(Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Aug 26, 2018 – UBC Digby
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
What caught your attention in those verses of scripture? The devil and the forces of evil? The pieces of armour that are described? The encouragement to pray?
These are dynamic words here, and we may need them in our challenging time. We live in dangerous times. This week, the sky got hazy, with a red sun up high, and a red full moon at night. All that smoke all the way from the terrible fires on the west coast. And in the news, warnings that we’ve actually had a cooler period the last few years, and the next five years will be warmer than ever on earth.
At Oasis, the gathering of our Baptist Churches, in Wolfville last week, our emphasis was on the deep need for us to come to a Turning Point. To make a turnaround, because our trajectory is downward. How can we cooperate with God to head upwards? At the local level, many of our churches are hearing a message like the one we read in a letter we each got this summer: “YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE!”
On the individual level, our Church family seems to have so many people dealing with cancer, other serious health threats, and quite a few people in hospital who cannot go back to live at home.
What do we do in the face of danger? What are our tools? Where is our protection, our safety, our strength? If we think of it as armour we put on and use, we must put on the right armour. The so-called armour of our Christian faith is not the weaponry of violence. It is not literally sword and shield.
A couple months ago here we read this story, and I want us to notice some details again, from ‘David and Goliath.’ The story of the young shepherd who took on the giant prize-fighter of the enemy, and won.
Here is a description from 1 Sam 17 of Goliath: A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor—126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail—the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him. [Msg]
And here is what young David does to prepare for battle with this giant: [Then] Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor. David tried to walk but he could hardly budge. David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off.
40 Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.
The right armour and weaponry for David was what suited him best. For us who follow Christ now, the words of Ephesians 6 suggest what we take into the battles of our lives. Spiritual battles, the ordeals that our spirits face, from day to day. When faced with danger, fear, discouragement, trouble, panic, evil – take up the full armor of God: truth, rightness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of the Spirit. These are all available to us!
Paul uses the imagery of armour for battle as he speaks of all these things. Put them on and stand firm, he wrote. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist. Truth is better than lies. Maybe truth also better than secrecy and silence.
I will always remember – with some regret – this one particular cashier at the Sobeys in Windsor. She was friendly and kind. One day as we were chatting, I said something like, “Yeah, I should preach a sermon on lying, and how to escape lies in our lives.” She said, immediately, “Let me know when; I want to be there!” That clearly struck a nerve with her; I could tell she really wanted to find out about lying and how to break it. I never did a sermon about lying, never got to invite her in for it.
Truthfulness is such a good thing, and it comes as part of the armour of God for us. Putting on truth is a matter of not putting on lies. And of not putting on secrecy and silence – speak the truth when needed. And it is a matter of letting your Yes be Yes and your No be No. I discovered years ago that I would often say ‘yes, I’ll do that,’ when my real answer was ‘no, I will not be doing that.’ Takes a while to learn.
And put on the breastplate of righteousness, it says. Doing the right things and being in right relationships with others is as protective to the believer as body armour to a soldier. And, as it says elsewhere, we get our ‘rightness’ not from ourselves, but from our grace source, Christ. We have a Source of doing & being right. We do not have to get life right all by ourselves.
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. How do we put on these shoes? I have a lot of questions about being prepared to proclaim the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. There was a lot of talk about this at Oasis these last three days. Talk of what God’s good news is for people, & how we share this gospel.
Perhaps a clue to these gospel shoes is in the fact they are shoes. We might have expected a gospel megaphone, or a gospel trumpet. Shoes make it seem like it is a matter of going somewhere. ‘As you are going, make disciples,’ Jesus said (Matthew 28). So let’s talk about whatever will make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. I want to go on about this in September, as we read from the book of James. But also, one on one, let’s talk about what makes us ready to proclaim.
Then Paul says, 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. We might use other things to protect ourselves from evil… Why use faith? Because faith is confidence, confidence in Jesus Christ. When you are confident in God, you can be confident in the face of terrible things.
One way we put on faith, or confidence, in the Holy One, is by paying attention to the Holy One. Prayerfulness. Meditation. Study of scriptures, observation of creation, attention to people – such things draw us closer to God, and we can be more confident.
Finally, Paul writes, 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
What kinds of words do we speak in time of trouble and danger? Sometimes our words are sword- like – harsh, sharp, ready to harm and cut. Using this ‘armour’ is a matter of not putting on and using other things. Like David facing Goliath. He figured out that the heavy armour of a soldier was not for him – he took it off.
So we take off the harsh words and nasty attitude. Then, our speaking and message can be strong and good. Leaving unhelpful words behind is easier said than done, I know.
Sometimes, taking on a spiritual discipline for a short time will help a lot. Like friends who decided to give up complaining, in the season of Lent. Never complain. About the weather, or the weather forecast. About the annoying things and the truly painful things. And when a complaint automatically pops out, the person notices, and the Spirit teaches a lesson on why complaining is built in, and how it can dissolve.
The word of God can come out of us. Once we have it flowing in us. Not just the Bible, these written words. But all the ways the Divine Word comes among us. And Jesus Himself, the Word who is God.
Putting on this ‘armour’ is a lifelong bit of work. We take off other things we wore that get in the way. We learn to put on and use the good things that are all we need.
You’re looking better dressed already!