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Sunday, November 9, 2014

11092014 21st Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Audio


November 9, 2014
What are you wearing?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

             Last Sunday I concluded the sermon telling the story of a plane load of passengers honoring a fallen hero.  The private had given his life to insure our opportunity to worship in a free country like we are today.  In two short days, we will have the opportunity to honor those who have served our nation, our community and our church when the Goodland VFW remembers those who sacrificed in our military, both here and overseas on Veteran’s Day.  One of the neatest and best viewed experiences we have in Goodland is how our community has flags flying throughout the community to honor the important holidays of our country.  This is so impactful that our community still honors the soldiers and their sacrifice.
For soldiers who served it is clear that each branch wears different uniforms to signify their individual branches.  I can remember as a child finding my father’s Air Force uniform that was distinctly different from today’s.  For some who were in the military the uniform was not only a badge of honor, but an emblem that was and still is worn with honor on certain days of the year.
There is a movie coming out soon titled, “Unbroken”.  It is the true story of Louis Zamperini and his early life, military experience and enduring not only 47 days drifting on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but enduring two years in a Japanese Prisoner of war camp.  But Louis’s story isn’t about his being a troublesome kid, training and becoming a famous Olympic athlete, but a story of a man whose faith impacted his life and his destiny.  Louis’s story is about how his faith in God and putting on the full armor of God empowered him to survive his childhood, the near death experience of crashing into the Pacific Ocean and the unrelenting torture of his captors, fellow prisoners and the worst punishment imaginable as a prisoner of war.  All because Louis had put on the full armor of God.
Today, we are going to explore and learn what the full armor of God really is for we Christians gathered here this morning.  In your bulletin is a one page insert with a picture on one side and an easily filled out cheat sheet for you to follow along as we learn more about the full armor of God given to each of us in our baptism.  I invite you to take out this insert, follow along and learn more about what God offers us in the font with our Holy Baptism.
If you were to ask my wife, if I am fashionable?  You would hear laughing and a clear answer of “no” or “are you kidding”.  At times she asks me when I dress in the morning, ‘are you color blind?’, and I respond ‘no’, but evidently my choices of clothes has a lot to be desired and begs the question she asks.  That is one nice part of having my uniform of ‘black’!
But as God’s children redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we have the opportunity to put on the armor of God!  The first item mentioned in the armor of God is the ‘belt of truth’.  Belts clearly have a purpose, just ask anybody who has had a pair of pants fall down.  The belt is a necessary wardrobe choice.  It prevents everyone who wears it properly from having a wardrobe malfunction that can be quite embarrassing.
Yet, as the first piece of the armor of God, it has a more crucial role and purpose.  The ‘belt of truth’ is meant to keep clothing tucked and close to the body so the clothing does not flap or impede quick movement of the wearer.  Unlike today’s styles that are custom and tailor made, the uniform of a soldier in Paul’s day was one size fits all so the belt was extremely important.  This is especially true with soldiers who are meant to go into battle against an enemy.  A soldier needs to be prepared to move quickly and without anything to impede their way.  We who gather here today are soldiers in God’s army and need this same dexterity.
We daily encounter in our society the wiles and woes of the devil.  This is a battle that we daily face and encounter in every segment of our life.  From the media which puts a spin on everything, to people who gossip about anything, from children on the playground, to adolescents who feel the peer pressure to adults who have a workplace that reeks of bullying.  Whether at Wal-Mart, where we see someone we know and say, “did you hear what……did?”  Or “have you heard about….?”  Or even “I can’t believe what…..told us at church.”  We all daily encounter a ‘spin’ or some part of truth.
We also encounter this in our own mind.  Satan hits us daily with the arrows of deceit in our own mind that cause us to doubt ourselves, our abilities and even the people that love us.  This isn’t a mental illness, it is the result of the fall of man and how Satan tries to get us, like in the Garden of Eden to doubt God and doubt what God can do for each and every one of us.
The ‘belt of truth’ given to us in baptism at the font is meant for us to put on God’s truth and God’s full armor.  God’s armor is God’s Word and not only the Word, but the commandments He gave Moses.  Martin Luther said it well, no matter what we hear, follow the eighth Commandment and “put the best construction on everything.”
The belt of truth is meant to help us guard our tongues and only speak the absolute truth we would be willing to speak in front of God Himself.  We are enabled to use this belt to reign in our sinful-self using God’s Word as our guide and refuge.  Like a belt we can gird up the things that are loose and can and do cause us to stumble and fall.  Whether it is our thoughts, our insecurities, our doubts or even what we are really thinking that may not be so kind.  God wants us to call on Him to help tighten our spiritual belt of truth and get us ready for battle.
Nick Fury in the Avengers movie, when they had lost the tessaract to Loki said it well, “We are at war.”  We Christians are at war and it is a war with Satan and we need to be ready for battle on a daily basis in every segment of our lives, from school, work, the home and even here in the church.
