Bible Text: Ephesians 6:10-20 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year The Whole Armour of God Ephesians 6:10-20 by William Klock I want to look this morning at our Epistle lesson, taken from the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus.  I think these are probably fairly familiar words to all of us.  They come at the end of the letter – they’re an exhortation.  The Apostle Paul has been addressing the problem the Ephesians were dealing with and he’s been teaching them the finer points of the Gospel.  And here at the end he gives a reminder to them – and to us – of what its really all about.  He reminds them that as Christians, especially when we’re doing the work of the Kingdom, we will face battle.  It’s a given.  The Enemy always seems to do one of two things: either he works to get us off track and away from the Gospel or he works to make us complacent in our faith.  But when we’re on track, when we’re not only faithful to Holy Scripture in our doctrine, but also faithful to the Gospel in our living, when we lift high the Cross, the Enemy will always oppose us.  And so St. Paul, at the same, warns us and exhorts us in these verses.  Look at them again with me.  Ephesians 6:10-13: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.   Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. We all struggle.  Sometimes it’s our daily struggle to personally fight and overcome the sin in our lives.  Sometimes it’s our struggle to find assurance of our salvation or of God’s presence with us when times are tough.  Sometimes it’s the discouraging things that happen within the Church, when brothers and sisters choose to fight with each other instead of against our common Enemy.  Here St. Paul gives us both our assurance and our marching orders.  “Don’t be strong in yourselves,” he says, “but be strong in the Lord and in his might!”  Remember that the last couple of Sundays I’ve been talking about the necessity of relying on God and not on ourselves.  When we struggle we have assurance because we know that it’s God doing the work, not we ourselves.  And so here he tells us to put on his armour and to pickup hisweapons. Paul’s first point is that God’s armour is necessary.  Whether you look at it from the standpoint of our own weakness or the strength of our enemy, we can’t fight, let alone win, the battle with what we’ve got on our own.  Think about the fact that as men and women we can’t even so much as think a good thought or do a good deed.  Our nature and our wills are inclined to nothing but sin.  The first thing we have to do is to be strong in the Lord.  This is the God of whom David wrote, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1).  Jesus Christ is our captain and as we go into battle he gives us his very self.  We not only put on the armour he gives us, but he also calls us to “put on himself” so that we can be “strong in the power of his might.” Our battle isn’t against the powers of this world so much as it’s against the one who came craftily in the Garden as a serpent and whom, after his thousands of years of experience at deceiving the human race, the book of Revelation tells us has become a great dragon.  He works through deception.  As evil as he is, he comes looking like an angel of light.  He whispers things into our ears, just as he did with Eve, and helps us rationalize our sins – to twist sin into virtue – and then when we finally realize our sins for what they are, he accuses us, whispering in our ears that we’re not good enough to fight on God’s side as the battle rages. St. Peter describes our enemy as a lion on the prowl, just looking for whomever he can devour.  The point is to discourage us.  Scripture warns us over and over about our Enemy – not so that we’ll feel afraid or discouraged, but to show us just how urgent it is that we join the battle.  St. Paul warns us, not so that we’ll go run and hide, but to exhort us “to withstand in the evil day” and “to stand firm.” His second point is that this armour is God’s armour and not our own.  Jeremiah wrote, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5).  The strength of the flesh is nothing more than the strength of our Enemy who is the prince of this world.  David wrote in Psalm 20, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  That’s the key.  St. Paul exhorted the Corinthians saying, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have  divine power  to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  We go out to battle against the darkness.  Let us first put on the armour of light!  When the Enemy tempts us to cruelty, to pride, to selfishness or any other sin, let us respond with “humility and gentleness, with  patience,  bearing with one another in love” as the Apostle tells us in Chapter 4. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth [against the lies and false doctrines of our Enemy], and having put on the breastplate of righteousness [against our sins and our sin nature], and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace [to remind us that our righteousness is not our own].  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith [against our infidelity], with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation [which gives us our hope], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouthboldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.  (Ephesians 6:14-20) St. Paul’s third point is that we need to put on all or the whole armour of God.  It isn’t enough to just put on the belt of truth or the breastplate of righteous.  You can’t expect to win the battle with the shield of faith, but not the sword of truth.  Imagine a knight going off to battle with a shield, but no sword.  Imagine a tank without a gun on top or a bomber with no bombs.  But notice that there is one piece of armour missing.  There’s a helmet for the head, a breastplate for the body, and shoes for the feet – and there’s a shield that can cover everything in the front, but Paul doesn’t mention a backplate.  The armour of God doesn’t have a defensive piece to cover our backs.  Why?  Because in the battle God calls us to fight, there’s no turning back.  Every soldier in God’s army is called on to push forward against the enemy, or at worst to stand his ground. In 1066 when William the Conqueror landed with his troops in England, the first action he took was to burn all of his ships.  He didn’t want his troops retreating back to Normandy.  He gave them one choice: fight on or die.  God tells us that we are either for him or against him.  There’s no fence-sitting.  There are no neutral parties in this war.  Once we make Christ our Lord and Master there’s no going back It’s also telling that Paul talks about the shield of faith.  Not the helmet or the breastplate or the shoes of faith; the shield of faith.  You see, the helmet only covers the head.  The breastplate only covers the breast and the shoes only cover the feet, but the shield covers the whole body.  You can move it up and you can move it down.  In every temptation and in every battle with the Enemy we need to put faith first and foremost – having a lively faith that assures us with confidence.  Without that the rest – the helmet, the breastplate, and the shoes – is all worthless.  Without faith, the sword of the spirit is no Scripture.  Without faith, the belt of truth can never be truth for us.  Without faith the breastplate of righteousness is really unrighteousness.  We’ve talked about this before.  All of these other things only fall into place in the presence of a true and lively faith generated in our hearts by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.  Without faith it’s impossible to please God, but without it, it’s also impossible to resist the Enemy.  So pick up the shield of faith so that you can douse all the “flaming darts” of the Evil One.  He throws his darts at us and they’re both sharp and fiery.  If we don’t have the shield of faith, they strike and they go deep – and, like all sin, their fire spreads.  One sin leads to another bigger one until the entire body is on fire with sinful passions.  St. John reminds us that the entire world lies in wickedness, set on fire by the devil, who is the author of all wickedness and sin – all the fiery works of the world.  But he exhorts us saying, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). But notice that the armour of God isn’t all defensive.  If we are to put on the whole armour, St. Paul also tells us that we are to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that sword is “living and active, sharper than any  two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and  discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  The Word of God, which was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and which works in our hearts by his moving is what opens our eyes to sin.  That sword, sharp as a razor, cuts deep and excises the sin in our lives and trains us in holiness.  Does the flesh tempt you to sexual impurity?  Strike with the sword: 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.”  Do you struggle with worldliness?  Strike with the sword: 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Does Satan make an assault on your faith and tempt you to superstition or idolatry?  