The scripture for today was: I Kings 8:22-30, *Ephesians 6:10-20 and John 6:56-69. The title was, “God’s Armor.” Thankfully the church secretary caught my spelling errors for the bulletin. I am not sure what will happen next week when she is on vacation. I may have to be a bit more careful when putting it together. Here is our message.
What has happened to our summer? Yesterday we went from having the air conditioner on to the windows open to sitting on the couch with a blanket around my shoulders. Good Grief. It is true what they say, if you don’t like the weather around here wait a few minutes, and it will likely change. Maybe it isn’t so bad that we are already at the point that school is starting, like one teacher said, most youngsters are ready to be getting back to the classroom and schedules and such, but I would really have liked a little more gradual of a change. Maybe my problem is that now our house really is empty. Even the cats were wondering what to do yesterday when no one was there to pester them.
Seriously though, that weather was really crazy yesterday. James and I had to get the little house ready that my sisters and I own. This is the weekend of the Rodeo in Herreid and my sister had a request for a place to house four Rodeo queens. As we were checking it over and getting it ready, it was pretty warm and humid in the house so we started up the air conditioners and fans. Later when I stopped over to drop off a few things, I realized it was cooling off outside, so I turned the air conditioners down and turned off the extra fan.
Closer to evening I talked to the gentleman who was operating the hotel office for my sister and asked if the girls had checked in yet, and he said, “You mean the Snow queens, no they aren’t here yet.” By that time, it was cold enough that I wasn’t sure it might just snow, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was Rodeo queens, so I just told him where the key was and went home. I figured by the time they got to the house they might be Snow Queens. Amazing how things change when a weather front moves in.
I wonder what the weather was like when Solomon stood in front of the altar and declared that this temple was God’s. Yet Solomon understood, as we do that there is nothing on this earth capable of housing God; in fact Solomon acknowledges that God is greater than the entire earth and that what we build, what we set up as God’s house is really only a house in name. These sanctuaries are for us to gather, for us to worship in the name of God.
I think I have mentioned this before, about how it seems to me at least that the whole idea of God is easier to believe when outside in the grandeur of nature. Maybe that is one of the reasons we send young people to summer camp in a majestic setting. The concept of a divine being seems to grab hold of them better in grand areas. Places like the mountains, or forests, maybe on open lakes, or even in middle of a hayfield on a beautiful summer day; or perhaps at Placerville. In those places it seems that talking about God becomes more real, more believable. More certain.
Last night I got to wondering if a dark and wet and even stormy night has ever brought any to the reality of God. Maybe those sorts of days or nights in that bad weather might make us believe in the other forces a bit more. Those are the times we probably don’t want to venture outside to close the garage door or check the chicken coop across the yard, but some of us have to go anyway. And perhaps God is with us, through the dark days as well as the good days, maybe more so. God is there in summer and fall and into the winter, too.
Our passage in Ephesians today, the passage that I picked as our focus, seems to fit for those days that are not exactly summer sunshine. This story is written up in figurative language. This might be a fun story for a youth group or a Sunday School, and I am pretty sure that I was a visitor at a youth meeting in a different church the first time I ever heard this story.
This would make a great “dress the dummy,” game, as in manikin not someone you are calling mean names. You could use an actual manikin or maybe a figure on a flannel board or if you had the fancy technology, you would use something like a smart board that they have in school. You could have different participants put the various pieces of clothing onto the character, and they could read a paragraph or a leader could explain what each part means.
The different pieces would be: start with a belt called truth, next put on a breastplate termed righteousness, if we were to modernize the clothing this might be like a bulletproof vest. The shoes, whether sneakers, heels or hiking boots, would be something that could get you from place to place to declare the gospel of peace. You would wear some sort of helmet or cap that would be salvation and you would carry two things, one a shield of faith to protect you from whatever the world throws at you and the other the sword or some sort of weapon which would be the Spirit of God.
As much as I enjoy a good work of allegory, I am really starting to see how having the visual would make much more sense. I certainly see why it is hard for a young person raised in this age of touch screens and tactile learning how trying to convert these abstract ideas into something tangible or concrete could be confusing. Paul wrote this as a way to explain to the early Christians how they were supposed to keep themselves from falling into sin. How they were to keep themselves safe from the powers of evil.
It is the same for us as we read this passage today. But Paul doesn’t explain what specifically the sin might be that we need to be wary of. He does this because we likely each have our own issues. We are all different, but we all know ourselves well enough that we know what our weaknesses are. For me it is my mouth. I have constantly got to be aware of what I say and how I say it. It is so easy for me to fall into old/bad habits. Not just bad words, but bad ways of saying things, my attitude as I say things, negative comments. I have to find the humor in situations to let go of frustrations, and then it feels much better….
Paul writes this passage in Ephesians as an allegory, where things represent other things to try to explain better how we need to keep up the fight each day, each hour to keep ourselves on the Christian path, on the way to loving God and sharing that love with others.
Let’s go through that list again. If we wear those shoes as Paul mentioned every place we go we will try to bring the gospel with us and have an attitude of peace, not one of stirring up trouble. If our belt is truth, we carry the truth of God and Jesus in the center of our being. Wearing the helmet or cap of salvation is carrying the thought that Jesus died for us in our mind at all times.
The shield of faith in God and bulletproof vest of striving for righteousness protects us from whatever it is that brings us down. This is different for all of us, but we all know what gets us. A good strong faith and working daily to do what is right, those things hold us up and protect us from all the things that can penetrate us and hurt us. And, if all of that is not enough, God gives us the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God to be with us and guide us and protect us from anything that might be bad for us.
According to Paul, all those things together are the armor of God, and that is what we need on a daily basis to protect us. When I think of armor, and knowing when this was written, it likely meant things of metal. Thinking of that on a wet, stormy night like last night, I wanted to change a few things to maybe a tough water proof rain coat like the cowboys would wear with a large hat to keep out the rain, or maybe some waterproof under armor and rubber boots, probably knee-high or better. Mostly last night, I was happy for a house with secure walls and warm blankets.
Whatever the case, God comes to us and meets us where we are. Solomon knew that God isn’t able to be contained in a temple, a structure built by human hands, yet he also knew that God is where we are/ drawing us to him, helping us to do his will as long as we seek him in times of prayer and devotion and worship. God is not just in our world, in our inner most sanctuary, as the people of Israel thought of God as dwelling in the holiest of holies with the ark of the covenant, but God is within us when we are willing to accept Jesus and the spirit that we are given. And small as we might seem, I sort of think living in each of us is probably where God is most pleased to dwell. Amen!