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Confirmation
Put on the Whole Armor of God



Ephesians Series       Ephesians 6:10-20

(This is also an effective confirmation sermon, and I have used it in both.  On confirmation Sunday, the prop of the suit of armor seems to work.  All confirmation students know the wisdom of putting on the whole suit of armor and not just a portion of the armor, as a person is tempted to do.)

Today we welcome our confirmation students, and all their family, friends and godparents.

One quality that we donít like about us as human beings is our human willingness to engage in war.  War is common and familiar to the human race.  Throughout all of our history, we have killed each other; we have killed our own kind.  No other species on the planet kills our own kind, but we humans do.  Human beings engage in murder and in war on each other, unlike any other plants or animals.

Therefore, since human beings are so warlike, we are most interested in the weapons of war.  In generations past, we were interested in knives, swords, and spears.  Recently, we were more interested in guns, bombs and airplanes.  Today we are most interested in lasers, computerized bombs, and intercontinental ballistic missiles to fight our inevitable wars. 

An occupation of past wars was that of the smith, the blacksmith.  Many of you are named, Smith, after the famous smithy.  The smithy was the person who manufactured the weapons made of iron for war. Every smithy knew that there were two kinds of military arms:  defensive and offensive.  Armour to protect life.  Weapons to kill life.  Armour was defensive; weapons were offensive. Everybody knew the basic difference between protecting life and killing life.  Today we underscore that armor was to protect life, to preserve life. 

In his book, ARMS AND ARMOUR THROUGHOUT THE AGES, Helmut (I like the name Helmut; it makes me smile) Nichols said that one of the first people to ever wear suits of armor were the Sumerians.  The Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia, where Father Abraham came from, and they were the first people to wear helmets and heavy leather coats to protect them in battle.  The heavy coats were the first armored suits.  By reading this book, you also come to the conclusion that armor was always intended to be worn during wars.  Armor was not to be worn to a picnic, a family reunion, or a party.  Armor was intended for war, and only a fool would go into battle without wearing his full suit of armor.

When I think of armor, I normally think of King Author and his court.  I think of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in France, Germany and England where armor was so highly developed.  Pieces of armor became works of art, now valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I think if Sir Lancelot and Gwenovere.  Sir Lancelot, would you please come forward.  (A young man, wearing a costume of armor, comes forward to front and center, marching slowly, and all eyes are riveted on him.)  I would like to introduce to you Sir Lancelot, wearing the finest costume of armor in Seattle that I could find in the Seattle costume shops.  He is wearing a helmet, to protect his head.  Covering his shoulders is the pauldron; covering his lower arms is the vambrace; covering his hands are the gauntlets.  All of these are French words. Covering and protecting his chest is the breastplate; protecting his upper legs are the cuisse; protecting lower legs are the greaves; and protecting his feet are the sabatons.  In his left hand is a shield; in his right hand is a sword, the only offensive weapon as part of this suit of armor. The entire suit of armor is called the panoply.  You may leave Sir Lancelot. (The preacher points to each piece of the armor as one is preaching. The man and suit of armor then exit.)

Every one who ever wore such a suit of armor put on all the pieces of armor.  How foolish was person who didnít protect his head, his shoulders, his arms, his hands, his legs, his feet.  You had to put on the whole armor in order to go into battle.  Everybody knew this.  You didnít have to persuade any one of this basic fact. 

Likewise, with the Apostle Paul.  He is advising and motivating us to put on the whole armor of God, to use all the resources we have to protect ourselves from the cunning onslaughts of the power of evil who is keenly aware of where we are vulnerable.  The power of the evil one always attacks us where we donít have any protection, where we donít have any armor on.  So Paul is advising us; no, he is motivating us about the wisdom of putting of all of Godís armor.  More about this later in the sermon.

So, how to do apply Paulís lesson and analogy about the armor to us who live in American at the beginning of the third millennium?