Hence, in our war with Satan, we need something to hide behind.  The next piece of the Armor of God is the “Breastplate of Righteousness”.  A breastplate is a specially designed, crafted and fitted piece of the Armor of God that protects, not a small part of the body, but the core of our bodies, the organs that keep us alive and feed and nourish us, but especially our heart.
The human heart is a wonderful organ.  It pumps nearly 100,000 times a day and pushes through the human body nearly 2000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels.  Not only is it one of the organs that we cannot live without, it is even an organ that Jesus spoke of often in scripture.
Just as the heart is at the center as God designed and made us to be, our core self image needs protection.  Being human we know how to protect ourselves from doing what we don’t want to do, seeing who we want to see or even doing what we know is right and need to do.  We avoid.  Whether it is people who make fun of us at school, people who talk bad about us or demean us or put us under their thumb in the community or even in the church.  We even avoid those places and situations that make us uncomfortable, all to keep us safe.
But, we daily are under an attack by Satan.  This week the constant drum of the ‘attack ads’ for the politicians came to an abrupt end, thankfully with the election.  As Christians, how can we protect ourselves from the attack of Satan?
God gives us in our baptism a breastplate of righteousness embossed with the Cross of Jesus Christ to guard our hearts.  In the Roman Army this piece of armor was a unique and distinguishing feature of every soldier.  For Kings and Knights armor when crafted by uniquely skilled craftsman fit the person perfectly.  So to in our baptism we have been fit with the perfect breastplate of righteousness by Jesus Christ to protect us.
We in and through our baptism are clothed with the breastplate of righteousness of Jesus Christ.  It is not only a protection, but the badge of honor that we can wear in the army of God.  This is what Jesus Christ gives to us.  The breastplate of righteousness is the badge of honor that has been given to us.  We haven’t earned it, but God gives it to us freely in our baptism because of what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross of Calvary.  We are the redeemed.  It reminds me of a song that Sky Ranch sings every year, both up at Camp and when they come for Day Camp here at Emmanuel.  “I’ve been redeemed, by the blood of Jesus, I’ve been set free by the blood of the lamb.”  This song not only encapsulates the beauty of God’s gift of the Breastplate of Righteousness, but shows how this has occurred.
The Breastplate of Righteousness is part of our uniform, our armor of God given to us as children of God.  So we have to be not only ‘squared away’ or ‘tucked in’ with the belt of truth, we wear our breastplate of righteousness to protect our heart and other vital organs.  But now we need to get to where the battle is occurring.  So we need some shoes.
            If you ask most parents what their greatest challenge is when kids are growing up it is their constant change in shoe size.  When kids are born they wear the smallest booties, sometimes made by a grandparent, friend or extended family that knits for fun.  But when kids start growing, their shoe size constantly changes.  For Christians, we have been given the Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace in our baptism.
Shoes as part of the armor of God may seem strange, but in New Testament time people didn’t have shoe stores in every market, nor were there four lane highways, cars or SUV’s or for soldiers beasts of burden to carry them wherever they needed to go.  The main means of travel in Jesus and Paul’s day was by foot.  So for soldiers having the right shoes was imperative.  Roman Soldiers shoes were not like Nike or New Balance, or even what could be found at the local bazaar or market.  Their shoes were nail studded so when they planted their feet they would be able to stand firm and be immovable no matter who or what enemy was being faced.
For children of God the same is true.  We with our Shoes of Preparation, need to stand firm in our convictions and our beliefs, but especially in the face of evil.  Since we as Christians live in society, but are not of society nor the fallen values espoused by our society that clearly go against God and God’s Word, the shoes given to us in our baptism are meant to help us stand up for what is right.
Pastor Glenn Isernhagen before I arrived showed video’s that clearly resonated for some with what had occurred here at Emmanuel.  What some took away, not only was the ability to see what had occurred in the past, but the opportunity to stand up for what was right as it is proclaimed in the Word of God and lived by Jesus Christ while He walked the earth.
The armor of God given by Jesus Christ is meant not only for holding together the other pieces of the armor, to wear with pride and the ability to get we God’s soldiers to the battle, but also to give us something to hold that will protect us or shield us.  The next piece of our armor is the shield of faith.
When we would visit family in Pennsylvania, there was a sight we always looked for in the short stretch of road as we passed through the panhandle of West Virginia.  It was a suit of armor that stood guard on a hill overlooking the valley below.  Not only was it a full suit of armor, but it included a shield.
For soldiers the shield was a moveable object that depending upon the size could be used to hide behind and if leveraged correctly could be brought together with other shields to protect all who were covered.  If prepared  and used properly the shield could prevent the penetration of arrows and even spears if metal.
When arrows were dipped in pitch and set afire, the leather shield of biblical times was susceptible to the fire.  However, good soldiers before battle would soak their shields in water overnight which would lessen the potential of the shield burning from the flaming arrow.
We the children of God can hide behind the shield of faith.  The Shield of Faith given in baptism can protect us from Satan’s attacks.  Daily we experience being bombarded by the darts and fiery arrows of Satan attempting to pull us away from God, or even just doubt God and what He has done, is doing and will do.  But the reality is, when we put on the full armor of God, and lift the shield of faith, we will be protected.
Our protection comes not from what we do, but what God has done and continues to do through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ works through us and protects us and gives us the best protection.  It is a protection from an eternal perspective, not the ‘here and now’ perspective of our society.  Our society and world seems to always look at any situation through the glasses of ‘what’s in it for me’?  Whether it is who is elected into the House or Senate, Board of Supervisors or County Commissioners.  Or how my certain group can benefit the most or control the most situations or organizations.  But God has a perspective that looks for the eternal benefit for all of mankind.  And the shield of faith lifted for our protection and used against Satan protects us and ushers us into God’s Kingdom when we end our earthly pilgrimage.  We celebrated that last week for our Saints of Emmanuel, when we remembered them on All Saints Day.
It is clear that the armor of God is special and unique, from protecting the core of the organs, insuring the clothes do not get in the way of progress, getting we the soldiers of God to the battle with the right footwear and the ability to hide behind the shield of righteousness.  But just like farmers who wear the colors of their favorite seed or implement dealers or their favorite school, whether K-State, KU or Nebraska, the soldier also wears a head covering.  The armor of God that covers the head is known as the helmet of salvation.
We know the brain is the center of all of our thoughts and controls our bodies motion, but the helmet of a soldier doesn’t just protect the head it is a symbol of authority.  Romans soldiers would wear bronze helmets with cheek plates that were unique and clearly distinguished them from any other soldier.  It was a means of identity and solidarity of the brotherhood.  It was also a source of pride to not just wear the helmet, because they were easily distinctive, but it was a mark of pride.
Christians who wear the “helmet of salvation” wear something that points in a certain direction.  Not at or for the self, but our ‘helmet of salvation’ points to Jesus Christ.  The best reminder we have of the helmet of salvation is when we make the sign of the cross over our forehead.
When children come forward at Holy Communion and they are unable or have not been instructed for first communion, I make the sign of the cross over their forehead as a reminder of their baptism or for those who have not been baptized that God still wants to bless them.  It is to remind everyone of God’s blessing upon them, but also remind children and adults of the helmet of salvation Jesus Christ offers all of mankind in their baptism.
On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return with the sign of the Cross.  The sign of the Cross made with ashes from the previous years palms is a reminder of the protection Jesus Christ offers us in our baptism and the armor God puts on us, with our “helmet of salvation”.
With all of the armor we have heard this morning we are prepared to be the children of God to be protected by Him, but also up to this point all of the armor is defensive.  What we have talked about up til now was all protective, but the one weapon of the armor of God that is offensive is the Sword of the Spirit.
The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.  The Word of God contained in the Bible is the one thing that can stop Satan in his tracks.  There is a hymn I grew up singing that said, “one little Word subdues him!”  That one little Word is “Jesus”!  That is the power we have with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.  Martin Luther who wrote the hymn “A Mighty Fortress” that I sang as a child and adult and just quoted clearly articulated the understanding of the armor of God as the protection needed for the people of God that is found in the Word of God.
Our society and culture would like for us to ‘forget the Word of God’.  Hence why prayer has been taken out of school, the bible cannot be taught in classrooms and our world is falling into the throes of an economic, moral and cultural war and ensuing chaos.  But we as Christians can be a beacon in the night and step up to the battle that is unavoidable, but which God has prepared us to enter into.  When we put on the full armor of God, buckle on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel, the helmet of salvation and take up our sword which is the Word of God, Jesus Christ, we will not fail.
The question we have to ask ourselves today, are we fighting with the full armor of God?  Are we fleeing from battle, because we have not put on what God has provided in our baptism?  Are we choosing to ignore Jesus Christ call for we Christians to put on the full armor of God?
God’s greatest armor given to us in our baptism is Jesus Christ.  If we put on the full armor of God, but lack Jesus Christ our labor and our action is in vain.  We can wear the best armor, like David did before going to face Goliath.  But David realized and we should to, unless we trust God, have a personal relationship with Him and fully rely upon God, our work is in vain.
David took off the armor provided by Saul and trusted God.  God is calling us to put on His armor, the full armor of God with the truth of Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation offered from the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.  When we trust in this free gift of grace offered by Jesus Christ, we then will be armored with an impenetrable eternal armor provided by God of not only His Word, but the fulfillment of the plan of salvation for all of mankind.  This is what God offers us today.  
We are called to put on in the full armor of God and trust and believe it is for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  It is the same armor that though stripped, beaten and bloodied, Louis Zamperini modelled in a prison of war camp in Japan and David went into battle against Goliath with and which we are empowered to wear this morning.  This is the full armor of God provided by Jesus Christ for you and for me and for all of mankind.  AMEN.

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