Strike with the sword: Matthew 4:10, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”  Are you tempted to give up the fight and lose hope?  Strike with the sword: 1 Corinthians 15:54-56, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The shield of faith defends the Christian soldier from the attacks of the Enemy, but we’re not called to duck and cover.  With the sword of the Spirit we charge forward to take him on.  In Canada the government is gradually chipping away at our freedom to preach the Word of God freely and unfettered.  There’s a sense in which we can rejoice in that.  It means we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and the Enemy doesn’t like it.  The last thing the he wants is for God’s arsenal to be opened up to his people.  He wants us stumbling around unprotected.  So open the Scriptures.  Read and study.  Arm yourself with the sword of the Spirit! Finally, it’s not enough to know God’s armour.  You have to put it on.  In the corner of my living room, leaning against the wall, is a Confederate officer’s sword from the Civil War.  My great-great-Grandfather served the State of Alabama as an artillery officer.  In his hands that sword was put to use.  It doesn’t do much good now,  just sitting in my living room.  It looks neat.  It’s a reminder of the past and of a cause long gone.  Yet we tend to do the same thing with God’s armour.  We know it, but we don’t use it.  We don’t put it on.  We know truth, but we don’t live by it.  We have faith, but we forget about it and live as if we lack the hope that faith gives.  We have the Gospel, but don’t tell anyone about it.  We have a Bible, the sword of the Spirit, but it sits on the coffee table or on the nightstand collecting dust.  That’s what the enemy wants!  Complacent Christians who have all the head-knowledge, but never put it into actual practice – who don’t live it.  Don’t get me wrong.  You have to have the head-knowledge first.  Without it the heart can never be given over to God and to his truth.  But our problem is that the head-knowledge doesn’t make it to the heart. A suit of armour makes a nice decoration.  An old sword does too.  But the whole armour of God was never meant to decorate the corner of the room.  It was meant to be worn – to be put on and used.  If the armour is on a stand in the corner, you can bet there’s a knight around somewhere doing anything but fighting a battle.  You can’t do battle with the Enemy without the armour.  Put it on and jump into the action!  God has not only given us good armour to get the job done, he’s given us a good Captain to lead us, even the “Lord of hosts, who has all power and might.” John Boys wrote, “The continuance of fight is little, but our reward great.  In Rome the military age was from seventeen to forty-six…. The days of our age are threescore years and ten, and in all this time there is no time for peace; we are legionum filii, born in the field, and sworn soldiers in our swaddling clouts, always bearing arms against the common enemy from our holy baptism to burial.” God’s going to do one of two things: either he’ll bring an end to the battle or he’ll end it for us individually by taking us home to be with him.  We’ll be soldiers no more, because he’s promised that on that day he’s going to put palm branches in our hands and crowns on our heads as conquerors.  St. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on  that Day, and not only to me but also to all  who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Please pray with me: Our Father, we give you thanks for the promise of victory over the enemy.  Remind us to put on your armour daily and go to battle for the sake of the Gospel.  Show us where we’re being complacent or fearful and give us the grace to strengthen us for the battle, through Jesus Christ we ask.  Amen.
Bible Text: Ephesians 5:1-14; Luke 11:14-28 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent Ephesians 5:1-14 & St. Luke 11:14-28 by William Klock Over the past few weeks, the lessons we’ve heard read have been pointing us to what it looks like to live out our new life in Christ.  They’ve especially been focusing our attention on love—and more specifically, the love that the Father showed in sending his Son and the love that Jesus showed us at the cross when he gave his own life as a sacrifice for our sins.  But the point of focusing our attention on the love of God in Christ is very practical.  The more we understand and appreciate God’s love for us, the more that love will show itself in our lives.  Think of it this way: the kingdom of God is a kingdom of love—it’s a kingdom founded on the love of God and it’s a kingdom in which God’s people live in that love.  Someone asked me this week: How do we grow the Church?  We grow it by living in God’s love and by manifesting that love in our lives—as we live in holy obedience to our loving Creator and Redeemer and as we truly live in love as the united body of Christ—loving each other as God loves each of us.  That’s the light that Jesus talks about in this morning’s Gospel, and if we will be that light, shining brightly in the darkness, we will draw others to the light. This morning’s lessons are focused on this “kingdom” theme.  They remind us that Jesus is the King—when he came, he established his kingdom—and that leaves us with a very important question.  Each of us needs to ask: Where does my allegiance lie?  Who is my king?  And if we can answer that Jesus is our king, we need to look at our lives and ask if our priorites in life and the way we’re living give evidence that we’re living in Christ’s kingdom.  There are two kingdoms in the world: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  When it comes to declaring our allegiance to God, you and I have it relatively easy.  When we turn to Jesus as our Lord, some people may give us some funny looks.  Some people may start avoiding us, but chances are becoming a Christians isn’t going to put our lives or livelihood in danger.  But consider that in the Early Church, a commitment to Jesus often did mean real trouble. These were men whose proclamation of faith meant persecution.  These were women whose devotion to the Messiah meant they might be divorced by their unbelieving husbands and thrown into the street with no livelihood.  This was a decision that meant likely separation from their families and persecution by their friends and their government.  In those days, Lent was the time when new converts were prepared for baptism at Easter and the Third Sunday in Lent was given the name the “Sunday of Renunciation”.  Everyone knew that to follow Jesus was going to cost them something and this was the Sunday when the Church made it clear that they could have no divided loyalties and no uncertain allegiances.  This was the day of decision, of final commitment—were they in or were they out?  Were they willing to count the cost or not? Each of us had to make that decision at one point in time: who will rule over you?  Are you a member of Christ’s Kingdom or are you a subject of the prince of this world?  Think of how we lived before, especially those of you who became Christians as adults: We lived to gratify the flesh.  We were immoral.  We were impure.  We were covetous.  We lived in darkness.  But Christ shone his light on us and called us to a new life in a new kingdom.  He has transformed us and called us out of darkness into the light and now we have an obligation to walk as children of that light. Today’s Epistle has that same theme.  It emphasises our baptismal separation.  We have been buried with Christ and now walk in a new life with him.  We’ve been incorporated into his body and are separated from the world.  In the preceding chapter, St. Paul had urged the Ephesians to put off their old selves—their former selves—and to be renewed in their minds, that they might put on their new, holy, and righteous selves.  He continues 5:1-2, now saying: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Why are we to be conformed to God’s character?  First, because we have been made his beloved children.  In Christ we have been restored to the Father and made his children; we are really loved, really forgiven, and really accepted.  God sees us through the sacrifice of his Son and because of that he sees us as his adopted sons and daughters.  As Jesus lovingly gave himself for us that we might be saved from God’s wrath and from our bondage to sin, doesn’t it make sense that we should love him in return?  In our baptism he’s washed us clean and given us a new start, but at the same time he poured his Holy Spirit into us so that we can walk in holiness—so that we can avoid the very sins that got us into trouble in the first place. Practically speaking, Paul points us to Jesus.  How do I walk in holiness?  Paul says, walk in love just like Jesus did.  Be willing to give yourself up not only to God, but be willing to give yourself up—your rights, your preference, your expectations, your “things”—be willing to give those things up for the sake of others around you. Live the Gospel.  It’s easy to tell the Gospel story of Jesus and his love—how he loves us and how he gave up his own life for us.  