23rd April 2020

Although I’m really not sure that St. George should be the patron saint for England I was out, first thing this morning, changing the flag on the Woolpit flag pole from the union flag, which I’d flown for the Queen’s birthday, back to the St. George’s Cross. Then, at Morning Prayer, we had specific readings and a collect for George.

As he was, very probably, a martyr for Christ during the reign of the Emperor Dioclectian I am happy that we remember him as one of the early saints of the church, even if I think perhaps England should have Alban, Edmund or Cuthbert as its patron saint!

One of the readings for Morning Prayer is Ephesians 6: 10 – 20 which is Paul’s description of the PPE that all Christians should war.

He tells us to fasten the belt of truth around our waists, put on the breast plate of righteousness, shoes that make us ready to proclaim the good news of peace, take up the shield of faith, put on the helmet of salvation and then take hold of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As we read this reading we can imagine those on the front line of the NHS, in the ITUs around the country, putting on their face visors of salvation, tying their gowns of truth around their waists, their masks of courage over their mouths, the over shoes of readiness over their feet and taking up the tools of their work – not swords but instruments of healing, touched by God’s Spirit.

Perhaps it is one of the ways we can pray for them, in their tiring and relentless work.

There are, however, a couple of profound differences. The first, of course, is that there is no shortage of God’s heavenly PPE for us. He is always waiting for us to put on our armour and to entrust our lives to his enfolding.

The second is that we are called, when we have dressed ourselves in the armour of God, and taken the sword of the Spirit, to stand. To stand firm. It has been hard to have to watch others working themselves into exhaustion while we stay home, but it is in the staying put, the standing firm, we are serving God.

Dressing in the PPE of God we are to be prayer warriors, holding our ground, with quiet determination, praying for those around us, for our nation and for the world. Those in the front line of our NHS and care homes are having to face their battles but we, we are not fighting against the enemies of flesh and blood but against the cosmic powers of this present darkness and against spiritual forces. So put on your PPE and stand, in prayer and in love, knowing that what we are doing is as important as anything that can be done in this time.

Maybe St. George might be a good patron saint, after all, for he proved himself to be faithful to Christ, by standing firm before the evil he was facing.