1st Sermon – August 5th, 2017

Dear Friends in Christ…
Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit quiet our minds to hear His Word.
We were all marked at our baptisms with a Holy Cross that cannot be erased. We were Lifted Up, Announced, Proclaimed as Children of God; Adopted into a Holy Family!!
Peter writes, in 1 Peter 2:9,
“9 …You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Know who you are! Proclaim the mighty works of our Lord Jesus Christ!
That’s our inheritance. That is our Cause!
I was once told that the cross that was marked on our foreheads, at our baptisms, could be considered our first tattoo!! It is forever!!
It’s true: When God declared his love and favor for us, it’s permanent!
God’s love is forever true…unwavering.
We hear, that we are loved by God, a lot when we come to church; But I wonder if we really understand to what extent the Father Truly Loves us. And how CHERISHED we are by our Father.
Cherished: It’s a different word. It’s a word we don’t use a lot in our daily lives. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Cherished: It is a verb; an ACTION word!!
“It means to Protect and Care for someone Lovingly.
Matthew captured Jesus helping us to understand God’s love for us, by using sparrows as an example. That even though there are thousands or maybe millions of sparrows in this world; not even ONE will fall because of God’s protecting love.
Sparrows are a REALLY good and CONSTANT example of God’s love…Thank You Jesus!!
Let’s face it, there are a ton of sparrows in this world. When we go outside, There is a really good chance that we will see a sparrow or two or maybe three.
Even if we don’t see one right then, we might know by the looks of our car windows, that they have been around at one time or another.
If the Father, cares for the wellbeing of each of them, how much more does He want US to know that He loves us? That He cares for us and that we are protected by that love?
How much more would he like to remind us of that love?
Thousands, maybe Millions of times each day?
Our reading today is from Ephesians Chapter 6. This is another great place to look when we are trying to understand God’s love for us as cherished children. To see God’s true and lovingly protectiveness.
In this letter to the Ephesians we are informed by Paul that we are Provisioned with a suit of Holy Armor.
Paul’s letter was written to strengthen the believers in Ephesus.
To help them stand strong in God’s name and purpose in Christ. To know that they have not been abandoned, but they are Cherished and Empowered to stand as God’s Children and to Press On to let everybody know that He Loves ALL OF CREATION; EVERYONE OF US!! And Peter reminds us of the reason for all of this, “To proclaim His Mighty Acts to others”!!
In this Chapter, Paul write…
“10 Finally, be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Children of God, hear Paul’s words!!
Put on your full armor, there is a thief in the house, looking to steal whatever and whomever he can!!
Every day and in every situation, that we face, there’s a battle going on!!
Don’t fool yourselves!!
The thief is alive and well and he wants us to lose faith by lying to us and making us feel like we fall short!!
That we are not worthy!!
That something is not right about us!!
He wants to rob us of our God Given rights as Children of God!!
And of the Understanding that our Father loves us; Cherishes Us!
Wow! OK…Whew…!!
I am going to dial it down a little bit…ok?
I want you to take a minute and imagine something with me…
I want you to imagine Paul, a Roman Citizen, incarcerated in a Roman jail.
Locked away for believing in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Being convicted of leading a movement against Caesar’s authority.
Filthy, bruised and wounded by being mishandled and by the chains placed around his ankles and wrists.
I would like for everyone to imagine what Paul was dealing with while he was imprisoned.
What he’s surroundings must have looked like.
What the light was like…the darkness was like.
What it smelled like.
What the food must have been like.
And yet, through all of that, he was driven by his love for Christ, to write others; to lift them up; so that the word of Christ’s saving Grace would be shared, and shared, and shared, and shard…
From this dark and lonely place, Paul’s spirit is driven to write, to reassure that we are not alone and that our cause is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
To remind us that we are permanently marked children of God and Cherished by our Heavenly Father.
That we should not fear the powers of this world, but own the idea that we have a suite of HOLY ARMOR freely given to each of us and we have strength beyond our own abilities.
And God’s words should be shared and heard today and every day!!
I like to think that Paul might have opened his eyes at some point; maybe after taking a break from his writing, or maybe, after taking time to pray for wisdom for words, that he could use to help his brothers and sisters understand what it meant to be Strong in the Lord and Cherished by our Father;
I like to think that at one of those times, when he opened his eyes, he finally, truly notices the Roman guards standing at his cell door.
And like a new day rising, Paul saw the beauty of those soldiers for the first time, in a completely new light.
Even though they had been standing there day after day and night after night, Paul saw them though new eyes.
The Holy Spirit opened his eyes and he finally knew how to explain strength, commitment and fortitude to the believers in Ephesus. And to us.
Paul knew, and the Ephesians knew, what unfetter strength looked like and felt like. It was standing right in front of him and it was stalking every believer of that day like a hungry pride of lions. Waiting for a weak one to stumble in their loyalty or to stand out from the crowd.
Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 13 reads like this…
”13…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,…”
The FIRST piece of armor is TRUTH; and Paul is equating it to the first piece of armor that every Roman soldier would put on; A huge leather belt.
The main use of these belts was to support the soldier’s backs from the weight of all the armor he would carry. Everything hinged on these belts.
These belts would also protect the mid-section of their bodies. The soft part!! It would protect them from lethal blows to their crucial organs.
Paul instructs us to start by buckling on our belts of truth and to recognize that every piece of our armor will be supported by that Big Belt of TRUTH!
Paul goes on to write about the next piece of armor. About a Breastplate.
Now Paul knows that the Roman breastplates were usually hammered out of one piece of metal. Making them flawless…No Cracks or Weaknesses.
These breastplates would have a flange on the back that would be tucked down behind the Leather Belts. That way the belts would carry most of the weight. Most were decorated with emblems of fierce strength, like Lions, Dragons, Eagles, etc.
So, just in case, you did draw attention to yourself and you were not scarred enough already by the Roman soldier himself; You would have some shiny, fierce and hungry looking lions pressing in at you from his breastplate, reminding you of the brutality of Caesar himself and what happens to treasonous people of the Roman Empire.
So, quick recap…
We are to tie Truth around ourselves and that Truth is what supports our Righteousness. Cool stuff so far? Pretty Cherished!!
Back to the scripture…
“with the breastplate of righteousness in place,”
15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Shoe made of Peace? Peace? What does peace have to do with warfare?
Let’s take a look at what Paul is talking about…
Roman soldiers would wear hard leather soled sandals that had leather straps that would wind up their calves. And on the soles of these sandals they would put metal studs that would help the solder with traction; a sound footing.
And the other benefit that would come from these studded sandals is that you could hear them coming. The more that marched together the more fear that would precede them. Their work was half done, buy placing fear before their might.
So, we are to know that the foundation of our stance is Peace. Peace that equals strength. To adopt the idea that our traction and fortitude is founded in PEACE that God will prevail.
A Peace that surpasses all understanding. Peace that equals the strength and fear that proceeded the might of the Roman Solders. A Peace that arrives to the fight before we do.
Paul continues to write…
“16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
The Roman shields were a fierce part of their armor. The solders would work together as one, with their shields. They would make solid walls of metal that went from their ankle to their helmets.
During fierce battle the soldiers would perform an armored tactic called, “Turtling”. This is where pods of solders would kneel and raise their shields above their heads, like a turtle shell, to withstand a barrage of fiery arrows.
We are to pick up our shields of faith and wall out all that attacks us.
In verse 17, Paul continues and tells us…
“17Take the helmet of salvation…”
The Roman helmets were made to withstand blows from broad swords. They were heavy molded metal helmets with nose pieces and metal plates that were molded down the jawbone that protect the face.
Now let me be clear about broadswords. They were 4 to 6 feet long and they needed to be reeled with two hands because of their weight. There blows were deadly if you didn’t have the right protection.
So, Paul wants us to understand our Salvation in terms of protecting our minds and in turn, our hearts with the understanding equivalence of a solid metal helmet!! Metal helmets that can withstand lethal blows from our adversaries!!
So, our armor so far consists of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation.
Back to the verse…
“And to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
The Roman Short Sword was sharp and lethal. It was used when the battle became close and personal. The short sword was made to meet its’ mark. Plus, it was ready and waiting at the soldier’s side.
I want to bring your attention to another aspect of the Sword of the Spirit. Notice…this piece of armor is the only offensive piece of armor we have in our arsenal. All the other pieces are defensive.
In other words, the only Offensive piece of our armor is the Word of God.
Now, I like to bring a little levity to all this armor stuff for a minute, if you will, take a minute with me and think about all the different bibles that you have seen in your life time.
You might have seen little pocket size bibles…I like to think of those as little jack knives or those types that can be flipped open in a flash whenever it is needed.
And how about those big old King James Family Size bibles that have their own stands. I like to think of those as our big old broad swords, ready and waiting to be use against our adversaries.
Or how about all of those fancy bible covers out there on the market. They are kind of like sheaves or holsters for all the different swords.
Most people, if you ask them, have their favorite bible or sword.
And there are people who have a whole arsenal of swords to pick from.
As faith based people we like to give our new young adults a brand-new sword before they head out into the world for the first time.
But putting that all aside…
In the Gospel of John, the very first thing that John is pressed to write is…
John 1:1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus Christ is the Word of God.”
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
Jesus, like a sword, He can be found at our side ALWAYS.
And let’s face it, the mighty acts that he did for us on the cross met the mark and it was lethal to sin.
Paul concludes with some very strong thoughts and (I believe) he is trying to move the Ephesians and us into action.
He writes…
“18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD’s people.”
We have been given Holy Armor as God’s Children. Make no mistakes about these gifts; They have been given through Grace and not awarded to us through something we have done!!
They are what the devil wants to lie to us about. They are the things that he wants to steal from us.
He wants to set doubt before faith and lies before truths.
If you hear nothing else that I say tonight, hear this…
Our heavenly Father loves each and every one of us to a point that He knows every hair on our heads.
Through our baptisms, we became His children…permanently marked. Forever!!
He is here beside us every minute of every day; Devoted, Protecting and Cherishing us.
The price has been paid and we are a holy nation, provisioned with holy armor, with one calling, to share His Mighty Acts with everyone we meet!!!
Sister’s and Brother’s in Christ Jesus, Let’s Pray…
Dear Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank You for being with us always and specially in these precious moments where we can take time to get to know you better through your Holy Word. Thank you for this beautiful place and giving me the opportunity to share Your Mighty Acts of Love. Thank you for being with us and helping us to hear Your words and grow stronger as your children. Thank you for giving us the gift of being Cherished.
Lord we ask you now to place on our hearts and minds an enduring understanding and steadfastness, that we are marked by Your promise and live within Your Loving Grace. That we are lovingly Clothed from head to foot with everything we need as Your children. That we are equipped to stand strong and press on, to one goal, to follow You and to uphold Your mandate, to love one another and to speak Your Light into every heart we meet…everyday.
In Your name, we pray…Amen!