Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Lent 4
March 15, 2015
Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;* the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ (Matthew 26:41, NRSV)
The number is familiar … 666. You may have seen it on little Damien’s head in the original 1976 version of The Omen. It sometimes shows up in tattoos worn by those in supremacist groups. Maybe you remember a Christian pastor from Florida a number of years ago making the news for having the number tattooed on his arm … although his claim to be Jesus might have been the bigger news. Or you have seen it in the 13th chapter of Revelation, as the number of the beast that is often named the Antichrist. The Revelation text is, of course, the source of each of these other cultural references.
If you were in church this morning you also saw the number. It was the hymnal number of our Hymn of the Day (our middle hymn). In an ironic twist, those who designed our ELW hymnal, assigned the number to the hymn “What Wondrous Love is This?” Although I didn’t read much internet chatter about this when the hymnal was published, there was some local and informal conversation about whether or not a Christian hymnal should include any hymn numbered 666. (Think of some hotels that have no 13th floor, and you get the idea.).
I’m not disturbed by it, to be honest (please don’t call the bishop and ask to have me defrocked … hear me out). Sometimes I think we give inanimate objects and labels more power than they deserve. The internet and religious news feeds are all too often places where these kinds of issues circulate and inflame the fears and anger of believers. It’s just a number, right? It has become a horror flick trigger and a staple symbol of satanic conspiracy theories. It has no power over the believer whose God is the Lord of Life and the God who is truly alive and well in the world. When the religious culture obsesses over something like a number, they give it more power than it deserves.
So, in your prayer life this week, why not give thought and prayerful reflection to the “things” in your life that you allow a greater measure of control and power than is healthy. Maybe the “thing” is an emotion that you allow to control you … maybe it is a habit that regularly gets you in trouble. Maybe it is a person who often gets your goat, or a situation you regularly mishandle. Sometimes we allow these inner “demons” to become bigger than life, and have more impact upon us than they merit. Try to remember whose lifeblood flows through your spiritual veins, and makes you who you are, and “whose you are.”
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me: against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd….Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
~~From “the Lorica” (the Breastplate) of St. Patrick