First Lesson: 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 84
Second Lesson: Ephesians 6: 10-20
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 56-69
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The year was 221 B.C. The place was Northern China. China had recently unified through a series of battles among is its six previous independent states. China though remained under constant threat of attack from Barbarian nomads. Emperor Quin Shi Huang proposed the construction of a “wall” in response. The wall would stretch for 3,000 miles. The wall worked just as intended. China was indeed safe from Barbarian attack for centuries afterward. Eventually, problems arose within China. The wall had seemingly made them safe. The wall’s upkeep fell into more and more disuse with each passing year. Fast forward to the year 1211 A.D. a neighboring empire the Mongols led by Ghengis Kahn was able to circumvent openings in the wall. The Mongols would rule over China for the next 157 years.
Interestingly enough what is known as the “Great Wall” today was rebuilt beginning in 1474. This wall has not been nearly as effective with multiple dynasties being brought down by popular uprisings despite the presence of the seemingly insurmountable re-built wall.
China has certainly seen its share of threats and enemies from both inside and outside their wall. For Christian people; it remains the same.
Today we look at our last lesson from the Book of Ephesians. The Book of Ephesians describes our enemies as such: Our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Ed Markquart describes it as such: “We are not merely fighting petty battles with booze or drugs or sex or material pleasures, important as these are. No, the Bible says that we are fighting an evil force greater than ourselves, the very powers of darkness.”
It is this darkness which starves children, sends children and parents to the grave within human history: Hitler, Stalin, Mao. It is this darkness which causes mass murderers to show little care for human life. The darkness doesn’t happen if evil’s very, real and present forces don’t surround us. We are often surrounded by forces of which the odds of ever overcoming seem insurmountable.
So what is the Apostle Paul’s response to all these evil forces of sin, death, and the Devil. Paul says “Put on the armor of God.” , put on resistance against whatever nasty forces threaten to attack us.
Our lesson begins with the following: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
The problem is people are often hurting by the time they’re called to take a stand. They would often rather hide in a foxhole instead. They might believe too many battles have already been lost. They believe they’re too imperfect to take up the cause against the forces of darkness. They might be depressed, they might be ill and weak, they might be anxious, and they might be afraid. They might believe their sin has been too great for God’s armor to adorn them.
What Paul is saying to the Ephesian Church Today is this. No matter the battle of any past battles, you are not defeated. You will be hurt! You will have nights where you see nothing but darkness! You do not fight these battles without armor. As we fight the great battles of our faith, Temptation will constantly seem destined to devour us, yet our Lord equips us with the full armor of God.
Here’s what the armor of God consists of:
Paul begins with the Belt of Truth. This belt seeks to confront the lies of the present age that you are unworthy of God’s love. You are too broken for redemption. The world is nothing more than here today gone tomorrow. The belt reminds us that truth is not seen merely in the forces that surround us.
Paul then moves on to the upper body when talking about the “Breastplate of Righteousness.- In Paul’s day as he’s writing to the Ephesian Church. A breastplate would protect one’s heart. It served the same role that a bulletproof vest would serve within our day. The Vikings several weeks had an Assistant Coach Tony Sparano die suddenly because his heart gave out. Lose one’s heart, lose one’s life. So what serves as our Breastplate of Righteousness?
We hearken back to Paul’s early writings: “The righteous shall live by faith.” What Paul is saying is the first line of defense against all these spiritual enemies is our faith. The source is your imperfect faith. The faith given in Baptism, the faith sustained in our Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Gospel, the faith that calls out in prayer. Our shield of faith. It is a reminder that this faith has the potential to move mountains, even when we are at our most discouraged. It is ultimately your faith that should protect you from any arrows lobbed at you by the evil one no matter how nasty.
Paul then goes down to the feet. “Shoes of the Gospel”- The older I get, the more I recognize the importance of good footwear. When I go hiking there is nothing you fear more than your shoes failing you, feet getting marked by blisters and the feet being unable to go on because of pain. What Paul is reminding us is that living as Christian people is that we will face tough situations. It is at these moments that we cling to the promises of our Gospel upon our feet. Christ Jesus Died for the Ungodly.
