Sunday, August 22,2021
Pastor Arne Bergland

Ephesians 6:10-20      

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  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. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Beloved of God, Grace, Mercy and Peace is yours in Christ Jesus,

What’s on your feet this morning?  No doubt you have a lot of choices.  If you are like my wife, you have A LOT of choices.  Sandals, tennis shoes, heels perhaps?  Probably not snow boots or overshoes, not yet anyway.  When I used to work with California Lutheran University, I could swear that if California outlawed flip flops and Uggs  our students would all be barefoot.  What is on your feet this morning? What does it say about who you are or where you are  going?

What are you using to protect yourself these days?  Masks? Washing your hands? Social distancing? Vaccinations?  Two years ago, who would have thought these things? But they have come to be universal weapons in fighting the pandemic.

What have churches used in this time of social distancing?  Emails, YouTube, live stream, zoom, pre-packaged communion… These are some of the tool’s churches have used to share the good news.  Who would have thought when Pastor Langness started drive in worship that you were way ahead of the curve in preparing the way for socially  distanced worship?

The people of Ephesus didn’t know about the Covid virus, but they had plenty of issues that vexed them.  The letter that they received from Paul was intended to give them hope. He began with a reminder of what God has done and advice on how one might live faithfully.  In this letter three verbs stand out as summation of what Paul would have us know.  “Sit, walk, and stand.”

“Sit.” The first part of Paul’s letter reminds us of Christs victory for us. he writes, “Believers have been raised up and seated with Christ.”

“Walk.” By the fourth chapter Paul urges the Ephesians to action. “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling”

“Stand.” The decisive victory has been won in Christ but there is still evil that seeks to disrupt  and divide and create havoc in the world.  The world is on fire, both literally and figuratively. What can one person do? God provides protection, tools for the faithful that we might face each day. He writes, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

In the Bible translation, the Message, I love how Eugene Peterson shares the first part of our reading. “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So, take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.”

In writing to the Ephesians, Paul is addressing folks who were a minority living under the authority of a military empire.  They understood what Paul was talking about using the various pieces of military equipment  to speak of how God might protect the faithful. The church over the centuries has frequently read this in a literal manner, raising armies to defeat the unbeliever.  Notice in this list…belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword that all the pieces of armor are defensive leaving the  sword, the word of God as the only offensive weapon.

Such language may not be helpful in our context but the images they intend to reflect do. Paul wants the Ephesians to know that truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God’s words are the protection given to the faithful.  These tools are there to prepare us to tell the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

Paul tells the Ephesians to “stand firm.”  This standing firm is not suggesting solo crusaders tilting at windmills like Don Quixote.  The ongoing work that faithful people are called to be about is a community effort. This is something that is never really finished.  To be faithful is to strive together to live a faithful life, sharing love and seeking peace and those things that are pleasing to God.

New Testament scholar Brian Peterson warns that we can too easily mistake who the true enemy is.  It is easy to mark those with whom we disagree as evil. In doing so we dismiss those with differing political, social, or religious points of view.  Rather the schemes of evil that Paul refers to are more insidious. Peterson writes that “evil lurks behind the camouflage of cultural common sense, compromise in the name of being reasonable, and unacknowledged personal benefit from unjust systems.”

It is true only God can win the final victory. The faithful however can be a harbinger of that victory, God’s hands, and feet in the world, doing the work of proclaiming the good news.  Finley Peter Dunne was a 19th century journalist who penned the idea that newspapers exist to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Various theologians over the years have suggested that this is the work of proclaiming the Gospel as well.  “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I think that is our task as we think about lifting the “sword of the Spirit.” We give hope to those who are hurting and yet stand strong against the schemes of injustice, oppression, and selfish living. Taking up the whole armor of God moves us from complacency and paralysis to action.

Many years ago, I was visiting an Inupiat family in Brevig Mission Alaska, a small town north of Nome accessible only by boat. At the end of the visit, the mom turned to me to sing an old country western song, “When you pray, will you pray for me because I need your love and your care. When I pray, I will pray for you because you need my love and my care.”

God has won the victory that sets us free. But God’s enemies still fight on.

Faithful followers of Christ are called to stand firm for the truth, to share the good news, to work for the right.

So, I ask you, what do you have on your feet this morning?  What you put on tells the world something about who you are.  What shoes are you wearing? Are you ready to step out in faith where Jesus has led the way? Are you prepared to share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ?

Sit, walk, stand, live a life worthy of your calling.  I pray for you; will you pray for me?

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