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Proper 16B 2nd Reading

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I remember the day I embraced the mystery of God. I could not fix my son’s illness and I kept praying specific prayers to create God within my own expectations. I planned and told God exactly how I thought God should act. When my son was healed from his blood disorder, it was the mystery of God’s presence that met my entire family. I wish I would have embraced God’s mystery for the whole of my life.

Paul asks the Ephesians to pray that he would be able to “make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19, NRSV) This mysterious God is one theme that Paul wants the Ephesians to capture in their daily living. Throughout the letter to the Ephesian church, Paul instructs early Christians how to live with people as followers of Christ. By the time Ephesians 6 rolls around, Paul has covered sin, unity, the inclusiveness of the gospel, the image of light, and almost every type of relationship dynamic. He spurs on the Ephesians to fight the good fight of faith and be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10a NRSV) with declarative actions. Paul’s armor of God image has changed his language into that of a general order troops into battle. There is a battle for our heart and souls and the armor of God is unique and designed for our firm stance in God.

Be Strong in the Lord (6:10). We are not to draw strength from our own actions but to root our strength in the Lord. Following Jesus consistently requires us to lean into the mighty power of God.

Put on the whole armor of God (6:11) This directive is repeated as the solution to stand against the cosmic powers of this present darkness(6:11b) and to withstand when the day of evil comes (6:13). The whole armor of God is the direct link to standing firm under cosmic pressure. These spiritual forces in the heavenly realm (6:12) can only be met by those who are strengthened by the mysterious God. We need all of the pieces of God’s armor: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (6:14-17). What kind of battle are we fighting with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Spirit? Paul is asking the Ephesians to wear inner values outside as clothing. This armor is not on any military checklist to ready troops for battle but we are battling forces unseen. Our goal is to stand and Paul is instructing us that standing needs to whole armor of God.

Stand firm (6:14) It’s important to Paul that the Ephesians stand up against cosmic powers and stand firm. Unwavering stance is solidified by the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. The tools that Paul describes can be worn every moment of the day to remind us that feet fitted for peace cannot run away in fear. It’s not as if we can stand firm-We will stand firm when we put on the armor of God. Truth and Righteousness cause backs to become straight in the face of evil forces. We do not stand alone.

Take the shield of faith and helmet of salvation (6:17) For battle with these unseen forces, we need protection. It is not enough to stand firm, we also need faith and salvation to sling off the flaming arrows of evil. Our faith in Jesus Christ stops all attacks and our faith in our salvation keeps us safe. We have to take these pieces of armor and not just put them on. When we take hold of our faith we are protected from holding onto anything else. Taking our salvation includes knowing our testimony about how Jesus rescued us.

Pray in the spirit at all times (6:18) Paul ends his call to arms with his boldest battle cry. He asks the Ephesians to continually pray but then asks for specific prayer for his ministry to “make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (6:19). Paul continually references the battle all Christians are in against unseen cosmic powers. In the same breath he references God’s mystery as the chief message he needs to deliver while he is in prison. Invisible evil does not stamp out the wondrous power of our mysterious God. Our chief weapon to be strong in the Lord and stand firm is prayer.

Prayer is not a side note to Paul’s Ephesian battle cry but the main action for all Christ followers. We will not let the pain and frustration of our world convince us that we have no avenue to fight. Christ followers are those who lay the wisdom of the world at the feet of Jesus. The world says to fight foes with power and brute force and God says that the Word of God is a powerful weapon. The world says witty comebacks would overrule a prayer said completely in the spirit. We can be strong in the Lord by humbly dressing for a battle that only the Lord can win. What an absolute mystery!

Aimee Mulder

Co-Lead Pastor, Breakwater Church of the Nazarene

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