciples walked out on. What exactly does it look like to “Come and follow Jesus,” in our day? The story is so brief it hardly does justice to the level of sacrifice these “ordinary fishermen” truly made. If we’re truly honest, most of us tend to think it was a much easier decision for them than for us.

There are much larger implications, however, when we consider the timing of this call. “After John was arrested…” (Mark 1:14, Matthew 4:12).

John was the prophet of the day. John was the mouthpiece of God. John was the first person in nearly 400 years to hold such a crucial religious position. No one alive at the time had ever heard the voice of God so directly and neither had their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” he declared, and then he is arrested.

In steps Jesus, picking up right where John leaves off, except he is not just another prophet. He is something much more. He is the very presence of God in the flesh. And what’s more, God is not hanging out in the synagogues or even with the prophet’s followers in the wilderness. He is hanging out in the marketplace around the Sea of Galilee. He is eating and drinking and laughing with the tax collectors, the occupying Roman soldiers, the sick and the lame, the women and the children, and yes, even the lowly hard working fishermen.

“I’ll show you how to fish for people,” he says (Mark 1:17).

The nature of following Jesus and “fishing for people” looks different for everyone. Some may leave everything behind and others are needed to proclaim the Good News right where they are. Regardless of what shape our call takes or where Jesus leads, the point is that Jesus is leading “us”. He’s not training people for the office of “prophet” to replace John. He’s not offering a continuing education course or a doctoral program for Pharisees and Sadducee's so they they can update their methods and theology to fit the changing times. He is not saying everyone has to quit their jobs and go into full-time ministry, though that may be true for some.

Jesus calls you and me, ordinary people, to “fish for people,” to take up the mantle of the prophet and proclaim the Word of God not only in the wilderness, but in the marketplace, at our jobs, in our schools, at the restaurant, in the public square, with our friends and neighbors, in our homes and our families, and yes, even in our churches.

The more we try to plan out exactly how we will follow Jesus, the more we will find Jesus changing our plans. We are not Jesus’ GPS to make sure everything he calls us to do just happens to be on our route. If we stop to think about it too much, we will likely be overcome with anticipation and anxiety about the unknown. We might remember that John was just arrested and wonder if the same might happen to us. Our fear may get the better of us. We will surely come up with a million other things we have to do “first.”

Where our culture says, “trust yourself, trust your instincts, your intelligence, your abilities, your wealth, your plans, etc.” Jesus simply says, “Trust me. Step out of the boat. Drop your nets. Let’s go.”

The time is now!

God's Shield


I arise today...
Through God’s shield to protect me...

The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

My heart trusts him.

I was helped, my heart rejoiced,

and I thank him with my song.

- Psalm 28:7 (CEB)

In Genesis 15:1, God promises Abraham a great reward. The most literal translation of the Hebrew here reads: “I am a shield to you, your very great reward.”

The key here is not that God will provide some external source of protection or reward, but that God is Abraham’s shield and reward. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul describes the “shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The key here lies in the object of our faith. What or who do we trust for our security?

As humans, we regularly put our faith in any number of things to provide safety and security in our lives. We trust in our own strength. We trust in job security, education, health-care, retirement funds, our military or police, even our guns. Our currency says, “In God We Trust” but as some have said, a more accurate statement may be “In THIS god we trust”, because in many cases, money itself has become our shield and our god.

On Sundays we go to church to proclaim our trust in God, but the rest of the week we spend building bigger and stronger safety nets to protect us from any worst case scenario. We build our nets so wide that it almost wouldn’t matter if God was there for us or not. Like rebellious adolescents, we essentially say, “I can take care of myself.” It’s almost as if underneath it all, we are afraid that God might not come through and we must have a backup plan. If we truly believe God is the perfect shield, why do we need to arm and protect ourselves so well?

We talk a great deal about security, safety and protection, but in truth, we spend most of lives living in fear. Fear is not the absence of faith. Fear is putting our faith in the wrong things, in things that cannot truly save us.

We have insurance, security systems, weapons and defenses of all kinds. We have law enforcement and neighborhood watches to keep the streets safe. We have shelters that are more than capable of weathering almost any storm. Yet in all of this, we are still afraid. In fact, the industries who produce all of the “shields” we use to protect ourselves actually tell us to be afraid. Fear makes for a wonderful marketing strategy. If you want to sell a warranty, you have to make the customer afraid that the product may break within a certain amount of time. If you want to sell a home security system, you have to convince them their neighborhood is not safe. The great irony here is that all of the people who make a fortune trying to “protect us” are the very ones convincing us that we need protection in the first place.

God is different. God doesn’t promise safety and security the same way an insurance company or a gun dealer might. God doesn’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen.

But in almost every encounter with humanity, God’s first words are “Do not be afraid.”

In fact, this is exactly how God begins with Abraham.

“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

Our act of faith in itself does not protect us from anything. God does. God is our shield and God alone protects us.


1. What are you most afraid of?

2. What safety nets do you have in place to protect ourselves? How much time, energy and resources do you invest in these compared to what you invest in our relationship with God?

3. Where have you seen God’s protection in your life?

Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:

... I arise today,
Through God’s host to save me…

Pray along with the full text of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer