2021 August 22 “Shields Up!”

Scripture   Ephesians 6:10-17
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 Message    ”Shields Up!”   Rev. James Renfrew

Our Bible text for is Ephesians 6:10-17.  Maybe you have heard these words before, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power”.  If this is the first time you’re hearing it, well, don’t you want to hear more? “Be strong in the Lord, and the strength of his power”. Just saying the words makes me feel a little stronger, a little more determined, a little more confident, less alone in the world, and more connected to Jesus Christ!

Do you wish you were stronger?  Strong enough to lift up big boulders or heavy tractors? Strong enough to make a decision and follow through on it?  Strong enough to resist distractions and temptations?  Strong enough to set your own course in the world?  Who wouldn’t like to be stronger?  It’s not just physical strength, it’s the determination of faith.

This letter to the Ephesians has a simple answer. So you want to be stronger?  Then put on the armor of God!  There it is, a simple solution. God’s armor will give you the strength that you need.

But I’m looking around the room and I am not seeing anyone wearing armor, not a single one of you!  Is it because you don’t need to be stronger?  Or is your armor buried away in the basement?  Did you loan it out to someone?  Is it at the shop needing to be re-welded?

It’s been a long time since anyone has worn armor. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, characters on the Game of Thrones or the Lord of the Rings. Heavy metal plates to cover every inch of the body, from head to toe. The idea was that arrows, spears, axes or swords could not defeat you if you wore armor like that. Poke, stab, slash, chop, and you are unscathed.

Of course, one main drawback is that armor is extremely heavy and not very flexible. Yes, you are protected from injurious weapons, but you can hardly move when wearing armor. Anyone here ever mounted a horse? Ever do it while wearing one hundred pounds of armor? And I wonder what the horse thinks about that?

I used to reads a lot of comic books. My mom was convinced I was melting my brain in reading them.  Hmm, maybe she was right?  I know too much about superheroes and not enough about car repair, plumbing or sewing. But I can tell you this: superheroes like Batman and Spiderman wore leotards and capes, not armor. OK, there was one guy, Iron Man, who was covered in metal. Even at a young age I found it hard to picture someone covered in steel being able to do much more than stand in place and hope not to be tipped over. That Iron Man could fly was even more difficult to believe.

But armor is what the Letter to the Ephesians talks about.  And I suppose that any who read it back in those days would have been familiar with armor. The Roman Army had conquered all of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, but it was never actually all that peaceful and there were armored Roman soldiers all over the place.  Israel was a conjured land and there were armored soldiers on every corner ready to knock heads. So when this letter talks about armor everyone knew what armor was.  It was a symbol of strength and invulnerability.

The reading from Ephesians is all about “armoring up” to face the challenges that come our way. But it is a paradox, something doesn’t fit, because armoring up doesn’t sound like Jesus at all. It doesn’t sound like something Jesus would say. Jesus and his followers found strength in weakness, victory in sacrifice, life in death.

Now, there’s Captain Kirk from Star Trek on the cover of our bulletin. Just look at him, saying, “don’t mess with my ship”, the Enterprise. He’s got something better than armor, he has powerful shields composed of energy that repel lasers and space torpedoes. When danger approaches, the command is quickly given, “Mr. Sulu, shields up!” Wouldn’t you like to have that command on your cell phone? I now have it as an app on my phone. Cool, huh? Feeling stress?  Shields up! Viruses in the air? Shields up! Enemies threatening? Shields up! People who disagree with you? Shields up! Robo-callers trying to sell you a warranty for your car? Shields up! It would be nice to have a simple button for those things!  No need to carry around heavy suits of armor, when you can just push a button!

But even on Star Trek those invisible shields have limitations. The ship still gets pounded by the Klingons and Romulans. Even with shields in place the ship shakes severely. Our best defenses and protections only get us so far. “Captain, shields are down to 20%!”

So let’s get back to Ephesians.  Is the spiritual armor offered in the Letter to the Ephesians available to someone like you? Yes it is. To you. Right now. All you have to do is ask.  The truth, the righteousness, the proclamation, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation; this armor is easy to acquire – just ask for it. It’s free. Just ask for it.  Everyone is eligible, you don’t have to earn it or deserve it.  God offers it to you because God knows how much we need it.  Does it work?  Let me tell you that it does. How do I know? Because you have told me. A Sunday morning is when the people of Christ come together to share their stories of how this armor has worked.  I have never worn a bit of armor, but like you I feel the Lord’s strength today

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