By the Church Calendar, today is Trinity Sunday. the day we lift up the cornerstone of our faith: There is one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Ho-kay, Pastor…. We were kinda hoping you could talk about—oh, I don’t know—anything else? Corona virus? Demonstrations? Police tactics? Civil rights? Minneapolis?
Like, anything besides what they told us back in Confirmation Class and we didn’t understand it anyway?
Fair enough. In this seemingly strange, complicated doctrine, there’s something that is directly relevant to every single day of our lives, including these long, hot days in June of 2020.
The clue is in the traditional prayer for this Sunday. It goes like this: “Almighty, eternal God, you have given us the grace to confess the true faith, acknowledging the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by the power of the divine Majesty, to worship the Unity: Keep us firm in this faith, that we might be defended from all adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord,…”
“Keep us firm in this faith,” it says. Why? To “defend us from all adversities.” Ok, so, what does that mean? The “adversities” that most of us face most of the time are like that Corona virus. One little virus doesn’t seem like anything—until you get it up your nostrils. Same with our daily adversities. I’m talking about the ups and downs of ordinary life—the thoughts in our own heads, and the interactions with others that challenge us, tempt us, and lead to all sorts of trouble and unhappiness.
The “faith” that defends us from these adversities is our faith in God.
We know the creative power of God as our Father.
We know how Jesus Christ can overcome sin and steer us away from our messes.
We know the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit—the power of God to purify us and drive out the nonsense from our souls. When we turn on that full power of God, that’s a faith that will indeed defend us from all sorts of trouble.
In Ephesians 6, Paul compares it to the weapons and armor of a Roman soldier. If you want to stand firm, he says, then “Put on the full armor of God.” —
(1) First, Paul mentions “the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” Think of the kind of belt that a weightlifter or a piano mover might wear. In battle, the belt is there to help you stand firm—just like Paul says. It’s there to give you some support, some spine, a little backbone.
Paul says that our backbone is the Truth. We know the truth about right and wrong, good and evil. We know the difference between spiritual things and worldly things—what really counts, and what doesn’t matter. And we know above all that it’s God who sets the truth—not just whatever whimsy we land on each day.
I’m not talking about big philosophical truths here. Come next fall, the kids graduating this spring expect to be in college. They’ll have to decide whether to make that eight o’clock Spanish class, or sleep in. Every morning, your measure your values. What’s more important?–partying all night, or fulfilling my duty to myself and to those who are financing my education?
We know the truth—but it takes some backbone to stand up and live by it.
(2) Second, Paul says to put on “the breastplate of righteousness.” It’s not enough just to look good. You have to be good too. When Paul talks about “righteousness,” he doesn’t mean self-righteousness or pomposity. He means living God’s way.
This is not some complicated, mysterious thing. Micah 6:8 says: “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Be fair, be forgiving, and show some humility. Replace selfishness with fairness, pettiness with forgiveness, and egomania with humility. That’s what God wants.
(3) Third, In verse 15, Paul talks about your combat boots: “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Roman combat boots were tougher than the sandals everybody else wore. Roman soldiers could move fast and tackle rough terrain. It gave them a huge advantage.
Paul says our combat boots are “the gospel of peace.” The gospel is the good news: We attack the world with a message, a message of peace. True peace comes from Jesus Christ. He’s already won the war. He put us at peace with God, and gives us the power to be at peace with ourselves and one another.
Some people treat life like a fight: It’s you against the school, you against your boss. And then it becomes you against your spouse, and maybe even you against your kids. You’re always battling for position, always battling to see who has the upper hand, always manipulating and controlling to see who’s in charge, who’s on top.
And that’s a fight you always lose—because the minute you think you’re winning, you’re actually losing. You’re alienating people; you’re driving them away; you’re making them resent you, and maybe even hate you.
And so you keep stumbling through life, and wind up falling flat on your face. What you need are good combat boots that will help you get across the rough spots. And that takes the gospel of peace. The message is that you are not number one, but Jesus Christ is number one, and that you will serve him and not just serve yourself. You’ll live by his golden rule, and not just whatever rules you make up as you go along.
(4) The fourth piece of armor is the “shield of faith.” In the nature shows, you know the lions could go after the old and slow buffalo, but the old ones can be feisty, and their meat is tough and stringy. They’d rather go after the young ones who’ve wandered away from the herd—the tender, juicy ones, too dumb to run, too weak to fight back.
In spiritual warfare, that can be our young people . They’re a prime target, especially as they head out without mom or dad overseeing their every move.
That world can be nasty. It’s like the Mayhem guy in the insurance commercials: Things will go wrong for you. You will get hurt. The question is how you react. Jesus Christ can help you through times of stress and depression. He can be your shield of faith. Not even the toughest soldier tries to deflect arrows with his bare hand. They use shields. Use your shield. Trust Jesus, and he’ll steer you through the nasty times.
(5) Fifth, there’s the “helmet of salvation.” “Salvation” is a word we got from the Romans. And we’ve sort of lost the meaning of it. We think it’s a religious technicality: You got up and said the right words in official church lingo. But the word “salvation” originally had to do with health and wholeness.
Sin is like Mad Cow disease– a disease that turns our brains into Swiss Cheese. Sin takes away our conscience and common sense, and leaves us full of holes—holes that the world tries to fill back in with garbage.
Jesus saves us from that sin. Jesus puts out the fire, shovels out the garbage, and helps us put our lives back together again, filling us with good things.
That’s salvation. It’s not the answer on a religious quiz. It’s a way of life, a way to live. With Jesus, we can be healthy and whole again. When your head is spinning, wondering what you’re doing and where you’re going, let Jesus put your head on straight. Put on that helmet of salvation.
(6) And finally, there’s the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Now, Paul is not telling you to march around the neighborhood swinging your Bible like a club, acting like you know everything and everybody else is stupid.
It’s just that there’s so much nonsense floating around out there. Remember the old ads? Nike said “just do it.” Burger King said you that you can have everything “your way.” The world tells you to be rude, obnoxious, racist, bigoted, hateful, selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, unforgiving, unrelenting, merciless, and vindictive.
So you need a machete to hack through the tangle of nonsense. That’s the sword of the Spirit. It’s the truth.
You’ve learned the right way to live. You’ve got a faith that can defend you from adversities, even in trying times like this. Now you’ve got to grab hold of that and slash through the nonsense, so that you can keep your dignity and character intact. You’ve got the weapons and armor you need. You just have to remember to put them on; and use them, for the glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.