At the start of the year I downloaded a couple of apps on to my mobile phone. One was ‘Bible in One Year’. The other was a daily devotional ‘Lectio 365’. I had also got to grips with a set of wireless headphones my husband bought me years ago. It is all very high tech.
They throw out names every often of saints, theologians and Christian writers that are new to me and like Alice chasing the white rabbit down a hole, I set off to hunt them down and spend time with them.
The other day St Martin of Tours was mentioned. There’s a legend, for want of a better word, attached to him. He was on his way home when he saw a beggar beside the road. It wasn’t a warm night so Martin tore his cloak in two and gave the beggar one half. Later that night in a dream, he saw Jesus on a throne wearing the half he had given to the beggar. When asked by the angels where he got the cloak from, Jesus replied, that His friend Martin gave it to Him.
I had been reading the story of creation as part of my morning Bible notes. We’re reading our way through Genesis and the part where God created humankind, male and female, He created them in His own image. God doesn’t need statues of wood, or bronze or precious metals to show what He is like – people do it for Him, although since Adam and Eve took things into their own hands in Eden, the image is not so clear. The story or Martin as a giver, just like Jesus, finding ways to serve people, not the best of people either, and meet their needs, is what God looks like.
There’s another story, this time about trees. Martin stood against paganism. He spent time pulling down temples and chopping down the trees some deemed to be sacred. Some of the people challenged St Martin to allow them to fell the trees themselves on the condition that Martin stood where they told him to. They planned to chop down the tree so it would fall where Martin was standing. He took them up on the challenge and stood unmoving in the path of the tree. The tree fell in a different direction.
St Martin has emblems – a tree, armour, a cloak and a beggar. The cloak and the beggar are explained already in the legend. The tree features in his pulling down pagan temples and trees. The armour? He was a soldier who didn’t like killing. He left the army to join other holy men. He didn’t battle with a sword, but with words. St Martin pleaded before kings and rulers to show mercy to their enemies and captives. Maybe that’s where the armour comes in, fighting the good fight and standing up for the ones who cannot stand up for themselves.
I am challenged to follow the example of St Martin, to show through my actions as well as my words that I am made in the image of God and doing the things God would do. I start making plans and formulating strategy to be like St Martin.
Then God says, ‘I have a St Martin. I don’t need another one. What I need is a Mel. One just like you.’
Today’s preacher in Zoom Church was talking about David and Goliath and the things that we fear that makes us run from the enemy rather than stand and experience victory. One of his points was about overcoming the fear of being you. So much mattered in the fight between David and Goliath. The stakes were high. A people’s freedom and future rested on the outcome. Pressure. The Israelites had just two swords in the whole army as the Philistines had taken away the blacksmiths and made making weapons illegal. Saul’s armour was made to fit Saul, not David. All that David was, all that he possessed, his experience in dealing with lions and bears, his heart for God – that was enough.
Psalm 139 tells me that ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made;’ (v14). I am shaped and formed, outside and inside, body, soul and spirit, to be just as God intended. The clay that is me has not been pushed into a Martin mould. I am uniquely me, designed to be able to do the things God has assigned me to do. If I don’t so the things He has designed me to do, someone else might be able to do them, but not the way I can do them. Not, perhaps, the way God intended them to be. I am all that I need for the task given because God has shaped and equipped me for it.
I can learn from spending time from St Martin, or from David, but I cannot be them, I am me. Made by God to be me. As only I can be.