August 6, 2017 Message

August 6, 2017, lessons are Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 and Ephesians 6:10-20. Read the scripture lesson at
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+6%3A10-20&version=RSV

Ephesians 6:10-20Armor of God & Eph 6 vs 10-20


Good News:  God equips us so we may be safe and productive

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

Today’s text is one of those favorite texts. My father had it plastered on his bathroom mirror so that he would read it as he got ready for work every morning.  It has become so popular despite the fact that no one really wears that type of armor anymore.  When is the last time you wore armor?  Have you been around someone with a breastplate and shield recently?  Yes we see them in our movies and museums but few of us will wear armor in our lives.  Some of you may have worn Kevlar, which would be modern day armor but whenever I have seen this text illustrated it is never Kevlar. What is illustrated is much more of the full or half plate that no one wears; always this medieval or Roman garb that looks, quite frankly, dated. 

We know what the point of armor is though. It protects us from injury.  If an enemy were to attack, we would say, “Ha, we have armor so you cannot hurt us.”  However the armor cannot protect against bullets and we don’t actually wear armor. So the whole thing is sort of theoretical -- except it is not, because we do wear armor every day. Our armor is our skin and the immune system that God gave to us.  We live in a world where there are germs and viruses everywhere.  If you have ever read the studies about how dirty our cell phones are or how dirty our dishrags are it is almost enough to make you want to go live in a hospital clean room. We are constantly exposed to germs and viruses!  If you plan on going to the Corn Carnival this week you better watch out because you will be constantly exposed!  Yet, we do not walk around each day imagining each surface we touch as a potential infection vector and we don’t look at each person as the next possible Typhoid Mary.  (Or at least I hope you don’t because that would be a tough way to live.)  We don’t because when our immune systems are healthy and we are taking care of ourselves, even though we are exposed to lots of germs and viruses, we don’t get sick because our body is protected.  We have this God designed armor around us and in us that keeps us safe and sound.  We are under attack but our armor protects us.  Although I think the immune system would be a great analogy, I would hate to re-write this text accordingly.  Just imagine hearing, Stand therefore, and fasten the lymph nodes of truth around your lymphatic system, and produce the white blood cells of righteousness.  I just don’t think that is the type of verse my father would have taped to his mirror to read every morning. When we hear these verses how much better it is that we understand it as an immune system because whereas I doubt you regularly put on armor, you every day take steps to protect and promote your immune system. You wash your hands multiple times a day, you wash your dishes after eating, you avoid sick people, you go to the doctor and take medicine when you are ill. You try to get enough sleep and exercise so you remain healthy. You know that if you do not take care of yourself you will become ill, and so you seek to live in a way that will protect your health.

This is an example of what your faith does for you. These things that Paul talks about, truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, and the word of God, they are what help you navigate in this world. Your faith protects you in your life. Knowing the truth about who you are and what is important stops us from getting sidelined by every discussion and bump in our faith life. To continue with our sermon series, if we know God’s grand narrative for us, we are protected. If we live into God’s purpose for us it is like strengthening our immune system. We suddenly know what is of the Body of Christ and so of the utmost importance and those things that are not.

Make no mistake, we are under constant attack. There is always some sort of sin or temptation right around the corner. Actually, with the internet almost everything is available right on your phone. You can get into just about every type of vice, and many of them are just sitting there waiting for you! Waiting to tempt and ensnare you. Everything from drugs and pornography to just wasting your life in sloth playing candy crush or filling your life with anger and vitriol. I had one friend in college who started drinking heavily in his freshman year.  It was such a change in his behavior, so I asked him why he had started.  He told me that he was really bored, and it passed the time.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with alcohol, Paul writes to Timothy that he should have a glass of wine with his dinner because it will help with his stomach. If you start because you have nothing better to do chances are it is going to become a vice. My friend had problems with it.  How many things will lead us astray if we do not know where we are going! These things are all out there, and if we do not have a purpose and a vision for what we are supposed to be doing they are easy enough to fall into.

One solution is to try to separate our self completely from all sin. People have built monasteries and retreats where they believe they can hide from every temptation.  The idea is that you have no options to do the wrong thing.  Of course those who do this bring their sinful self with them. Not that this idea is pointless; it works in part because it makes giving in to temptation harder. After all if you’re tempted to eat too many treats a great solution is to not keep chocolate in the house. However you could always run to Dairy Queen or any gas station for all the treats you want. So, while limiting temptation is helpful it is never the actual solution to the problem because we can always find ways to sin. The solution Paul gives is to strengthen your immune system by concentrating on God’s mission for you and arming yourself with God’s love and grace. If you recognize that your grand narrative is the one that God has for you, then you have protection against the slings and arrows of the evil ones. It helps you focus on what is important in life. It gives you purpose and planning. You are able to live knowing that God has a plan for you and then each decision you make is not just a meaningless thing to fill time, but a preparation for God’s plan for you.

A church that knows what its mission is, a church that has people who are committed to the Kingdom of God is a powerful thing. They have started works that have changed whole communities and nations. If people know that they are saved by grace through faith for the sake of the world then they are able to move forward together toward a common goal. Each decision that they make is put to a double test, “Is it consistent with who they are?” and “Will it further their mission to the world?”  These two protect the church from so many other places its energy can go. Churches that lack that clear vision often spend a lot of their time on things like the color of the carpet or what type of communion to have. After all, there are a lot of temptations for a church too—they too can become sidelined and engaged in many sins. Paul says, put on the armor of God. Know who you are so that when things come and try to take your attention away from your goal put them aside, focus on what is important!

For example think of the food stand that ELC has at the annual Cokato Corn Carnival. You may be thinking we are having a stand because we always have a stand. If that is the case, how does it fit our purpose?  How does that make the kingdom of God grow? Actually if it is just a matter of tradition why do it at all? Yet since this is the 6th Corn Carnival since I moved to Cokato. I can tell you it is not just something we do because we built a stand a while ago and it seems like a shame to waste it. No, there is a lot of ministry that goes on down in that stand. I have been a part of and heard a lot of loving care that goes on in that booth, both from worker to worker, and from worker to patron. People come for the pie and burgers to be sure, but they also come to be nourished spiritually. I have prayed with and for people in that food stand. I have had hurts shared and sins forgiven. People who would never come up here and step into the church building are welcomed there. If you are serving there this week (and I hope you are) it is not about the hamburgers it is about feeding God’s people and connecting them. If you think about that instead of complaining about the heat, think how different your experience will be! Note: it will be just as hot, but because you have a greater purpose it will be worth it. So as you work down there this week, pray that God uses you to touch another person’s life.  As you live your life remember God has a purpose for you in everything you do, so choose wisely and then live as if you are on a mission from God in all things, because you are.  Amen.