But that story doesn’t mean very much to the people around us if they don’t see us living it out in our own lives. We should be living by Jesus’ example and interacting with people in ways that are consistent with how Jesus loves them.  He’s the prototype.  His life of love is the blueprint for our own lives of love. The world around us is filled with hate and selfishness, but we have a higher calling.  The Body of Christ should be a place of love.  St. John wrote: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love abides in death…By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:14, 16) What are some practical ways we show love for God and for the people around us?  St. Paul shows us in verses 3-7: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.   Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them. St. Paul lists all these things that aren’t compatible with a life of holy love.  The first thing he mentions is sexual impurity.  This is one of those areas of life that is at our core and because of that, if we become impure here it impacts our relationships with our friends and it breaks down the family as the basic unit of God’s covenantal system.  Satan so often tries to hit us here because he knows the damage that he can cause through it.  We sin sexually and our marriages break up and our children become vulnerable to the enemy.  Second, St. Paul mentions sins of the tongue, like gossip, slander, and “foolish talk.”  These are the things that drive us apart instead of bringing us together.  Gossip and slander aren’t loving.  If you catch yourself doing one of these things, ask yourself why you’re doing it.  Usually it’s because you’re trying to knock someone person down a peg or give yourself a boost in reputation.  That’s not Christlike love.  And foolish talk: the Greek word used is morologia. It’s the same word from which we get “moron.” Foolish talk has no constructive purpose.  As Christians we need to be engaged in uplifting activities—talk that encourages and that helps us grow spiritually and become more mature.  Third, St. Paul mentions covetousness.  Covetousness is an outright sin for the Christian.  We’re God’s children.  He’s promised to take care of us and to meet our needs and we have no reason to doubt his faithfulness to that promise.  When we covet, what we’re doing is denying God’s promise to us.  If we’re covetous, it shows that we’d rather have earthly wealth than heavenly wealth.  Covetousness is the root of idolatry.  So ask yourself: Where are my priorities?  Are they on earth or are they in heaven? So, if these are the negative things we should avoid, what are the positives that should be a part of the Christian life?  Look at verses 8 to 14: For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The condition of man without Christ is darkness: “once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”  It’s not just that without Christ we lived in the dark, but that without him we really were darkness because the darkness wasn’t just around us, it was inside us too.  When Christ called us he brought us out of the darkness and into the light, but he’s washed us inside and out and filled us with light—now we are light too.  Our new duty is to walk as children of the light.  We’re to be light in an otherwise dark world.  Our light shines in how we act and think, in how we present ourselves, and in how we show the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Are you kind?  Are you loving?  Are you truthful?  Does your life demonstrate integrity?  We might not think that people really notice these things in us, but I guarantee, people will notice if you call yourself a Christian, but don’t show these traits.  St. Paul also reminds us not to be a part of the darkness.  Our allegiance is to Christ and to the light.  We live surrounded by darkness, but we need to be separated from it: be in the world, but not of the world.  Don’t let the darkness seep in!  A tree doesn’t bear good fruit if it’s sucking up poison from the ground and a Christian will have difficulty bearing good fruit if we plant our roots in the darkness that surrounds us.  We need to root ourselves in the good, as St. Paul says in verse 9: “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.”  If we practice and attach ourselves to what is good and right and true we’ll be bright shining patches of light in the midst of the darkness of the world—we can’t help but be witnesses of the light of Christ to others.  The light attracts people stumbling around in the dark and our duty is to be that light—to draw men and women to Christ.  We can’t do that if our light is being dimmed by ungodliness. St. Luke gives us a practical illustration of this principle of separation from the world in our Gospel lesson.  In our lesson today, we’re told how Jesus cast out a demon.  The Jews didn’t believe it was possible.  Remember, before Jesus came to establish his kingdom, Satan—the strong man—was the one in charge and there was no one stronger, no one to overcome him. When the people saw the demon cast out, their first reaction was to accuse Jesus of being in cahoots with the devil.  Jesus responded: Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  (11:17b-20) Their argument was just plain foolish.  Why would Satan work against his own forces?  No, the fact is that Jesus has brought his kingdom.  Satan had been the strong man of the world, but Jesus is the stronger man.  He came and kicked down Satan’s fortresses and has taken back what rightly belongs to God.  And Jesus stresses the point that there’s a real battle taking place between two very different, very opposite kingdoms and everyone’s on one side or the other.  He says: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says,  ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. (Luke 11:23-26) In this battle there are no fence-sitters. Either you’re with Jesus or you’re not.  There are a lot of people in this world who think they’re neutral: “I’ll just let God and Satan duke it out.  It’s not my fight.”  These people can be more dangerous than those who are deliberately sided with evil.  These are the people who don’t recognize the evil of evil or the good of good.  There are people like this even in the Church who are indifferent because they’re afraid of showing any zeal or enthusiasm.  If we’re like that, we’re playing into Satan’s hands and becoming enemies of God’s kingdom.  Lukewarm Christians have no place in the kingdom.  Remember God’s words to the church at Laodicea in Revelation: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. (Rev. 3:15-19) The Laodiceans had lost their fire.  The same can be said for far too many Christians today.  We need to renew our commitment to the Gospel.  We need to be reminded that we’re on the winning side of the fight—Jesus defeated Satan and his kingdom at the cross.  The problem is that Satan has duped us into complacency.  We think it’s enough to simply have faith that Jesus saves.  We make him our Saviour, but then we stop at that point.  But friends, it’s not enough, as Jesus said, to sweep the house clean and put it in order.  It’s not enough to just have the absence of evil.  The house has to be filled to full with good.  Jesus talks about seven demons coming back to take over the house that he’s swept clean.  Brothers and sisters, if Jesus is your Saviour, you also need to make him your Lord.  Live the life that his Spirit makes possible.  St. Paul tells us that there are seven fruits of the spirit.  Let the fruit of the Spirit fill your life and leave no room for those seven demons to come back and take over the clean house! You see, we have a tendency to think that looking respectable is enough.  It’s not.  We need to be filled with godliness.  Our tendency is to rend our garments—we do the externals—but we don’t rend our hearts.  Empty externals don’t cut it.  We need to have a deep and growing relationship with God and we can only have that when we commit to standing firm on his side and letting him direct us and fill us. I wonder how many of you have read Dante’s Inferno. Dante assigned certain souls to the vestibule of hell.  These were the souls who never chose between God and the devil, between good and evil, but who just let things float along without making a decision.  Their punishment was to chase a flag around aimlessly through a dust storm while being attacked by wasps and hornets.  They weren’t allowed to enter the light of heaven or the depths of hell.  Heaven wouldn’t have them and hell wouldn’t take them because if they were in hell, the other damned would have the pleasure of looking down on something even lower than themselves. Dante’s story is fiction, but he’s right in pointing out to us just how important it is that we make our decision clear.  As we do each Sunday morning, we come to the Lord’s Table.  As we receive the bread and wine today, we’re reminded that we belong to Jesus.  He is our only Lord.  We have been separated from the rule and power of Satan.  But as we’re reminded of our position in the battle, are we really on the Lord’s side?  A lot of us are on God’s side only nominally.  