A sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20
All month I’ve been carrying around an article clipped from the in-flight magazine during our vacation. I was intrigued by the title. “A Shape-Shifting House that Transforms with the Seasons.” In it London-based architects tell of a house that literally changes its shape, opening and closing on itself to create eight unique configurations, each designed to take advantage of the conditions of changing seasons. In the winter, the house is a compact insulated square like a tightly closed flower. But in the summer it stretches out like a housecat, rotating and opening towards a warm sun. This is a house that is never static. It’s flexible. What if our faith were also not static but flexible?
This morning I’m closing up my sermon series “What’s in Your Faith Closet?” It’s fitting to hold both the image of this unique house, and Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.
It is an act of faithful flexibility to de-clutter and separate out those things that offer life from those that do not. Once we’ve let go of what we no longer or never did believe; and once we’ve rediscovered new things about our faith, there’s another question that awaits us.
How does what we believe inform the way we live? You’re committed to a life in Christ. What next?
Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus offers a final extended metaphor for how belief in Jesus might shape the way we live their lives, illustrating his point with references to the armor that might be worn by an army.
THIS is one of those times when the old stories and our story intersect. You and I have more in common with the addressees of this letter than we may think.
Paul’s audience was a minority group. Today the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. To be sure, the United States still remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, however worldwide, Christians are still a minority.
Sadly most of the decline is in today’s young adult population—in part because churches have rigidly hung onto tradition, seldom offering a life giving way of talking about our ancient BUT STILL very relevant faith. When we take one way of articulating our faith, we need to replace it with something where our spirit can go “ding-ding-ding-yes! Now that makes sense!”
So for those who, as an example, couldn’t swallow what it said about God, for God to sacrifice a child as a substitution for us—the alternative was to walk away. And walk away they did.
But for those who stayed, engaged and transformed their questions, deeper truths were revealed. In love God provided Jesus to show us what a life lived in synchronicity with God looked like. God provided Jesus to walk with us, to teach us how to live and do the right things, EVEN if his countercultural life would result in humans to crucifying him. It is a game changer to follow Christ because he lived full out even to the point of death. Jesus represents relationship, not patriarchal punishment. God is not an angry meanie.
Our faith is like a garden. If you don’t pull the weeds, the weeds will overtake the flowers. And frankly, I have to wonder if a good cleaning would move the “in name only” Christians from “yes I believe but I don’t much go to church anymore” to “I practice a life informed by my faith and I enjoy gathering with other pilgrims on Sunday to renew that faith these friendships.” OK, it still doesn’t mean you have to come every Sunday says the pastor whose secret longing is for Sunday traffic, traffic due to so many people trying to get to church.
Now looking at Paul’s letter, it is quite remarkable the way it applies faith to life. What if every day we put on our faith, like clothing? What if the lessons of our faith were so current, so alive, and so central, that it was like putting on a belt of truth? And what if even our shoes were metaphors for our walks of peace in the world.
I love when he writes about putting on a helmet of salvation. Salvation! Now there’s an archaic word. In progressive parlance salvation refers to “wholeness in God.” How awesome is it to regard our minds as the engine of a faith that is all about the wholeness of God?! Word!
This is the difference between a flexible, evolving faith and a rigid, static faith, a faith.
And just as with Jesus’ example, Paul wraps everything in prayer. Pray in the Spirit at all times, he writes. To live consciously- in continual prayer—do you agree that would be a very good way to live and be in the world?
My prayer it that we each fall in love anew with our faith, engaging those things that bring us new life.
And finally, using Paul’s own words.
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. Because I am just that. I am chained to the truth of Christ, convinced, convicted, and renewed not by fairytales but by the Spirit of what I know and believe.
Pray that I may declare it boldly. Amen.