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Widow-Makers! (11.11.05--Christian Soldiers!--Ephesians 6:16-17)


Beech trees tend to bend and grow at odd angles. When it comes to felling one, you have to do a bit more than simply cutting it down. First you need to determine which way the tree is leaning. Then you need to size-up the other nearby trees toward which the felled tree is destined to fall. If the crown of the tree passes into the crown of another you will hang it up. A tree “hung-up” on another is very dangerous. Weighing up to a ton or more and suspended by only a few branches, loggers call these unfortunate mistakes “widow-makers” because they are accidents just waiting to happen.


I recently hung-up a Beech tree I was trying to fell. It cradled itself right into the crown of a nearly maple. At this point I knew my choices were two. I could retreat from the job and hope that the wind and the weight of the tree would eventually pull it to the ground. Or, I could attack the tree from the bottom up, always with an eye on the crown lest it slip while I was cutting and snap back and take out the woodsman as it was going down. While being on the defensive is imperative for safety, taking the offensive is necessary to prevent an even greater danger.


In like manner, Christian soldiers must always mix a good defense with a great offense when dealing with Satan, the world and our own sinful flesh. Martin Luther wrote: “For it is not enough to have defended ourselves against the enemy, and to be able to stand against him when he attacks us, so that we are not defeated; that is called defense. We must also be able to take the offensive--that is, to pursue the enemy, and put him to flight. Similarly, here it is not enough to ward off the devil with faith and hope as our shield and helmet, but we must draw the sword, hit back at him, hunt him down, and make him flee, thus gaining the victory ourselves.” (Sermons from the year 1531--W.A. 34. II 402 ff.)


Quite often in life we will find ourselves faced with those tough decisions. Problems aren’t always solved so easily and sometimes we find them stubbornly hanging on, unwilling to succumb to our best efforts to cut them down to size. What is a Christian to do? We always, of course, have the choice of backing up and hoping that eventually the problem will take care of itself. Perhaps, in time, it will. But, in the course of that time, how many other people, including ourselves, might be affected by it. God implores us to take up the “sword of the spirit” with the “shield of faith” and attack our problems, always moving forward, with an eye on the foe and any crafty move he might make and our hands on the only weapon that can cut him down to size. It can be dangerous work. But widow-makers can’t be left to chance.

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