We declare our submission to Christ to others, we declare it when we come to his Table, but when it comes to the actual fighting of the battle, we sit on the sidelines and let other fight.  Or worse, we sabotage the battle: We declare that Jesus is our Lord, and yet we continue to live in the dark more than we do in the light.  We say we love God, but we walk in selective obedience, continuing unrepentantly in sin; we continue to put our trust in the things of the world instead of in the promises of God.  We say we love God, and then cut ourselves off from his body—from the Church—or we fail to love our brothers and sisters the way that God loves them.  We say that we cherish the Gospel, but we rarely share that Good News with others, if at all. Brothers and sisters, we have the sign of the cross on our foreheads from baptism, but how far have we driven it into our daily lives, into our family relationships, into our work relationships, into our friendships, into our church fellowship?  As we come to the Lord’s Table reminded of our renewed relationship with God let us each stand ready and find the courage to say, “Lord Jesus, I have decided to follow you to my life’s end.  Make me a better soldier, a better servant, and a better follower.  Make me understand the depth of your love, that I might truly live out your love in my own life.” Please pray with me: Lord, we come before you as your humble servants—men and women whom you have taken out of darkness to live in your light.  Give us the courage to stand firmly on your side, give us your grace that our lights may shine brightly for you, and give us the resolve to follow you into battle, strong in faith and strong in your love.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Bible Text: Ephesians 3:13-21; Luke 7:11-17 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 3:13-21 & St. Luke 7:11-17 by William Klock Last Sunday’s lessons were very confrontational, very convicting.  I not only know that because some of you told me they were; I know that because they convicted me of my own divided loyalties.  You’ll remember that I asked what you glory in, what you trust in, where your passions lie, and what people will remember you for when you’re gone.  St. Paul made tents for a living, but after he was dead people didn’t remember him for his tents; they remembered him for his total commitment to Jesus Christ and for his total trust in his Lord and Saviour—a trust for which he gave his own life as a witness to the power of the Gospel.  I think it’s true for a lot of us, though, that if we died today we’d be remembered for our tents more than we’d be remembered for our complete trust in God.  We say we trust in Jesus for our eternal salvation, but we still trust in ourselves, in our families, in our jobs, in our government when it comes to talking care of the ordinary things in life.  And when we’re struggling to meet our needs or when things like our health are out of our control, when our friends and families fail us, or when we don’t get what we expect from the government we worry and get anxious.  And brothers and sisters, as I said last Sunday, when we do that in the sight of the world, we send a mixed message and undermine our witness.  The world asks, “Does he really trust his God?”  “She tells me that Jesus has saved her, that he’s given her peace, but I’m really not seeing it.”  “Why should I trust in Jesus?  If he isn’t really giving peace or security to my friend, why should I think he’s going to give peace and security to me?” As some of you said, those are some hard and convicting realities to face up to.  They remind us that even as Christians we have room for growth—maybe a lot of room to grow.  They poke us where a lot of us are most sensitive.  Jesus tells us, “If you’re going to follow me, you really have to let me lead.  You can’t just give me the “religious” compartment of your life to control.  You need trust me for everything.  I know that you want to be in control of your family, your health, and your finances, but until you hand those things over to me—until you truly trust me with everything—I’m not really your Lord.”  And we hear him and our response might be to hold on even tighter to those things.  We don’t want to let them go.  Maybe we feel like we can’t let them go.  We can give Jesus our souls to keep safe.  After all, when we think about our souls, it’s such an abstract idea.  We can trust him for eternity, because eternity and heaven and hell are pretty abstract too.  They aren’t here and now.  But my health problems?  My relationship problem with my spouse or my kids?  My finances?  Those things are real.  If I give those up, then I won’t be in control.  And we all want to be in control.  But friends, if we’re only willing to trust Jesus with the things we can’t see and the things that are abstract or so far in the future that we already know they’re not in our control, and if we’re not willing to trust him with those things that are real today, that are important today, that have the potential to change how we live today—well—then Jesus isn’t really our Lord. The hard part about coming to this realisation is that somehow we have to learn to really trust him in order to give him every part of our lives.  But brothers and sisters, that’s exactly why he’s given us the Scriptures: so that we can know him, so that we can know his character, and so that we can know he is faithful.  That Bible you have in your hands is a giant book and it’s full of God’s revelation of himself.  It’s full of stories that tell us about his promises to take care of people if they will only trust him; and it’s full of stories that show us that when those people really do trust God, he always takes care of them.  This is the Gospel penetrating to every part of our lives.  The Gospel confronts us with our sins and with our filthy souls, it humbles us, and it places before us the mercy of God in Jesus.  If we will only trust in him, he will forgive our sins and cleanse our souls from all unrighteousness.  This call to trust Jesus in every area of life is just the Gospel going deeper, showing us that God can take care of more than our souls if we will only trust in him for everything.  As we heard last week, if we will only seek God and his kingdom first, he will take care of the rest of our lives. So I don’t want to leave you convicted of having not trusted God for every area of your life.  I don’t want to leave you convicted of worry and anxiety but with no place to leave them and no confidence that God will take care of them.  Today’s Epistle and Gospel should give us the confidence to hand over to God the things we’ve always been afraid to. St. Paul was writing to the Ephesians from his prison in Rome.  Things did not look good for him and the Ephesians knew that they could just as easily be in similar predicaments themselves.  If anyone had a right to be anxious and to worry, it was Paul as he faced the last days before his martyrdom.  And living with the real prospect of persecution for their faith, the Ephesians had reason to be anxious too.  But look at what Paul writes to them in 3:13: So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Things look bad, but don’t worry.  If anyone was out of control of his circumstances it was Paul.  Imagine how stressed out we get when things get out of control in our lives—and so often things that are so much smaller by comparison that sometimes it also seems silly to be afraid of them when we think of Paul’s situation.  And yet instead of getting upset, instead of being anxious, Paul bows his knees—he prays and puts his faith and trust in God.  Look at verses 14 to 19: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… The same Trinity who saves us—the same Father who calls us, the same Son who redeems us, and the same Spirit who gives us new life from the inside out—the same God-in-three-persons, the same blessed Trinity is with us as we face the hard things in life—as we face health problems, as we face financial problems, as we face problems in our relationships, as we face persecution—he is there. Paul bows his knee to the Father—to the one “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”  Have you ever thought about the fatherhood of God in that sense?  Through Christ you are a son or a daughter of God—his child and part of his family.  He’s your Father.  The fact that we can understand that father-child relationship is because of the way God established men and women and families here in his creation.  Paul knew that his heavenly Father would take care of him, because his own earthy father had taken care of him—that’s what fathers do. Dads, let me make this clear to you: as an earthly father, God’s plan is for you to model his heavenly Fathership to your own children so that when your children think of their heavenly Father, they’ll trust in him because you’ve been good to them and taught them to trust you.  None of us is a perfect father, but men, hear me: If we don’t model the Father’s love and care to our own children, we make it difficult for them to identify with our heavenly Father’s love and care.  We bear a great responsibility. We can see what happens when earthly fathers don’t live up to their divine model.  I’ve been in churches that refuse to address the Father as “Father”.  