This Week’s Sermon
~ October 17, 2021 ~
Psalm 91, Ephesians 6:10-20
October 17, 2021
Today is the next in this series of sermons about the Spirit. A few weeks back it was “Living in the Spirit.” Then it was “Walking by the Spirit.” Then it was “The Unity of the Spirit.” Yeah, there’s a theme going on here!
So today, we’re talking about “The Security of the Spirit,” or what I’m calling “Spiritual Security.” And we’re considering this famous passage from Ephesians, which is about “The full armor of God.” And this is about the security we have – the protection we have, from what Paul calls “the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” I don’t know about you, but when I read that, I want all the protection I can get!
As I said a few weeks ago, we are spiritual beings. In fact, I heard a great quote just after that sermon, that would have gone along perfectly with what I was saying. The quote is this. “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” Do you get that? “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”
Well, along with being “spiritual beings,” I would remind us that there is a spiritual realm that we are connected to, a realm of existence that is “beyond touch and sight.” I heard one scientist recently saying that all of our thoughts, our memories, and our experiences, cannot fit in the limits of our brains’ storage capacity. There has to be another, spiritual part of us, something beyond our physical bodies, that contains all of that. That kind of sounds like “cloud storage,” doesn’t it? It makes sense that there is that spirit in and around us, that is beyond our earthly shell.
We are spiritual beings, and we are part of the spiritual realm. I think that’s part of what Jesus was trying to say when he said, “The kingdom of God is in your midst!” There is a spiritual kingdom, and we are part of it, now. And Paul would tell us, and I would agree, that not all of the spiritual realm is good and benevolent. I believe there is this “spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places!” Paul tells us about that in this famous passage. And he says that we’re not left on our own to battle it, or to protect ourselves from it! We have God’s protection!
That’s what this passage tells us. And I think Paul’s words here would have resonated with his Jewish readers, especially. I think he was drawing from the rich tradition of God being a fortress and a protector. There is a lot of that kind of imagery throughout the Old Testament. You heard some of it in the first scripture today. Psalm 91 begins, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who dwells in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” I love those words!
You sang about that today, too, in what is one of my all-time favorite hymns! “A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper he amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing!” I always like to look at the composer of the hymns we sing. You can find that information at the bottom of each page. And I was reminded this week that “A Mighty Fortress” is a hymn written by Martin Luther! I’d forgotten about that! In our hymnal there are only two songs by Luther himself, and in the other one, he only wrote the words. This is the only hymn where he wrote both the words and the music. That’s right! Luther was a music guy! (You can make it your “weekly challenge” to find the other one!!!) I love the imagery in this hymn, and in the scriptures, that God is a refuge and a fortress! We chose this as our class hymn in seminary!
This is the time of year for Renaissance Festivals! Anybody ever been to one? My kids and I used to love to go to the Renfest in Kansas City. If you’ve ever gone to one, you know there are lots of knights and pirates and swords and armor and jousting. And it’s great fun! Oh, and falconry! I love the falconry! My nephew was a pirate at the PA Ren Faire. (And hopes to be again someday!) My niece and her husband went to the one in Maryland this past weekend and they brought back many pictures of people in medieval garb, and of all kinds of renaissance activities.
As I began to think of this passage from Ephesians, I couldn’t help but think of those kinds of images, images of a time when people were protected by armor and weaponry, and castles. And I thought of those wonderful descriptions of God as our refuge and our fortress.
So, here in Ephesians, Paul tells us of God’s protection. And he tells us that we can have these things he describes as our “spiritual security.” He tells us of “The breastplate of righteousness,” “The helmet of Salvation,” “The sword of truth.” And he tells us that we don’t have to rely on our own strength for our spiritual protection. We rely on God! “Not by might nor by power, but my spirit, saith the Lord.” Those are the words of the Prophet Zechariah to king Zerubbabel, in Zechariah 4:6.
As I thought about Ephesians this week, I also thought about this coin. This is what is known as a challenge coin. Maybe you know about the tradition of challenge coins in the military. They are specially designed coins that are given and received at important times and milestones in a person’s military career. They represent a bond between members of individual units or branches of service.
It was my honor, several years ago, to take part in the retirement ceremony of one of my first youth group “kids.” He retired as a colonel in the United States Air Force. And I was honored to help him design this challenge coin for that occasion. And it’s based on this passage from Ephesians 6. And I was further honored when he gave me a coin along with the others he gave during that ceremony!
Take a look at it, and you’ll see “the whole armor of God” is represented here, as is the passage from Ephesians 6. (Do we need sanitizer wipes?) I wish I had one of these to give out to all of you today. But this one has a prominent place on my desk as a reminder every day of the “Spiritual Security” I have in God. And that’s the purpose of this sermon today. It is to remind all of you of the “Spiritual Security” you have.
And notice, that doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to you! Some people try to promise you that – you know, “if only your faith is strong enough!” This doesn’t say that. Jesus didn’t say that, either. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!” What he and Paul were saying is that we will be protected spiritually. That’s why I’ve called this “Spiritual Security.” Remember, you are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. You are spiritual beings having a physical experience!
That goes along with what I’ve said before. God doesn’t promise anyone perfect physical health. And those who say so are focused a bit too much on the physical realm. God doesn’t promise us perfect physical health. But he does promise perfect spiritual health! And he promises “Spiritual Security.” And that’s an even greater protection in my book!
So, with all that in mind, I’d like to close with Paul’s words. “Put on the whole armor of God!” “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” “Stand firm, having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace. And take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”
So, go from this place today, knowing that, “A mighty fortress is our God!”
Eternal God, you are our refuge and our fortress, our God, in whom we trust. Help us to know of your guiding and protecting spirit every day of our lives. Help us to know your joy in all circumstances, and help us to have peace in your presence always, for we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.