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. [NRSV]
What to Wear?
I very much like the idea of school children having uniforms. With all the social pressures that already face children’s setting to learn fashion and status don’t need to be added into the mix. Luke has had a new awakening to what it means to wear a uniform. I think he might even like it for now. Frances complains about her’s from time to time limiting her style. But there is the teaching of Jesus not to worry about what we shall wear, look at the flowers and she how God has clothed them.
As THE church in the heart of our town what is the first thing people as about our church? Most of the time it is not are you involved in mission service. Most of the time it is not do you have good Bible study? Most of the time it is not do you have a good preacher? The typical first question I am asked is, what do folks wear to your worship service? What message are we giving to the community? What things matter to our community? But let’s not miss Paul’s point.
Paul here takes the common experience of dressing and shares it with the whole church. He takes it one step further in calling the church to dress for the evils that faces us, the evils that threaten us, the evil that are spiritual.
We have worn a variety of things upon our head, Some one shared with me this week, “If you are wearing a crazy hat, I dont know if I will be able to pay attention.” I agree. I’m having a time concentrating while looking at your heads. But for all the fun of our hats, don’t miss the spirit dress code Paul ofers.
Paul is very systematic about his list of clothes. You get the image that he his sitting in his home, on house arrest, not just wearing an ankle bracelet, but watching the guard at his front door. He makes such a through list you can picture the view of a Roman Centurion from Paul’s account.
Thinking how prepared and equipped a solider goes out ready for a variety of dangers and threats, so should the church dress. Not in military dress, but in spiritual dress.
Run down the list of items Paul describes: Belt and chest pad, Shoes and shield, Helmet and Sword. Each of these are vital to someone in a dangerous occupation. This is a short list compared to the what a modern soldier, or fire fighter or law officer might wear. But think of the protective layers, materials and precautions that make the work possible for these folks.
Picture a fire fighter going to a fire with no shoes, no jump suit, no helment, no tools, no mask.. how long would they last? We would say that was a crazy and foolish what to show up for work.
Paul is tell us that same advice, it is foolish, crazy and dangerous for us to not be spiritually dressed for the work that we have today.
Look at the spiritual list Paul gives: Truth, Righteousness (doing right), proclaiming the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, spirit and the word of God. This is our back-to-school shopping list of what we need.
I look forward to back to school because it means that Walmart sells packs of crayons for 20-25 cents. I have not been to restock my supply, but it is a great time to go buy four or five packs for a dollar. You go buy five dollars with our crayons and see what God will do with those colors. Sunday School, VBS, School children in need, neighbor children, grand kids, art projects, home-made notes cards. I dare you to see how much fun you can have sharing God’s love through simple crayons with a child, and so economically.
What to wear to be ready for the evil, the temptation, the devil, the test, the trials, the stresses, the challenges and the worst the world has for us:
Tell the truth,
Dot he right thing
Tell the Good News of the Gospel and Peace
Hold on to Faith
Remember you are Saved by God, through Christ, for work with the Holy Spirit
Study and Share God’s word
We might wish there were special clothes we could wear instead of filling our spiritual back pack with these spiritual ‘things.’
But it is as urgent as showing up to a fire that we come dressed for work.
It is as timely as a trip to the Mega-lo-mart for spiritual supplies while they are readily available.
2. Dont grab a few things on the list, we need them all, the full armor.
We want to see what we can get by without, save some money, time and energy… wait until the teacher says: we are getting low on hand sanitizer can someone bring some from home… the pencils are gone can someone share a pack now that we are out. Don’t wait until the sales are gone and the prices are hight, show for the FULL list of SPIRITUAL gift and graces NOW.
First, the threats are real and so often beyond our control. Health, Accidents, Tragedies, Hurricanes, Wars, Famines, Death and Taxes to name a few.
Second, the real threats are the spiritual threats:
a) Know you are a spiritual child of God.
b) Your spirit needs to be strong and ready because we live in an world filled with evil.
c) No one else is responsible for you, but you.
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.
We have work on hear and work in heaven. We have work that benefits us and work that benefits others, we are accountable for both.
Paul closes his letter asking for prayer. Even Paul knew he needed encouragement in being ready for boldness. We living in a great time when the truth is called a lie, when value is measured by things, and we live in a time where politics, technology and ‘someone’ else tell us we are safe, protected, prepared and saved. Paul was as true then as now, the world needs our boldness and faithfulness. It needs to hear the truth from you and me. Our neighbors and nation need to hear what is good and to do what is right.
If we do not have our spiritual running shoes or work boots or steel toes ready to face the challenge, WHO will stand for us? Hmm. Get up, Get dressed!