There are modern liturgies that now refer to the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—because people don’t like that word “Father”.  Some of it’s because of feminism and the movement to make everything “politically correct”.  “Father” is seen as sexist by some.  But I’ve talked to others who struggle with seeing God as their Father because of bad experiences with their earthly fathers.  I know people who have been abused verbally, physically, and sexually by their earthly fathers.  I know people who were abandoned by their fathers—sometimes even before they were born—and then grew up with mothers who did nothing but bash fathers or men in general as being absent, unreliable, or dangerous.  (That should be a warning for your mothers.  You shape how your children will see God as Father too.)  And so these people grow up and God comes to them as their true Father, but can’t identify with that in a good way—they fear, the cringe, or they simply find themselves unable to trust anyone called “Father” because of their experience with earthly fathers or because of what they’ve been taught about them. The solution isn’t to ignore God’s revelation of himself as Father.  The solution is to remember—and to teach people—that it’s earthly fatherhood that is supposed to model divine Fatherhood.  God’s Fatherhood isn’t based on his mimicking earthly fathers.  It’s the other way around.  Earthly fatherhood is supposed to mirror God’s relationship with his children.  We need to see the good in our earthly fathers as being good because it mirrors our heavenly Father, and when our earthly fathers fail, we need to recognise that they failed precisely because they weren’t modelling God’s Fatherhood like they were supposed to. So when trouble comes, when we’re tempted to become anxious, when there are parts of our lives that we don’t want to give up to God and to lose control of, we need to remember that God is our loving Father.  He’s the Father who sent his only Son, Jesus, to die for us so that we could be restored to his fellowship.  He loves us that much and wants to take care of us that much.  If we will only trust him, he will grant us, according to the great riches of his glory, to be strengthened. And now Paul mentions the Third Person of the Godhead, of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  If we will trust God, he will—according to his glorious riches—give us strength through his Holy Spirit.  It’s the Spirit who does the heavy lifting in the Christian life.  Think about it: when we come to faith in Jesus as our Saviour, it’s because the Holy Spirit—according to the calling and election of the Father—has done the work of changing our hard, callous, stony, hate- and sin-filled hearts.  It’s the Spirit who takes men and women who are born enemies of God—God-haters—and enters our lives and somehow does the amazing work of turning our hearts toward Christ.  But the Spirit’s work doesn’t end once we’ve been turned to faith in Jesus.  He continues to strengthen us as we deal with life.  He never stops turning our hearts toward Jesus.  He never stops giving and growing our faith. Paul says the Spirit strengthens us from the inside out “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  That’s the Spirit’s job: he points us to Jesus and he applies Jesus to us—the Second Person of the Trinity.  Originally he turned, he regenerated each of our hearts and turned them toward faith in Jesus.  That’s how we were saved.  But that faith didn’t reach its pinnacle on the day you became a Christian.  That faith needs to keep growing—needs to keep being strengthened by the work of the Holy Spirit.  One day he gave you the faith to hand over your soul to Jesus for salvation—to trust your eternal destination to Christ.  But as we grow in our faith, the Spirit is going to be showing us other parts of our lives that we need to trust to Jesus too.  That’s part of his work of growing our faith—of strengthening us in our inner being.  Brothers and sisters, don’t shut him out.  Don’t smother his voice when you hear him asking you to give up control of this or that area of your life.  He’s trying to grow your faith.  If you stop your ears to his voice, if you insist on maintaining the status quo, you’ll stop growing in your faith.  You might even start to slide backward.  And that’s usually when the Father—in his goodness, wanting what’s best for you—starts piling things on and puts you in life’s pressure cooker, giving you more opportunities to respond to the Spirit by trusting your life and your anxieties and your pain to Jesus. The big question is: Can we trust him?  As I said, the Scriptures are full of story after story that God has given us specifically to teach us that we can trust him and that he is faithful to his promises—from Genesis to Revelation.  I’m convinced that the more we steep ourselves in the Bible.  The more familiar we become with all these stories of God’s faithfulness, the easier it will be to trust him.  We have one of those stories about the saving power of Jesus in our Gospel lesson today. St. Luke tells us that as Jesus was approaching a town he was met by a funeral procession.  At the front of the processions was a weeping mother.  Her only son had died.  Consider what that meant in that world.  She was already a widow.  Her son had been her only source of security.  Now he was gone.  There was no CCP, no Old Age Security in that day.  She was probably destitute or nearly so.  What was she going to do for a living? But Luke says that Jesus had compassion on her.  He touched the bier and commanded the man to get up.  And that’s exactly what the dead man did: he sat up and started talking.  And Luke says that Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Jesus cares about us—and he doesn’t just care what happens to us after we die.  He cares about more than our souls.  Over and over in the Gospels we see him taking care of the “here and now”.  He doesn’t just forgive sins, he heals lepers, he restores sight to blind eyes and hearing to deaf ears, he raises the dead, and he even miraculously provides money to pay taxes.  Granted that all these things were done to prove that he was God and to prove that he really could forgive sins, but all these things also teach us that we can trust him with every area of life—with every anxiety, with every sorrow, with all those things that we’d prefer to have control over.  We can hand them over to Jesus and trust that he’ll do a better job taking care of them than we ever could.  Think about that.  When that crying woman met Jesus on the way to bury her son, she was probably pretty anxious about what was going to happen to her.  Did she settle for a comforting hug from Jesus?  No.  She gave her situation to him and he actually raised her son from the dead.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t expecting that!  But that’s what happens when we’re willing to give our lives wholly over to God.  On top of it all, because Jesus did that amazing thing in her life, Luke says that the people were amazed and glorified God and word of Jesus spread all around Judea as a result.  She became a witness. If we would be willing to do the same thing, if we will trust in our Saviour—if we will truly let him be the Saviour of every part of our lives, we’ll be able to be that kind of witness too.  In the Epistle Paul goes on and tells us the purpose for all this: …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [that you, having experienced the good Fatherhood of God, the strengthening of the Holy Spirit, and the saving power of Christ] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. One of the best forms of advertising is the testimonial.  Companies advertise their products by having people who have actually used them tell others how well they work and how they’ve benefitted them.  God wants us to experience his goodness and especially the amazing breadth and length and height and depth of the saving love of Jesus.  The more we experience him, the closer we’ll come to having some understanding and some appreciation for what God has done for us in Christ.  The saints who have gone before us—especially those men and women who were willing to die for that faith—they understood it because they had experienced it.  They appreciated it so much that they put their lives on the line to witness it. So, brothers and sisters, trust in God.  Trust the goodness of God as Father; let the Holy Spirit continue to turn your hearts toward Christ—not just for your souls but for everything; and make Jesus your Lord, really and truly.  Don’t just give him part of your life—give him everything that you might each day know better the length and breadth and depth and height of his love and each day become a more powerful witness to the world of what it means to have Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Let us pray: Father, we asked earlier in the collect for you to keep your Church by your help and goodness.  Let that be so Father.  Sustain each of us by your amazing help and goodness.  Give us the faith to trust you in every area of life, that as you care for us, we might be living witnesses to your love and goodness.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.