First, we are living in a battlefield.  We are engaged in a vicious warfare, but a lot of us donít realize it.  We donít get it.  Let me explain.  The Bible, in the book of Ephesians, says that we are fighting with the powers of darkness, the powers of evil, that live inside and around us.  We are not fighting simply with our own egos, our own selfishness.  We are not fighting simply with our own flesh, with our own little addictions and passions.  We are not merely fighting petty battles with booze or drugs or sex and material pleasures, important as these are.  No, the Bible says that we are fighting with an evil force greater than ourselves, the very powers of darkness.  Who causes all the wars around us and around all of human history?  Who causes all the starvation in the world, where a vast majority do not have sufficient food and water, and all the while there is plenty of food and water available?  Who slaughtered children and parents in the death camps of Germany and Cambodia and Argentina? It is the power of Evil. It certainly isnít God who has caused all these enormous devastation around the globe.  The power of evil is insidious, global, and there is no place to escape it.

So what do we do in the face of such monstrous evil around us and throughout all of our past history?  We try to create islands of pleasure and sanctuaries of sugar. We create illusions that all is well with me and us as long as we can keep the blood bathes at a distance.  We create sanctuaries of suburbia, and we try to live in the safety of our suburbia and when it becomes too dangerous or poor here, we will move, to a safer church, a safer suburb, a safer island in the sun.  We are all alike.  We build our sanctuaries of safety and try to keep the real violence on TV, away from us.  And then gradually, we find the Snake lives here in our suburbia.  O my goodness, the Snake actually was found in the Garden of Eden, and the Snake is working invisibly in our little gardens, in our spiritual suburbs. And for some strange reason, we become apathetic.  Yes, we become apathetic to the world around us where actual human beings are refugees, with little water and little food and little security.  Apathetic to the homeless in the streets of Seattle.  Apathetic to the lonely old folks at the neighboring old folks home.  Apathetic to all in need who require our time and possessions and love, and so we put our blinders on so that we donít see them or see them only on television, safely away from us and the real world.  Thatís what we do:  create spiritual suburbs and islands of illusions. 

But rather than running away from the battles of life and the power of apathetic evil living inside and around us, Paul has another alternative, another battle plan.  Paul talks about Christians living in a real world filled with evil and injustice. Living in a real world with real evil in it, it is wise to put on the whole armor of God when engaged in battle with the evil one.  Paul then lists seven qualities, seven pieces of armor that we can benefit from. Paul is so wise in describing each piece of necessary armor. The number seven is symbolic of wholeness, the whole armor, the full suit of armor.

Would you turn to your bulletin insert and examine with me this passage from Ephesians?

We read that we are to put on the whole armor of God because we are not dealing with the passions of the flesh but the powers of darkness in this world.  Paul then talks about standing, and then uses the word, stand, four times.  We are to stand, stand against, stand for, and stand up.  The whole motivation is for us to stand up against the powers of darkness. Recently, I saw a fabulous play at Ashland, Oregon, at the Shakespearean Festival.  It was the play entitled, THE TROJAN WOMEN, by Euripides.  The play was 2400 years old, but the themes were so surprisingly contemporary.  The play was about the women who survived the battle of Troy, where the unsuspecting Spartans had brought in the Trojan horse, and the enemy soldiers slipped out of that Trojan horse at night and killed everyone in sight.  This small group of women was left, and the main character, Aruba, was lying on the ground, beaten, bruised and battled by war.  She crawls to her knees and speaks with a growing crescendo:  ďStand up!  Stand up, women of the world. Stand!Ē  Scholars say that this is the oldest recorded drama of human history, and its first lines have been immortalized, ďStand up. Stand up, you women of the world.Ē And thatís what Paul wants us to do:  to stand, to stand up, to stand against, to stand tall. 

The Apostle Paul continues and begins to describe the seven pieces of armor.  First, put on the belt of truth. Today, Sir Lancelot was wearing an incredible belt, so strong, so wide, so protective.  Truth in all relationships.  Truth about God and Godís love.  Truth about our spouse, our children, our parents, our grandparents, our neighbors.  Finally grasping the truth about ourselves.  To live truthfully and not to live a lie.  This is a gift from God.

Then, put on breastplate of righteousness.  Right relationships. Healthy relationships.  Good relationships with all those around you and even yourself.  To be in right relationships and not wrong, sick and demeaning relationships. This is truly a gift from God that we all want. 

