The Bible readings today are all about Judgement Day, the last day when every human must give an account of how he or she has used God’s gifts in this life. All evil will be destroyed by Jesus when he comes in judgment on the Last Day. But traditionally that’s a theme I should leave to the preacher on Advent Sunday and this is only the second Sunday before Advent. So our theme will be what is happening now before the final judgement.
Now, there is war in heaven between God’s army led by Archangel Michael and opposing them the army of demons led by the Antichrist, Satan. We the members of the Church militant here on earth are called to fight in God’s army against the forces of evil. Every baptised person was marked with the cross and enrolled to fight under Christ’s banner against sin, the world and the devil.
On Judgment Day we shall be examined as to whether we have been on active service or whether we deserted. The Christian armour, as St Paul says, is the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation; faith, hope and love are to be our protection against the enemy.
Fr Neville Figgis, an eminent Cambridge theologian and a member of our Community preached a sermon on this subject in 1913. He said, ‘We are witnessing and feeling an assault made before our eyes upon every single idea or thought and feeling and action, which we can call specifically Christian. Along with the love of God, there is slowly but surely being undermined all real sense of the love of man. Figgis declared that there is a widespread disbelief in sin as a chosen act of evil, calling for deliverance, and secondly disbelief in the other world.’ In1913 Figgis was describing the hostile attitude to Christianity of Nietzsche and some philosophers, of some novelists and some educated people.
Since then there has been the first Great War when many men lost belief in Christianity, then the Second World War, then the questioning of the 1960s when it was fashionable not to provide answers to questions about faith. So now it is not surprising that the majority of the population in Britain have no faith, little hope and not much charity. Believers are called to fight against this spirit of unbelief and rejection of Christian morality. But how are we to do it?
I suggest we begin by recognising that in a great war, such as this is, the individual participant has a very small but important role. We need to discover what part has been assigned to ourselves. Our talents, our gifts and opportunities will indicate what that is.
We also need to realise that everyone must play a part in this great endeavour, just as in the last Great War women were drafted into factories or to work on the land. Nowadays women serve in all branches of the armed forces. Not everyone was conscripted into the forces some men were needed to work in the coal mines.
In the Church lay people of all ages, the young, the middle-aged and the elderly must be enabled to fight for God. We can learn from the Salvation Army! All will need appropriate training for their specific role. So we will need people equipped to train others.
Our battle is against spiritual powers so the spiritual weapon of prayer is essential and required of everyone. We need Christian propaganda of all kinds to help people of different intellects to come to accept the Christian faith. That requires writers, artists, printers and those who have been trained to use the books and pamphlets they produce.
Once we begin to think about this great task there seems to be no end to the people and weapons required in this great enterprise. But I should mention one vital requirement. Those who serve in God’s army must be aware of the enemy within I mean everyone is susceptible to the wiles of the evil one and by self-examination, confession and amendment must ensure they are fit for battle in God’s service.