One of our most basic instincts as creatures on Earth is to protect ourselves for survival.
We see this in the animal kingdom where animals who are on the food chain as prey have magnificent characteristics for survival: armadillos with their ivory toned armor; turtles with their tough shell; birds, with their expansive wings to remove them from any situation high in the sky; even crabs, with their exoskeleton and claws, hiding in the sand until dusk from birds of prey.
Have you ever seen a hedgehog and porcupine, with its spiky exterior? Does this animal’s brittle surface really demonstrate what is on the inside?
(Take a look at this adorable video of a hedgehog waking up to start your Monday with a smile.)
This video reminds me, that though this precious creature has to protect itself from being exposed, God has provided a layer of protection for the smallest among us. It’s beautiful to see that inside that little cactus ball, is an adorable ball of fluff that simply wants to exist, free in this world, without a worry of being small or prey to its enemies.
It also tells me that the rough exterior that we see, doesn’t always match what is happening on the inside.
Aren’t we all a little like that? We posture ourselves with ego and independence as our armor? This is our defense mechanisms which are rooted to our most primitive self. We strive for control and independence because we are afraid to let our true, most vulnerable selves be exposed in fear of being hurt once again.
Our neighbors, too, have built layers of armor as a means of survival and protection.
At Street Church we have been talking about what it means to walk in the way of wisdom. How do we walk God’s way, when we only know how to survive taking our own path? We recognize that it takes trust and willingness to follow God (over ourselves) and to take the first step in that direction. The path to true wisdom is not often traveled, therefore the road is challenging, takes discipline and stamina, but worth it in the end.
When we walk down this path, seeking wisdom, we may encounter that God calls us to fully take off the armor that we have worn (consciously or unconsciously) to protect ourselves. To take off the armor of pride, anger, selfishness and even self-righteousness (to name a few). Oftentimes, these are survival traits that have hardened over our heart like scar tissue, callusing over the wounds of our past that have cut deep into our souls.
When people have let us down, we have built an armor of independence. When people have abused us, we have learned to respond with “fight” or “flight” to survive. We carry that weight with us to other situations that we encounter; thus creating layers and layers of armor.
There is no group who understands putting on survival armor better than our people at Street Church.
For the first time, Street Church hosted a visiting clergy person from one of the nine Micah churches. We had the wonderful opportunity to host the Rev. Will Dickinson, one of the Associate Priests (Curate) at St. George’s Episcopal Church who led the “Collective Homily” with our people focusing on Ephesians 6:10-20 (“The Whole Armor of God”).
Will shared his own story of hiding behind the armor of “invisibility” when he was younger, hiding from those around him. He asked the question to our people, “What armor do you wrestle to take off?”
Rev. Dickinson took time to talk about the labels that are put on us. He talked about how they can define us before people have a chance to get to know us.
Will pointed out his own clerical collar and the things it said about him without saying a word. He pointed out that the professional accessory was a symbol that can be used as judgement from others as well as a form of protection for himself. In a shocking move, he took off his suit jacket and clerical collar to remove the armor of education, in favor of connection and relationship.
One person shared, “sometimes we project as a prideful person, in front of other people. But it doesn’t mean that is acutally who we are. We do it to protect ourselves.”
Others shared forms of armor they have worn over the years.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to admit that you need help. It’s easier to protect yourself.” Junior said.
Ahh, there it is… We think it is up to us to protect ourselves when we wrestle with abandonment and the other hurts of our life. “The only person I can rely on is myself.”
Sound familiar? The armor of independence.
But God calls us to something different. We are instructed that in order to protect ourselves from the ills of this world, we must put on the whole armor of God which protects us not with brute might or steel protection, but with the breastplate of compassion and righteousness, the belt of Truth, and sword of the Spirit- or the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-16). We are also called to do this as one community, in the name of peace, because we are more resilient together than apart from one another.
One of the beautiful things about Street Church is that we are learning what it means to GATHER together, to hear God’s Word and SOW seeds of faith, so that we may GROW as One Body. This work cannot happen independently. We are called to be One community in Christ, under One Tent on the streets of Fredericksburg.
We want Street Church to be a safe sanctuary, a place where our neighbors can let their guard down and be present. A place where we mean it when we say, “come as you are.” Come, as your created self, who God made you to be, without the barriers of protection that you have put around yourself for survival over the years. A place where we all can be fed and protected by the whole armor (and community) of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Would you pray with me?
Gracious God, when we struggle to take off the armor that we have used to survive for so many years, help us, Oh God. Help us to not lean on our own independence, but instead to trust you to protect us from the pain of our human experience. Thank you for the ways that you call us to put on your armor, over our own vulnerabilities, so that we may walk in the gospel of peace. Amen.
This Sunday felt like a Micah united front as we welcomed all of our neighboring missional volunteers from our partner churches including Ebenezer UMC who helped us with breakfast, and bagged lunches to go, from a men’s group at Fredericksburg UMC, as well as our new sound system donated by Fredericksburg Baptist. Thank you for the ways you continue to bless us.
We are grateful for our friends at St. Georges who also joined us for worship, seeing how they could become more involved in this community in the future as we seek to partner together in the many ways we can be united as an ecumenical faith community.
Perhaps you have been wondering how you can come alongside us? We want Street Church to be a relational space where our neighbors and community volunteers can get to know each other and learn each others story. This is why we share our prayer list, so that we can pray for one another as One community in Christ.
It is through this nurturing that we have seen our community churches rallying beside our neighbors. One member from Street Church, for example, who has a surgery coming up has a partner church who is coordinating a meal train for her recovery.
Next week, we will be using the funds that we have collected from our offering at Street Church to purchase and host our own “Blessing of the backpacks” filled with beach towels, and face masks for our school children who are continuing their new school year. We are grateful for the donations that have already been received from our community partners!
If you would like to donate additional items you can bring them to the Micah Day Center at 1013 Princess Anne Street between 10-2 PM this week and we will bless the items next week at Street Church.
Thank you for the ways you continue to support this ministry. We appreciate you-please continue to pray for us!
Grace and Peace,
Community Ministries Chaplain