Bible Text: Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 14:1-11 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 4:1-6 & St. Luke 14:1-11 by William Klock I want to talk about three things this morning that come out of our Gospel and our Epistle: blind spots, humility, and unity.  First blind spots.  We’ve all got them.  We have our eyes so focused on one thing that we miss other things.  Sometimes we know that those other things are there, but we just don’t give them any thought—maybe they just don’t seem as important as the things we’re focused on.  Sometimes we’re missing something because we’re just plain ignorant—we have no idea what we’re blind to. Friday I was driving home from the Aquatic Centre and as I turned into our cul-de-sac I was suddenly confronted by a bicyclist who was riding on the wrong side of the road, headed strait towards me, swerving around, and not paying attention.  I slowed down.  My focus was on him as I started thinking about swerving to the other side of the road to pass him.  And while I was focused on him, I almost hit his dog.  That’s why he wasn’t paying attention.  His dog was off-leash and running through the yards across the street and he was trying to call the dog back to himself.  All of us had blind spots.  I was so focused on not hitting the cyclist that I was blind to the dog suddenly running in front of me.  The cyclist was so focused on his out-of-control dog that he was blind to the car—to me—headed straight towards him.  And the dog, well, the dog was just plain blind to everything that really mattered. Brothers and sisters, every one of us is just like that as we make our way through the Christian life.  Some of us may have our eyes wide open and are blind only to some relatively small things.  Some of us follow Jesus with tunnel vision on the one or two things that we think really matter and are oblivious to a whole host of vitally important things.  And, some of us are like that dog: we run from one thing to another, letting whatever is new and exciting catch our attention, while we’re blind and oblivious to just about everything important.  The danger of blind spots is that they keep us from growing in godliness. The Pharisees had blind spots.  They were zealous for the law, but they had tunnel vision for the law.  Now, being zealous for the law isn’t a bad thing in itself.  The problem was that they were blind to the need for things like love and grace and humility.   Because of their blind spots, the Pharisees followed a lot of rules, but they weren’t particularly godly. Because they were so focused on the law, they had become prideful.  In the Gospel St. Luke tells us that on one particular Saturday, presumably after Jesus had attended services at the local synagogue—maybe he’d even preached there—one of the rulers of the synagogue invited him home for Sabbath dinner.  The text doesn’t give us all the details, but I suspect that these rabbis—whom Luke tells us were Pharisees—knew full-well who Jesus was and had heard his teaching.  Maybe Jesus had even been talking or preaching about grace in the service that morning.  So this rabbi invited him home, and it’s pretty obvious that he was setting a trap for Jesus.  It also seems pretty obvious that Jesus knew exactly what he was walking in to.  Look at Luke 14, beginning at verse 1: One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.  [And now the setup:] And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. Dropsy is an old-fashioned name for oedema—a lymphatic problem that causes fluid to collect in various parts of the body.  Presumably this man had an obviously bad case.  Maybe he was one of the household servants or maybe he was a member of the synagogue, but whoever he was, this “ruler of the Pharisees” invited to Jesus to dinner and then made sure that Jesus wouldn’t miss this obviously sick man.  It was a setup.  They knew that Jesus healed the sick.  They also knew that according to the law you weren’t supposed to do any work on the Sabbath.  Jesus was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.  If he did heal the man they’d be all over him for breaking the Sabbath, but if he didn’t heal him, the Pharisees would have been all over him for being compassionless. But Jesus isn’t stupid.  He saw the setup and headed things off. Look at verses 3 to 6: And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” [He calls them out on their trap.]  But they remained silent. [What are the going to say?  “Why yes, Jesus, we’re devoted followers of God; we’re good religious people who are zealous for the law, so we deceptively set a trap for you using this poor sick man as bait.  We were really hoping you’d make us look like a bunch of self-righteous jerks.”]  Then[Jesus] took him and healed him and sent him away.  And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. Again, what would they say to him?  Jesus cuts right to the heart their hypocrisy.  He knew—and they knew too—that if one of them had an ox that fell into a well on the Sabbath, they wouldn’t hesitate to do the hard work of pulling it out.  And yet here they take this man whom they knew had a serious illness and they care so little for him that they use him as a prop in this plot to trap Jesus.  If they cared for this many with dropsy as much as they cared for their own farm animals, they’d have taken him straight to Jesus and asked that he be healed—regardless of what day of the week it was. Jesus is showing them their blind spot.  They were zealous for the law, but in their zeal for the rules and regulations and the raw letter of the law, there was a big blind spot in their vision when it came to the spirit of the law—to what the law was actually all about.  What do we say every week in the Summary of the Law?  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  The point of the law wasn’t just to keep a bunch of arbitrary rules that God gave through  Moses.  The rules were given to show us how to live in a way that is pleasing to God and to show us how to love our neighbours. Brothers and sisters, you and I all have blind spots too.  Some of us may be legalistic rule-keepers like the Pharisees.  Some of us are blind to other things and have other problems.  Whatever the blind spots, they hinder our growth in godliness.  The point, though, is that they’re blind spots—things we can’t see.  We need someone or something to show them to us.  And that’s why the Word of God is so important to us.  In this case, it was the Word of God himself, incarnate in the person of Jesus, who pointed the blind spot out to these Pharisees.  Today we have the Word of God written to open our eyes to our blind spots and to remove our spiritual cataracts.  It’s the same Word in a very real sense and that same Word still does the same thing.  This is why it’s so vitally important for us as Christians to be immersed in the Scriptures—to be reading and studying and meditating on and memorising the Word.  If we don’t we’ll go on in our blindness.  This is why it’s also so vitally important for us to be walking in fellowship with other believers who are also immersed in the Word—so that we can exhort each other and show each other our blind spots. But having the Word show us our blind spots isn’t the end of the problem.  It would be great if we all read our Bibles daily and simply acted on everything we read there.  It would be great if we listened intently to every sermon we heard and if each one had a clear application of Scripture that we all simply put into practice.  And it would be great, when we missed something in our own study or from the pulpit, if we all went around exhorting each other, lovingly point out each other’s blind spots and if we each acted on those exhortations.  But that’s not what happens.  We have an amazing ability to forget or ignore the things we read in our Bibles.  We do the same with sermons—or, sadly, when confronted from the pulpit some of us will simply choose to leave and go to a church where our blind spots aren’t confronted.  And sometimes it seems, more often than not, that no matter how lovingly a brother or sister tries to show us our blind spots, we’re more inclined to get angry about it than to accept their exhortation.  We’ve all got something (or somethings) that we’re blind too: maybe you’ve got a temper, maybe you gossip, maybe you’re unforgiving or you coddle your bitterness, maybe you live in anxiety, or you’re judgemental, unthankful, jealous, or selfish.  But it’s because of pride that we refuse to change.  To change you have to admit that you’ve been wrong, that you’ve made a mistake, that you’re a sinner. Look again at Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus couldn’t have made it any clearer to the Pharisees that they had a gigantic blind spot.  But their legalism and lack of love wasn’t their only blind spot.  They were prideful too and that pride was a huge obstacle for their admitting to the blind spot of legalism. Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus talks about a wedding feast in his parable, but what he’s getting at is far more important than a wedding feast.  The Jews—and especially the Pharisees—looked forward to that day when they would “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).  These proud men who were zealous for the law expected that their place in God’s kingdom would be at the head table, right there with the patriarchs—with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and when it came to earthly feasts in the meantime, they were happy in their pride to take that same place of prestige here and now.  They exalted themselves on earth because they were sure that God would exalt them in his eternal kingdom—that God favoured them because they were favourable. Men with that kind of pride aren’t very teachable.  If you point out their blind spots, they’re going at best to ignore you and at worst they’ll get angry with you.  Jesus was crucified for it.  And so he shows them their pride and he gives them a stern warning.  If you want to be exalted by God in his kingdom, you’ve got to lower yourself here on earth—you have to be humble.  He told his own disciples, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Think about that in terms of the Gospel.  