Angel Armor

June 23rd, 2013

Acts 5:19-21: But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and brought them forth out of their chains, and said, “ Go stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

Notes from a pastor: This true story was my introduction to the scripture familiar to many found in Ephesians 6:10-20. I am glad for the memory and the opportunity to share this story with you:

Angel Armor

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that we should put on whatever shoes will make it possible for us to proclaim the gospel of peace. In the summers of my childhood that would have been bare naked feet, as our shoes came off the day school ended for the summer and only flip-flops were worn if we had to walk on the hot sidewalks to keep our feet from burning. (Except on Sundays, when our shoes pinched more each week as we grew bigger but we knew we weren’t about to get new shoes til fall.)

My grandparents back yard was full of soft dust and pecan trees and across the back fence was the Central Baptist Church and on its steeple were two angels, guardian angels, which we took personally as our own true guardian angels. They were gleaming white in the hot summer sun and they were as barefoot beneath their robes as we were so we felt blessed and connected and safe with our barefoot angels and all was right with the world.

Except for one thing. I liked the barefoot angels because I was a barefoot child and it gave me a sense of angelic righteousness that the angels and I both went bare foot and both were committed to preaching the gospel of peace. But I was not exactly sure that those angels were otherwise dressed right for their jobs. They did not seem to me to be wearing the whole armor of God. The first time I knew that there was such a thing as the whole armor of God and that we all could wear it I was about 6 years old. My grandparents’ home backed up against the old Central Baptist Church, the two properties separated by a four foot wooden fence and a row of tall dusty pecan trees. I liked to sit on the fence listening to their choir practice on hot summer Wednesday evenings, leaning down with my sideways can nailed to a broom handle and scooping up pecans from their side of the fence and pouring them into a sack on mine, which I would laboriously drag to the pile on the back porch at the end of the evening. The trees had been planted by my grandfather and “What ye have sown, the Baptists shall not reap”, he had said to me, handing me the scooper and the sack. My grandmother caught the two of us out there reaping our own pecans from the Baptist yard one day and sent me to the parsonage with the whole bag as a gift. My grandfather didn’t have to go because he dragged his foot and stuttered, the result of two severe strokes.

“Is this a bad thing we did?” I asked my Grama Wanda, grunting a little as I hauled the heavy full bag across the dusty yard with no help from her.

“It was unnecessary mischief,” she replied sternly. “The tree gives plenty of fruit to share and the Baptists are good neighbors. Your grandfather just enjoys stirring up trouble, especially when there is a child for a partner. He used to have your mother out here doing the same thing!”

“Did God smite him with thunder and lightening for stealing back our pecans?” I asked her, thinking of some fearsome Arizona summer afternoon thunderstorms I had experienced while visiting them. The children playing in the Baptist yard were always smiting each other with one thing or another and they seemed unharmed.

‘Goodness no, child!’ she exclaimed. But I saw a look of pure glee pass between my grandparents. He was laughing, his drooping face contorted as he snorted with mirth, and she was too, standing with her arms around him, his stooped 6 foot 3 body bent from his strokes but still a foot taller than her five feet and 3/4 inch frame. I didn’t know why they were laughing, but I liked to watch them when they held each other like that and laughed and laughed.

“Do I have to wear shoes?” I asked as I prepared to go around to the back door of the parsonage, which sat on the church grounds. “Put on your feet whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace!” my grama said. “That is from Ephesians, and it means use your best manners. Tell Mrs. Parker that your grandfather and you were picking pecans and thought she might like some to put by for her Christmas baking.”

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