Have you ever heard the phrase, “to gird up your loins?” It means to prepare yourself for something difficult or challenging, and it is lifted right out of the Bible. Back in biblical times people wore long tunics which would get in the way if you needed to engage in something physical, and so, they would gather the material at the front, pass it between their legs (a bit like a nappy), bring it to their back then around their waist on both sides, and tie at the front. Once you had girded your loins you were ready for battle or for service.
Jesus, when speaking to his disciples said to them, “Gird up your loins and have your lamps lit!” In other words he wanted them to be ready for service; to be full members of God’s kingdom — a Kingdom that transcends the kingdoms of this world, where all are invited and welcomed; a kingdom built on a way of life that is different to the world, where we become blessings to each other, look out for one another, serve one another, and share our lives with one another.
To be ready for service means being ready to do the work God has called us to do — and the works are very simple. Jesus urges his disciples to, “Sell your stuff and support the poor. Make wallets for yourselves that will not wear out; a treasure in heaven that will exist forever.” It is a calling to a way of life, and that way of life is the way of love.
In the same way that mathematics exists — whether we are here to perceive it or not — love exists. It is something wholly apart and distinct from ourselves. God is love and to be in God’s kingdom is to align ourselves with, and immerse ourselves in, that love; to be in union with God and so filled with God’s love such that we can extend that love to others. We are to live under that way of love.
The way of selfless love is spelled out in the Bible and fully embodied and expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. If you want to know what love looks like, then look at Jesus. God is love and Jesus is God, therefore there never has been and never will be a more wonderful expression of how love should be embodied.
Jesus, using a metaphor, asks us to, “Gird our loins and have our lamps lit,” and this means constantly living in a state of readiness; or constantly living under God’s way of love; bearing out God’s Kingdom; being in sync and harmony with God’s will such that we are able to store for ourselves those treasures in heaven.
The obvious answer to staying ‘ready’ is to use our wisdom and intellect to discern between right, wrong, good, and evil, however, the Victorian Bishop John Ryle said these wise words: “When we make our own imperfect knowledge and consciousness the measure of our sinfulness, we are on very dangerous ground.” In other words we cannot self-reference, and use ourselves as a measure of love. Remember, love exists apart from ourselves and it is against that external love that we should measure ourselves.
One of the reasons I chose to be an Anglican is because we hold in balance scripture, tradition, reason, and the Holy Spirit as the four pillars against which we measure ourselves against God’s love.
- We need scripture that spells out what the way of love looks like. It is there in black and white and revealed, expressed, and embodied in and through the person of Jesus Christ.
- We need tradition because we can look back and see the fruits of where the church — Christians — have succeeded and failed — where we have previously aligned or misaligned ourselves with the way of love.
- We need our wisdom and intellect because it is through our minds that we discern when we are aligned with the way of love.
- We need the Holy Spirit — God — to guide and lead us in the way of love. We need to listen to God’s voice and God’s prompting.
If we focus on any one aspect without the others, we run the risk, as Bishop Ryle puts it, of being on dangerous ground, of being skewed, doing our own thing, going the wrong way, or missing that which God would have us be and do. I am not saying that us Anglicans have always got it right, far from it, but holding all four in balance, to me, seems a good place to start.
Today, most of us do not wear long tunics, and to be fair, if we were to try and gird our loins we would probably end up with a significant wedgie! But, we can understand the metaphor, and strive to be a people aligned with God’s will and operate in God’s way of love; being people of the Kingdom, a Kingdom where all are welcomed, loved, supported, and nurtured.
This is my prayer for the church here in Bermuda, and it is my prayer for me and also for you. I hope and pray you have a blesséd week, but more than that, I hope and pray that you will be ready to be the blessing to others and to our world that God has called you to be. Amen.