What’s the single greatest obstacle to the Gospel?  It’s pride.  The Gospel tells us that we are sinners, that we’re deserving of eternal death, that there’s absolutely nothing we can do to help ourselves or to earn or work our way out of that condemnation.  The Gospel tells us that God has done it for us and that Jesus took our sins on himself and then died in our place on the cross.  The Gospel goes even further: It’s not just that we can’t redeem ourselves.  We can’t even overcome sin by ourselves.  We can only be victors over sin if we accept that Jesus conquered sin when he rose from the grave.  He saves us from the consequences of our sins.  He saves us from our actual sins.  For our part, we can do nothing but have faith and trust in him to do it for us.  If you’re full of pride, the Gospel is a hard pill to swallow, because pride doesn’t want to admit it needs help and it doesn’t want to admit that it can’t accomplish something or take care of itself. Jesus’ point in the parable is that if you want to be exalted by God—if you want to one day sit in his kingdom at his feast—pride in your works won’t get you there.  You’ve got to be humble enough to admit your unworthiness.  Humility is the first step into the Christian life and into the kingdom of God.  Think of Jesus’ parables and ask yourself who goes home redeemed and justified in the end.  Here it’s the one who humbled himself and took the lowest seat at the great feast.  In another parable it’s the tax collector who humbled himself and knelt at the back of the temple to ask God’s forgiveness.  In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it was the young man who humbled himself before his father and said, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”  In another it’s the one who finds himself in heaven on the last day and says with surprise, “Lord, when did I see you hungry, thirsty, or sick and ministered to you?” as if he had no idea that he had ever done any good that was worthy of being rewarded.   Again, humility is the first step into the Christian life and into the kingdom of God.  But friends, humility doesn’t stop when we become Christians.  We’re all guilty here, but it still never ceases to amaze me how we can be humble before our almighty God—we can humble ourselves and accept his pardon like the servant Jesus tells us about who humbly accepted his master’s pardoning of his ten thousand talent debt.  And yet we find it so hard to humble ourselves when it comes to other people.  That same servant who was forgiven so much promptly had his buddy thrown into prison because he couldn’t pay back a relatively small loan.  Shouldn’t forgiveness trickle down?  Should humility do the same thing? We admit we’re sinners before God, but promptly become pridefully angry when a brother or sister points out our sin.  God has shown us love so amazing that we can’t even fathom its full depth, and yet we can be so unloving to our brothers and sisters, we scorn or forsake God’s Church, we cause dissensions and divisions.  God has forgiven us, but we get bitter and angry and refuse to forgive others.  Our eyes are full of blind spots.  We lack humility.  And the end result is that the Church—the Body of Christ—is not what it should be.  It’s lame and fractured, its light is dim, and it’s often ineffective at its mission to glorify God and show his Gospel to the world. If we would only remember that humility is the key to the kingdom of God, we can be sure that the Church would look very different.  Let me close with our Epistle, Ephesians 4:1-6. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord [consider St. Paul’s example of humility—his willingness to be a martyr for the Gospel.], urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Consider that list of blind spots that cripple the body of Christ and look at how humility overcomes them.  Instead of looking out for ourselves, Paul reminds us to live in humility and gentleness with each other.  Instead of getting angry, instead of being impatient, instead of causing dissensions he calls us, in humility, to bear with each other.  The fact is that we are one in Christ Jesus and we should be eager to maintain that unity and display it to the world.  As we come to the Lord’s Table this morning, ask yourself: Am I exalting myself, or am I living in humility and letting God exalt me?  Am I living in humility and letting the Word reveal my blind spots so that I can grow in godliness?  Am I living humbly not only before God, but before my brothers and sisters?  Am I eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?  Am I ready to patiently and forgivingly bear with the imperfections of my brothers and sisters that we all might exhort each other to greater godliness? Let us pray: Father, we asked earlier this morning in the Collect for you to uphold and encourage us by your grace that we would be continually given to all good works.  We ask now that by your grace you would break our pride and show us how we each fail in those good works.  Grow us in godliness and in Christ-likeness, and as we grow in humility and grace, we ask that you would strengthen our unity and our witness of the Gospel’s power.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.
Bible Text: Ephesians 6:10-17 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 6:10-17 by William Klock I want to look this morning at our Epistle lesson, taken chapter from six of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  This passage of Scripture about the “whole armour of God” is, I think, familiar to most, if not all, of us.  This is where Paul warns us not only about being on guard against Satan and his schemes, but this is also where he actually tells us how to stay on guard—what tools to use and how to use them.  But before we get into that passage I think it’s important that we remember: Satan isn’t our only enemy.  We all struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  It’s been my experience that many Christians attribute too much power and authority to Satan.  Sometimes it seems as if we actually deify him—thinking of him as a god himself; as if he were simply God’s opposite.  We treat him as if he and his army of fallen angels are all-knowing and omnipresent and forget that they’re creatures like us—part of the created order.  Satan isn’t a god.  He’s an angel—a fallen one—but still an angel.  And he has a lot of fallen angels under his command, but their numbers are finite. So when it comes to our struggle to be faithful followers of Jesus, I think it’s safe to say that our first and most common enemies are the world and our own flesh.  The world is full of fallen people, sinful philosophies, and temptations.  And the fact is that even though we have been buried with Christ and raised to new life in him, we still carry around our “old man’s” baggage of sinful, fleshly, selfish desires.  Even if there were no devil at work today, you and I would still have plenty to battle against in our fight for holiness.  This is why I think it’s safe to say that Satan isn’t going to waste his limited time resources with people who aren’t putting up much of a fight against the world and the flesh.  He’s got bigger fish to fry. Brothers and sisters, would that you and I were those bigger fish.  Once Christians put up a fight and once we take a stand for holiness; once we start overcoming the world and the flesh and once our Churches start taking a firm stand for the Gospel and for the Word of God; once we start truly living the Gospel in our lives and sharing it with others, that’s when you can be guaranteed that Satan will fight back—because when we are walking in holiness, when we are standing firmly on God’s Word, and when we are taking the Good News into his kingdom, that’s when he starts losing ground.  I think that’s why Paul talks about the armour of God and about taking a stand against the enemy here in Ephesians.  He’d just been addressing their problems and he’d just been making sure they had the Gospel right in their thinking—and if they did, then it was a sure thing that they could expect Satan’s opposition—and they’d better be prepared.  In verses 10-13 Paul writes: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.   Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. We all struggle.  Sometimes it’s our daily struggle to personally fight and overcome the sin in our lives.  Sometimes it’s our struggle to find assurance of our salvation or of God’s presence with us when times are tough.  Sometimes it’s the discouraging things that happen within the Church, when brothers and sisters choose to fight with each other instead of against our common Enemy.  Here St. Paul gives us both our assurance and our marching orders.  “Don’t be strong in yourselves,” he says, “but be strong in the Lord and in his might!”  Remember that the last couple of Sundays I’ve been talking about the necessity of relying on God and not on ourselves.  When we struggle we have assurance because we know that it’s God doing the work, not we ourselves.  And so here he tells us to put on his armour and to pickup hisweapons. Paul’s first point is that God’s armour is necessary.  Whether you look at it from the standpoint of our own weakness or the strength of our enemy, we can’t fight, let alone win, the battle with what we’ve got on our own.  Think about the fact that as men and women we can’t even so much as think a good thought or do a good deed.  Our nature and our wills are inclined to nothing but sin.  The first thing we have to do is to be strong in the Lord.  This is the God of whom David wrote, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1).  Jesus Christ is our captain and as we go into battle he gives us his very self.  We not only put on the armour he gives us, but he also calls us to “put on himself” so that we can be “strong in the power of his might.” Our battle isn’t against the powers of this world so much as it’s against the one who came craftily in the Garden as a serpent and whom, after his thousands of years of experience at deceiving the human race, the book of Revelation tells us has become a great dragon.  He works through deception.  As evil as he is, he comes looking like an angel of light.  