We often think of faith as a journey. At the moment if we were going ona journey we might take a rain coat and heavy boots (there were props - can you guess what!) but of course I'm not talking about that kind of a journey. The faith journey isn't like that but we still need to be equipped.
How about these (ok without the visual bit here this may have slightly less impact)
a sign to point the way (a cross)
a map of where we're going (a Bible)
something to light the way (a candle - Christians use those a lot)
a guide book to explain everything (a bible commentary)
Well let's have a look at what Jesus' model was:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'Luke 10:1-11
So Jesus didn't tell the disciples to go out with Scriptures and commentaries and of course he wouldn't have sent them with a cross. No the equipping we need for our journeys of faith is very different. Paul considers faith not so much a journey as a battle:
"Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."So in Paul's image of the battle of faith, our armour is not something you can pick up and hold it's not something you put on - it's something inside; it's the way you behave and how you feel. So what is this armour?Ephesians 6.11-18
At the centre is the belt of truth - the thing which holds everything in right in the middle is TRUTH. The truth of the Gospel of Christ. The knowledge that this Good news is TRUE and is TRUTH is central to our defence and our faith.
What is it that protects us against temptation? against sin? Righteousness is what protects us. You can wear a silver ring as a symbol of that if you like but it is your own inner sense of Christian morality, your own righteousness which will protect you against sin.
Our feet a protected too. Whether we are called on to stand firm against oppression by others because of our faith or if we must follow Christ and MOVE. It is the READINESS of the Gospel of peace. What does that mean? It is that inner peace, that calm still centre which is the knowledge of the peace which God gives that makes us able to stand firm or to follow where Christ leads. (My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you etc.)
What about all those peopel who attack our faith; people at school who take the mick out of you for being a Christian or just for believing SOMETHING rather than being cynical "like everyoe else". I often think this is harder for young people than for adults. Most adults will be polite and not criticise someone for their faith even if they do disagree but young people will voice their opinion and the defence against that is your own faith in God.
For all those times when someone does try to RATIONALISE you out of your faith there is this helmet of salvation. People may try to make arguments that they call logical against your belief in God but the knowledge of the salvation that God offers all through the death and resurrection of his son; that totally irrational illogical love of God for his creation and his children.
Now the last in the list. The ONLY weapon please note. The Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. When people DO attack your faith, God offers all this armour to defend you and he gives us just one weapon; the word of God which is revealed in scripture and the words given to you by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those are the only things you can use to fight back.
That doesn't make it easy. It is a struggle to keep the faith in an increasingly secular world and that's why we at Cross-Section what to give you some tools for that journey. One of them is the Examen, an ancient form of prayer used by Ignatius Loyola and many Christians since. You can do this each night when before you go to sleep - something we all do pretty much everyday, no matter how late! We'll do it now and you can try it on your own again tongiht or tomorrow night as one of your tools for the journey.