In the final chapter of St Paulís letter to the Ephesians he writes: ĎA final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.í The emphasis is there in these four words: 'A final word'. Then the letter proceeds to warn, instruct and arm the reader, drawing on the martial imagery of body armour, helmet and the 'sword of the Spirit'. We are given images of strength, fortitude and resolution. It's all stirring stuff, but it's easily forgotten when our minds begin to focus on other things. It's easily forgotten because these verses, inspiring though they are, demand a commitment that is not easy to follow. It's perhaps easy enough to take the King's shilling but it's not so easy on the battlefield and it's there in the life and death struggle where we are tested. If Paul gives a final, final word of advice then it is this: 'Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.'
The outcome in any struggle at the outset is by no means entirely predictable. We may have heard that saying, 'It's not the dog in the fight' but the 'fight in the dog that matters' and anyone with any life experience at all will know that to be true. Therefore, to 'Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power' we should also know that the inner self must be nurtured and that it is only our prayer life that can keep us there and sustain us. In his book, The Meaning of Prayer, Dr H.E. Fosdick wrote:
Failure in prayer is the loss of religion itself in its inward and dynamic aspect of fellowship with the Eternal. Only a theoretical deity saves no man from sin and disheartenment and fills no life with a sense of divine commission. Such vital consequences require a living God who actually deals with men.
Modern Unitarianism is peopled by laity and ministers alike who either openly declare themselves to be atheistic or say things like, "I'm not comfortable with the 'God' word". If as Fosdick declared that, 'Such vital consequences require a living God who actually deals with men.', then in general, the denomination's loss of faith is all too obvious. Today, many Unitarian Christians and Free Christians deplore the lack of any theological coherence within the General Assembly. Things have gone too far, that's for certain. One consolation is that our churches and chapels are self-governing; they are congregational. This means that we are free at Oldham to follow the Christian faith and to worship as we see fit; we can give thanks to God for that.
My best wishes as always.