He whispers things into our ears, just as he did with Eve, and helps us rationalize our sins – to twist sin into virtue – and then when we finally realize our sins for what they are, he accuses us, whispering in our ears that we’re not good enough to fight on God’s side as the battle rages. St. Peter describes our enemy as a lion on the prowl, just looking for whomever he can devour.  The point is to discourage us.  Scripture warns us over and over about our Enemy – not so that we’ll feel afraid or discouraged, but to show us just how urgent it is that we join the battle.  St. Paul warns us, not so that we’ll go run and hide, but to exhort us “to withstand in the evil day” and “to stand firm.” His second point is that this armour is God’s armour and not our own.  Jeremiah wrote, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5).  The strength of the flesh is nothing more than the strength of our Enemy who is the prince of this world.  David wrote in Psalm 20, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  That’s the key.  St. Paul exhorted the Corinthians saying, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have  divine power  to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  We go out to battle against the darkness.  Let us first put on the armour of light!  When the Enemy tempts us to cruelty, to pride, to selfishness or any other sin, let us respond with “humility and gentleness, with  patience,  bearing with one another in love” as the Apostle tells us in Chapter 4. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth [against the lies and false doctrines of our Enemy], and having put on the breastplate of righteousness [against our sins and our sin nature], and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace [to remind us that our righteousness is not our own].  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith [against our infidelity], with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation [which gives us our hope], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouthboldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.  (Ephesians 6:14-20) St. Paul’s third point is that we need to put on all or the whole armour of God.  It isn’t enough to just put on the belt of truth or the breastplate of righteous.  You can’t expect to win the battle with the shield of faith, but not the sword of truth.  Imagine a knight going off to battle with a shield, but no sword.  Imagine a tank without a gun on top or a bomber with no bombs.  But notice that there is one piece of armour missing.  There’s a helmet for the head, a breastplate for the body, and shoes for the feet – and there’s a shield that can cover everything in the front, but Paul doesn’t mention a backplate.  The armour of God doesn’t have a defensive piece to cover our backs.  Why?  Because in the battle God calls us to fight, there’s no turning back.  Every soldier in God’s army is called on to push forward against the enemy, or at worst to stand his ground. In 1066 when William the Conqueror landed with his troops in England, the first action he took was to burn all of his ships.  He didn’t want his troops retreating back to Normandy.  He gave them one choice: fight on or die.  God tells us that we are either for him or against him.  There’s no fence-sitting.  There are no neutral parties in this war.  Once we make Christ our Lord and Master there’s no going back It’s also telling that Paul talks about the shield of faith.  Not the helmet or the breastplate or the shoes of faith; the shield of faith.  You see, the helmet only covers the head.  The breastplate only covers the breast and the shoes only cover the feet, but the shield covers the whole body.  You can move it up and you can move it down.  In every temptation and in every battle with the Enemy we need to put faith first and foremost – having a lively faith that assures us with confidence.  Without that the rest – the helmet, the breastplate, and the shoes – is all worthless.  Without faith, the sword of the spirit is no Scripture.  Without faith, the belt of truth can never be truth for us.  Without faith the breastplate of righteousness is really unrighteousness.  We’ve talked about this before.  All of these other things only fall into place in the presence of a true and lively faith generated in our hearts by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.  Without faith it’s impossible to please God, but without it, it’s also impossible to resist the Enemy.  So pick up the shield of faith so that you can douse all the “flaming darts” of the Evil One.  He throws his darts at us and they’re both sharp and fiery.  If we don’t have the shield of faith, they strike and they go deep – and, like all sin, their fire spreads.  One sin leads to another bigger one until the entire body is on fire with sinful passions.  St. John reminds us that the entire world lies in wickedness, set on fire by the devil, who is the author of all wickedness and sin – all the fiery works of the world.  But he exhorts us saying, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). But notice that the armour of God isn’t all defensive.  If we are to put on the whole armour, St. Paul also tells us that we are to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that sword is “living and active, sharper than any  two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and  discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  The Word of God, which was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and which works in our hearts by his moving is what opens our eyes to sin.  That sword, sharp as a razor, cuts deep and excises the sin in our lives and trains us in holiness.  Does the flesh tempt you to sexual impurity?  Strike with the sword: 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.”  Do you struggle with worldliness?  Strike with the sword: 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Does Satan make an assault on your faith and tempt you to superstition or idolatry?  Strike with the sword: Matthew 4:10, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”  Are you tempted to give up the fight and lose hope?  Strike with the sword: 1 Corinthians 15:54-56, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The shield of faith defends the Christian soldier from the attacks of the Enemy, but we’re not called to duck and cover.  With the sword of the Spirit we charge forward to take him on.  In Canada the government is gradually chipping away at our freedom to preach the Word of God freely and unfettered.  There’s a sense in which we can rejoice in that.  It means we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and the Enemy doesn’t like it.  The last thing the he wants is for God’s arsenal to be opened up to his people.  He wants us stumbling around unprotected.  So open the Scriptures.  Read and study.  Arm yourself with the sword of the Spirit! Finally, it’s not enough to know God’s armour.  You have to put it on.  In the corner of my living room, leaning against the wall, is a Confederate officer’s sword from the Civil War.  My great-great-Grandfather served the State of Alabama as an artillery officer.  In his hands that sword was put to use.  It doesn’t do much good now,  just sitting in my living room.  It looks neat.  It’s a reminder of the past and of a cause long gone.  Yet we tend to do the same thing with God’s armour.  We know it, but we don’t use it.  We don’t put it on.  We know truth, but we don’t live by it.  We have faith, but we forget about it and live as if we lack the hope that faith gives.  We have the Gospel, but don’t tell anyone about it.  We have a Bible, the sword of the Spirit, but it sits on the coffee table or on the nightstand collecting dust.  That’s what the enemy wants!  Complacent Christians who have all the head-knowledge, but never put it into actual practice – who don’t live it.  Don’t get me wrong.  You have to have the head-knowledge first.  Without it the heart can never be given over to God and to his truth.  But our problem is that the head-knowledge doesn’t make it to the heart. A suit of armour makes a nice decoration.  An old sword does too.  But the whole armour of God was never meant to decorate the corner of the room.  It was meant to be worn – to be put on and used.  If the armour is on a stand in the corner, you can bet there’s a knight around somewhere doing anything but fighting a battle.  You can’t do battle with the Enemy without the armour.  Put it on and jump into the action!  God has not only given us good armour to get the job done, he’s given us a good Captain to lead us, even the “Lord of hosts, who has all power and might.” John Boys wrote, “The continuance of fight is little, but our reward great.  In Rome the military age was from seventeen to forty-six…. The days of our age are threescore years and ten, and in all this time there is no time for peace; we are legionum filii, born in the field, and sworn soldiers in our swaddling clouts, always bearing arms against the common enemy from our holy baptism to burial.” God’s going to do one of two things: either he’ll bring an end to the battle or he’ll end it for us individually by taking us home to be with him.  We’ll be soldiers no more, because he’s promised that on that day he’s going to put palm branches in our hands and crowns on our heads as conquerors.  St. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on  that Day, and not only to me but also to all  who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Please pray with me: Our Father, we give you thanks for the promise of victory over the enemy.  Remind us to put on your armour daily and go to battle for the sake of the Gospel.  Show us where we’re being complacent or fearful and give us the grace to strengthen us for the battle, through Jesus Christ we ask.  Amen.

Lent 3

February 28, 2016
Now You are Light Ephesians 5:1-14 & St. Luke 11:14-28 The season of Lent evolved in the ancient Church as a time for new Christians to be taught what it…

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One Ephesians 4:1-10 It’s easy to forget the basics.  A group of people gets together around a common cause or for a common purpose and after you’ve been together for…