Sermon, August 26

Ephesians 6:10-20
10 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.  18 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.
19 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,  20 for
which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it
boldly, as I must speak.

Gospel of John 6:56-69
56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in
them.  57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the
Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.  58 This is the
bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your
ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will
live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the
synagogue at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is
difficult; who can accept it?”  61 But Jesus, being aware that his

disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend
you?  62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to
where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is
useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and
life.  64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus
knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who
was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I
have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by
the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and
no longer went about with him.  67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do
you also wish to go away?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to
whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have
come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
+ + + + + +

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite

horror of their reality.” Edgar Allan Poe

There were times when Jesus’ words put him at great odds with
others. It was his practice to speak with graciousness and compassion, but there
were times when he didn’t hold back from the reality that needed to be said.
Some curious disciples lured to Jesus by his miracles and stories
ultimately decided to leave the young rabbi. Their interest in him went only so far.
Those disciples choose to hold on to familiar beliefs and wishes rather than explore
hidden realities of God’s mystery unfolding in Jesus. They were ill prepared to
accept the peasant teacher as God’s Anointed One. Horrified and maddened by the
imagery of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, they abruptly abandoned Jesus.
Yet, others couldn’t fathom life without Jesus. Peter responded:
“Where else can we go to hear words of eternal life? We believe you are God’s
Anointed One.” Peter and other disciples continued following Jesus and, after

facing the trauma of his death and resurrection, they perpetuated Jesus’ mission –
sharing the story and words of eternal life.

Paul is a beneficiary of hearing Jesus’ story and life-giving words. He
sat in Rome, bound by chains courtesy of relentless, pious religious Jews and the
Roman Empire, writing his letter to the churches in Asia-minor, we call the Letter
to the Ephesians. Paul ends his letter with imagery well-known to him and all
those under the Roman rule. This imagery is intended to inspire courage and
faithfulness in following Jesus.

As Paul looks at the apparel of his Roman guard, he envisions armor
suited for Christians. Sarah Henrich, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at
Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN writes: “The very nature of the armor makes clear
that the message here is a survival strategy for persons of faith in a hostile world,
not a strategy for aggression… the boldness for which this armor empowers one is
the boldness of witness in speech (Ephesians 6:20).”

“Put on the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness…swift
shoes ready to proclaim the gospel of peace…take the shield of faith… the helmet
of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, God’s word.” (Ephesians 6:14-17) This
armor will protect them from the cosmic powers of darkness.

Paul warns his fellow Christians of the spiritual hierarchy of evil
commonly believed in the 1 st century. One of their chief tools of evil for
sabotaging reconciling goodness and ambushing the faithful is ignorance of God
and truth. Christians are to keep focused on Jesus, taking him in to our heart, soul,
and mind, giving him only our allegiance, believing his reconciling, healing love
and his truth as gifts from God.

These verses from Paul’s letter are designed to speak to 1 st century
humanity on their own wave length. Paul grants reassurance that the realm where
evil spirits come from to assault humanity is no longer impenetrable. Though
horrendous evil and relentless demonic powers continue their attempts to destroy
God’s goodness, Christ Jesus now has victory over all fear and evil, and us – if we
only believe. (Paraphrase from The Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 11,

Broadman Press, Nashville, p.174, 1971.) Professor Henrich writes: “Dark powers
adapt readily, eager to draw believers from a life of faithful love. God's armor
empowers believers through the millennia to grasp and resist such manipulation.”
Sarah Henrich

The incomparable Aretha Franklin dramatically increased the
popularity of one Carol King, Gerry Goffin, and Jerry Wexler song. The words
can be understood in several ways. Today, I ask you to hear them as speaking
from the heart, soul and deep faith of the Queen of Soul.

“Looking out on the mornin’ rain
I used to feel so uninspired.
And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you,
life was so unkind
But you’re the key
to my peace of mind.”
John Piper, and American Reformed Baptist pastor and author says
that sin “gets its power by persuading us to believe that we will be more happy if
we follow it. The power of all evil’s sway is the prospect that it will make us
happier." E. Lutzer, Putting Your Past Behind You, Here's Life, 1990, p.54.
You and I are aware that evil persists arousing fear, destroying
relationships and attempting to distract us from loving God and our neighbors.
Paul gives us good advice for today. Put on God’s armor of truth, righteousness,
faith, salvation, and Spirit so that we may always be prepared to proclaim with
boldness the gospel of peace, God’s love-gift to all who choose to receive.