Sunday sermon on the Epistle reading from Ephesians 6:10-17
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, by land, and by air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy.”
These are the words Winston Churchill said to the House of Commons as the French retreated from Hitler on May 13, 1940.
Don’t you know that we are at war?! Our enemies surround us all the time. There is no time to relax or lose focus. And we have no choice but to fight this war.
Therefore, put on your soldier’s uniform – the helmet, the bulletproof vest, the pants and shoes, and take up your shield and weapon. And stand firm.
This is Saint Paul’s exhortation to us.
Just like Churchill in 1940, Saint Paul some 1,900 years earlier was also aware that we are at war, and that our enemies are very real and dangerous, and that we need serious and proper protection to fight them.
And Paul specifies who exactly our enemy is. He is very precise so that we would not confuse and fight the wrong foe.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” In other words, our enemy is not a human being. Let me repeat that, we are not waging war against other people.
It’s true that we may have arguments and disagreements, but our ultimate fight is not against flesh and blood. Our struggle, rather, is “against the principalities, against the powers, against the cosmic powers of the darkness of this age, and against the evil spirits in the heavens.”
Principalities, powers, and cosmic powers are all names of spiritual beings. Initially these were the names of angels, who were assigned by God to oversee and guide different aspects of God’s creation. They were part of God’s government.
However, when they saw God’s plan for humanity, humanity that was created in God’s image, humanity that is to rule and guide and oversee God’s creation along with the angels, when these angels saw God’s plan, they rebelled because of envy.
So these angels, principalities, powers, cosmic powers, evil spirits in the heavens, our true and only enemies, have been waging wars against humanity for ages. They afflict the creation with death and suffering.
How many people actually believe that we are at war with evil? Not with evil people or with evil ideas, but with evil spirits? How many people take evil seriously today?
The devil has become a comic figure. He is the red guy with a pointy tail and two horns, who whispers naughty things into our ear. That’s all we think we when we generally think about evil.
Do not underestimate demonic powers because they are dedicated to our downfall and ruin. Sin exists because human beings, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. But sin exists also because satan pushed Adam and Eve towards disobedience. He promised unsurpassable knowledge and he planted seeds of doubt towards God.
Evil spirits have not stopped planting lies in our hearts. They even willingly work with us, but never for our benefit. Their goal is our doom.
It’s safe to say that every time we are tempted, it’s the doing of evil. But every time we sin, it’s our own action because we succumbed to the whisper of evil.
And so Paul directs us to have your soldier’s equipment always ready. We can’t go to war wearing jeans and t-shirt. I mean, we can, but we won’t last 5 minutes.
So, how do we fight an enemy that is mostly invisible?
First, stand firm, be on guard. Not all fighting involves throwing punches or swinging a sword or shooting bullets. Sometimes we just need to be on guard.
How many of us left the door unlocked or even flung open when we left for church today? No one, right? Unless now you’re thinking, “Did I lock the door? I knew I should have gone back and checked.”
It’s not very smart to leave the door open when nobody’s home. But what about the door of the mind, the door of the ears, the door of the eyes?
We leave them unlocked and wide open a lot more than we care to admit, so that any enemy can pass through without a problem. And the enemy we are talking about is far more serious than a house robber or a soldier might encounter on the battlefield.
Therefore, stand firm, be on guard, and put on the soldier’s equipment.
Saint Paul describes two categories of this equipment – defensive and offensive.
The defensive equipment consists of helmet, breastplate, belt, shoes, and a shield. Helmet in particular, which Saint Paul calls the helmet of salvation, guards our heads.
We must guard the content between the two ears. What comes in here can be seriously influenced by the evil spirits in the heavens.
And this includes what content we consume from TV, books, newspapers, social media and internet in general, and conversations we have.
That’s why it’s essential to read good books, to watch good movies, to have deep and thought-provoking conversations, to counterbalance the garbage that so easily enters into our heads.
And one offensive equipment we are to have, one weapon, is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” The Word of God is also what we call the Scriptures.
Know the holy Scriptures. Read them daily, even if only a verse or two. Memorize parts of it. Keep it in your mind constantly.
The Scriptures constitute the sword that drives away enemies – the real enemies, the evil spirits, the devil. His whispering won’t be so sweet when we know the truth, when our heads and hearts are filled with good contents, when we know the Word of God, while we stand firm and continue the fight.
The war is here, we are the soldiers, Christ’s soldiers. Let us not fight unprepared and untrained. We wage war, as Churchill said, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us. And Saint Paul says that God provides us with actual soldier's armor.
Stand firm and be on guard!
To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign Leader, we give all glory, honor, and worship, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.