Suit Up

         This week’s final lesson from the letter to the Ephesians is a familiar one.  The armor of God.  This is a very well know passage and gives us a vivid image of readiness.  However, this image spoke to a context very different than ours.  First hearers would have been very familiar with the armor worn by Roman soldiers.  Yet swords, shields, and breastplates aren’t exactly the norm for our world today.
         Let’s reimagine an image that connects more closely with our context today and still help us hear the message of readiness.
         Before we come up with an updated example – let us visit two issues with this text when taken out of the larger context of this letter.  The whole of Ephesians speaks again and again of unity – bringing together all people.  The seven churches of Ephesus reached out into the Gentile community, to share the message of Jesus – a Jew.
         Yet sometimes we can forget that larger context and just hear this passage alone.  (Ephesians 6:10-20)  2 major problems come.
1 – We hear about the shield of faith and hide behind it.  Creating our own Christian circles, sometimes we use this verse to justify that we are simply trying to protect our families.  There are whole markets created to make popular culture items “Christianized” – t-shirts, where instead of an Abrocrombie and Fitch logo, it says in the same logo – a breadcrumb and fish.  Music, art, even mints.  Yet in this hiding, we do not reach out and follow the example of Christ to care for the hurting world.  Our churches look more like country clubs than the church described in the gospels.
2 – We adopt a “fight first” mentality.  Children are taught this passage using object lessons with an orange.  With a peel, it floats in water, without the peel it sinks.  Therefore the armor of God will protect you.  We take this armor and solider metaphor further and talk about being “prayer warriors” or being in the “Lord’s Army” (there are many children’s songs about this).  This continues with a narrative of confidence, or perhaps arrogance, that we have the one truth of God, and that we must share it with everyone.  The message of the gospel of love becomes simplified to our sin and Christ’s death bringing salvation if we only accept God’s grace.
       Yet this message does not reflect the call for unity, it brings division.  Let’s look into the verse a bit deeper. More familiar to us today might be a suit – instead of a suit of armor.
As we get ready in the morning to face all the things the world has coming –
let us put on:
– the belt of truth (6:14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist)
– the shirt of righteousness (and put on the breastplate of righteousness.)
– shoes to proclaim the gospel of peace (6:15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.)
Take with you:
– the jacket of faith – that which you use to protect yourself (6:16 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.)
– the accessory of salvation, a hat, phone, keys, that which helps connect you to God (Take the helmet of salvation)
– and the pen of the Spirit, or text of the Spirit – the ability to write and to read the words of God (and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.) 
And PRAY.  To connect with God.  For each other, for everyone.  Prayer connects, encourages, and supports us all!
(6:18 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.)
             Therefore as you are getting ready to go out into the world – get ready.  Suit up! Take with you truth, righteousness, peace, justice, the promise of salvation, and the comfort of knowing the Spirit is always with you.
             God’s peace to you and yours.  ~Deacon Erin

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