Then put on foot protectors of peace.  Not to be looking for a fight with yourself, your family member, your co-worker.  Trying to work through the legitimate conflicts that are always found between people and nations and ethnic grounds.  To be a peacemaker, to work hard for peace and towards peace in all relationships.  This is truly a gift from God that we need.

Then, put on the shield of faith.  To trust God.  To trust that God is with you, to trust that God is in you, to trust that God will strengthen you for every situation that you are facing.  You canít prove it.  You canít prove God. You canít prove Godís inner strength. You canít prove eternal life.  But you have been given the gift of trust.  Trusting your inner spiritual self;  trusting Godís slow plan to health and wholeness.  You canít see it, but you trust Godís future plan for your life on both sides of the grave.

Then, put on the helmet of salvation.  What a gift to know that you are saved, that there is nothing you can do to earn or merit your own salvation, but that salvation and eternal life are a gift from God. I donít have to worry about being saved.  I donít have to question whether or not I deserve eternal life. Eternal life is a given. I donít have to worry about it.

Put on the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God.  There is power in the Bible, in the Word of God.  The words of Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the Old Testament are not merely words printed on pages of a dusty book that we pull out when the preacher is coming or when we have an occasional Bible devotional.  Godís words are living words, intended to live in us.  We learn them, memorize them, recite them spiritually in our brains, so that Godís words are constantly inside us.  What a resource.

And finally put on praying in the Spirit.  There is not piece of armor mentioned with this seventh quality, but the quality is important.  Last but not least is ďpraying in the Spirit,Ē in the mood, in the emotion, in the remembrance.  Do you have a problem with prayer and wandering minds?  Do you have a problem praying the Lordís Prayer and staying focused?  Our Father, who are in heavenÖ.about that bill, that assignment, that game on TV todayÖand away our minds wander.  Not praying in the Spirit at all, but distracted by every thought and whim that enters our mind simultaneously with our prayers.  What power there is to praying in the Spirit.  Ö  Some of you know that I love my motherís morning prayer which I recite at the beginning of every day:  ďO God, this morning I come into the stillness of your presence to begin this day with you, so that out of this moment, I may take with me a quiet serenity and strength to last me all day long.  I have come to find wisdom, so I do not make any foolish mistakes.  I have come to find peace, so that nothing would worry or upset me all through today.  I have come to find love so that nothing would make me bitter, unforgiving or unkind.  I have come to find justice, so that I would always work for the poor and disadvantaged in the world.  I have come to begin this day with you, continue it with you, and end it with you, so that this would be a day which has nothing to regret.  Here this morning prayer, for Jesusí sake. Amen.Ē  Do you have any idea what power this is for me, to hear this prayer from within each morning? To pray in the Spirit is another great resource, another piece of armor.

And of course, no armor is any good without the heart.  If you donít have the heart within, no armor is worth anything.  Without the heart, you lose.

Even with whole armor and inner heart, the darts of the devil still get through and wound us.  The devils knows where we are vulnerable and gets at us, to wound us but not destroy us.  The devil wounds but never can kill us, for that is Godís promise.

So, the Apostle Paul suggests that we should not run away from the battles with the powers of darkness and evil. We are not to create islands of pleasures and sanctuaries of spiritual suburbias, but we are to arm ourselves with the resources of God.

My last point. So where do you get such armor?  Where to you find this suit of armor, so that you can put on the whole armor of God?  At the armory!!!  Thatís obvious.  In little Jackson, Minnesota, where I grew up, we had an armory and that is where all the arms were stored.  And what is our spiritual armory?  The Church, the people of God.  From the people of God, I learn much about life, and I take from these people the qualities I need for life.  From the Church, the people of God, I learn about faithÖand right and good relationshipsÖand peaceÖand trustÖand salvationÖand the BibleÖand praying in the Spirit.  These qualities actually can be found in the armory.  You can pick them up and learn to use them there. 

And so the Apostle Paul clearly and wisely says to you confirmands this morning:  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand tall in the day of Jesus Christ.  Amen.


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