Paul then moves on to a believer’s head. “Helmet of Salvation”. Picture a football helmet; it serves as a source of protection against all sorts of nasty hits, bumps, and bruises, Whereas the Helmet of Salvation, reminds us that nothing shall separate us from the Love of God found in Christ Jesus.
It is ultimately the Sword of the Spirit to which we cling that shall fight off all these enemies as Satan threatens continual destruction and damnation.
The whole armor of God is a reminder that regardless of any battles that we’re going through, the outcome of the eventual battle is certain. God’s people will prevail. The Gospel will become true before our very eyes. No matter how long the odds, or unbelievable the potential outcome.
Let me close with one final story for this morning. This story illustrates how just a little bit of faith can help you overcome the strongest of adversaries. Earlier this summer, I was coaching the Silver Bay Boys Basketball team in the Summer League down in Superior. We were one of the smaller schools in the league. The kids we did have weren’t always available to play. We had lost nine games in a row. Some close, some not so close. On this night, we had five kids. The kids we did have most of them played on a Junior Varsity team that won one game the previous year. We were playing Duluth East J.V who had thirteen kids. Silver Bay’s high school enrollment this year will be less than 100 kids in grades 9-12. Duluth East ’s, enrollment will be nearly 1400 kids. Before the game, I was dreading the outcome as a coach.
The game starts. We start making baskets. Before I know it, we’re up 10. Pretty soon the kids whole demeanor changes as they believe they can win. They begin to play with confidence that I hadn’t seen the rest of the summer. We go into the half with a sixteen point lead. I was the most surprised person in the whole gym.
The second half begins, Duluth East changes their strategy. They start to press the whole court to tire our five guys out. Duluth East starts chipping away at the lead. Every time, Duluth East would get close, and the lead seemed destined to slip away, we would get a bucket. The game gets down to its closing seconds. Our lead was three points; one bad pass could lead to what seems like an inevitable loss. My previous flaws at late-game strategy seemed destined to fail again. The Duluth East coach then gets called for a technical foul for not quite understanding the rules of the game. We hit a free-throw then run the clock out. Five very, sweaty, tired young boys hug at center-court after taking down mighty Duluth East.
This game reminds me of something about our lesson for Today. Faith can provide Armor that it is impenetrable against the most powerful of forces. It doesn’t matter what you think, or anyone else thinks. Faith in spite of long odds is the most powerful force in the whole, wide world. This is why Paul closes out the Book of Ephesians by instructing Christians to see their faith as serving as a force just as powerful as armor given by God.
Some years, a great wall was built in China. It cost all sorts of money and was the product of all sorts of labor. When finished, it was thought that no one could overcome it. An enemy though eventually overcame it. All the best of human works eventually end in disappointment, whereas faith has the power to achieve victory against even the strongest forces which challenge us. On this day, we close our summer study of Paul’s letters. We are encouraged to put on the whole Armor of God. Armor that is impenetrable against the darkest of spiritual forces: sin, death, and the power of the Devil. What Paul’s writings remind us is that in the end: Grace shall win! Forgiveness shall win! Eternal life shall be inherited! God’s people shall emerge as the victors! Amen
 “Great Wall of China.” History Channel. Web. July.23.2018.
 “Warring States Period.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 19.July.2018. Web. July.23.2018.
 Chen, Alexander. “How effective was the Great Wall at protecting China's border? Quora. 6.Mar.2016. Web. July.23.2018.
 Ephesians 5:12.
 Markquardt, Ed. “Put on the Whole Armor of God.” Sermons from Seattle. Web. July.23.2018.
 Markquardt, Ed. “Put on the Whole Armor of God.” Sermons from Seattle.
 Ephesians 6:10-11
 Ephesians 6:10.
 Stier, Leon. “Stand Your Ground.” Email Mediatations. 30.Apr.2014. Web. July.23.2018.
 Molin, Steve. “Dressing for Success.” Sermon Writer. 2006. Web. July.23.2018.
 Molin, Steve. “Dressing for Success.” Sermon Writer.
 Romans 1:17.
 Ephesians 6:16b.
 Romans 5:6.
 Markquardt, Ed. “Put on the Whole Armor of God.” Sermons from Seattle
 Romans 8:38-39.
 Fosdick, Harry Emerson. “Defense.” Sermon Illustrations. Web. July.23.2018.