The Whole Armor
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Broken for You, Claire Bower, 2015
If you are looking to be strong, sometimes you may have to be broken.
How many of you have ever served in the military? Did you ever go to boot camp? My father did. He was a Marine. You would think a long stay on an island would be a good place to enjoy the experience of boot camp, but my father vowed never to return to Paris Island for that reason. Something they did to him there, left an indelible mark. He told me that when he arrived the drill Sargent told the men that he was going to break them down, then build them back up. They were being trained on how to fight, to protect themselves and how to protect others.
Today, I sense as you do, that the world is broken and many people do not feel very strong. There is a lot of concern about their health and the health of others. They feel the importance of personal protection and are most mindful of those who are around them. Some are most convicted by their knowledge of what they know and what they believe. Others may be feeling a sense of brokenness, not sure what to do. Whatever your feeling is, it is time for a friendly reminder from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In order to persevere these challenging days, there are five things you are required to wear or do. Pay attention because these things are needed to be strong and protected. We turn to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. What does he say you must put on?
You must fasten the belt of truth.
You must put on the breastplate of righteousness.
You must wear shoes that can help you quickly go out and proclaim the gospel of peace.
You must take the shield of faith.
You must put on the helmet of salvation and finally, the hardest thing to grasp is, you must take with you the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
This is the whole armor of God.
For the last five weeks we have been in the sixth chapter of John and we know all there is to know about bread. Boy, have we heard a lot about bread and flesh, wine and blood. We know the importance on taking these into our lives, but as surely as we take them into our lives, we better have the belt, the breastplate, shoes, helmet, shield and sword. Without these we are vulnerable; unprotected to go out. Do you recall the time when Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” For him it was arbitrary, treated as a contextual substance to be bartered when it benefited Rome. It is a philosophical understanding but let’s set the record straight. Knowledge, such as things will fall from above at 9.8m/s2 is not truth. That we make 2 billion red blood cells and 600 million white blood cells every hour in our marrow is not truth. These are bits of knowledge. In our reasoning we apply knowledge sometimes to reinforce truth and its absolute nature, and other times we use it to manipulate the truth for personal gain. Information is not truth. It is knowledge. You need to tighten the belt of truth, reasoning that all truth comes from above. It comes from God and multiplies within the Christian. Therefore, we should know the difference. Truth can lead to discovery and it can impart knowledge but it only comes to us if God deems it necessary through his son Jesus. Sometimes it comes as a hard lesson and many may turn. We see this in the Gospel once again, in the Johannine sixth chapter, where, for the first time many disciples, followers of Christ do not believe in what he says. They turn away from the truth. Why? Because this armor is too heavy. It is too hard to bear; too hard to convince others. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” We need God to strengthen our understanding, but some convictions may have to be broken.
I love church. I love the Episcopal church. The first time I stepped into such a place, smelling the incense, watching the ceremonial acts and the color-coded vestments, with words spoken and chanted, well, I fell in love. I thought this was the perfect existence of utopia and God’s plan for us to worship on earth. But, after living in community with others, in attending church we discovered it is not made of perfect people and the truth does not live in us all the time. God takes the imperfections, our vulnerabilities and our assumed armor we have created around our insecurities, and breaks us down. He does this so we can be built back up. Many are struggling today and if only we could see a coat of arms placed upon us, then would we see God’s truth. What does the breastplate of righteousness look like? Imagine the heavy mail of armor that a medieval knight would put over his chest. It protects the heart where our feelings and passions live. We need strength when our heart get anxious. We need protection. Sometimes expediency is necessary, making haste to spread the value of God’s peace to others. You have to have proper footgear to help you do that. After hearing this message, you should quickly get the word out, sharing the good news of Jesus with someone you know. Do not be concerned with what you are going to say, but for the protection of others, tell them about Jesus.
The shield of faith deflects the fiery darts. They come from so many different places. For some they may be literal in the form of bullets and bombs and for some they come from words that are sharp and cutting. The shield of faith is the invisible force field God gives us with His Spirit to protect us in this current day if we have faith in Him. As sure as your heart is protected by the breastplate, you have fastened on to God’s truth and are ready to get the word out; as sure as you have faith, protect your mind, where knowledge and information exist. Put on the helmet of salvation so you are reminded that all things will be revealed in Christ. In the Episcopal church we use that intellect so that we can recognize our Creator.
The hardest of all body armor to take on is the sword. Do you remember the story of young David, who made his claim to fame when he did not put on the armor? Philistines on one side, taunting the Israelites into battle and they were scared. No man of courage would stand up to the fear presented except the shepherd boy. King Saul took David into his tent, giving him his armor to go do battle. Putting on the heavy breastplate, the helmet and shield, David said it was too heavy. All he needed was his slingshot and three pebbles. He did the Lord’s business and struck down Goliath, Then, he took the sword and cut off the head of fear; the head of evil. This is no endorsement of literal beheadings. Sometimes we have to cut the head off. You have to know the truth. You have to be protected by the spiritual armor and have the word of God ready to go. This is the word of God, and it can be so sharp for scripture says, “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.”  When you pick up this armor, be sure; be ready. Know precisely why it is to be used because once you use it, there is no turning back. Words can be cutting. They are most powerful.
Dearly beloved, we are called to protect one another, not cut each other down by our words. We are called to keep the message of Jesus, the truth of God ever before us. It is hard when presented with the giants, chanting you must do this and you must do that. Sometimes it is easy to retreat, to stay broken, to stay quiet. In our present day there is a battle over the issue of public health. Rarely would I give such a pointed message, cautioning God’s people to not go into this battle without the whole armor, but this is the time to use the sword.
History will repeat itself and the Church has not always gotten it right when it comes to God’s truth. We have condemned each other over practices and policies, without truly understanding the brokenness the other members of our family have endured. Burning of sacred texts, giving homage to tyrannical governments, enforcement of indulgences, and the list goes on. Today, we are writing another chapter in history. Many clergy and church leaders today should take a page out of the mistakes made in the past so they are not repeated, but they are not. Worldly swords of words are being used on the issue of masks and vaccines. Beloved, be careful you don’t cut yourself on either side of the blade. On one side we hear, “If you love me, you will wear a mask or get a vaccine” out of insecurity or obedience to secular institutions. For many, it is all they think about and mandate. This is not what Jesus said nor meant when he said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” On the other side we hear, “You don’t have faith if you feel you have to wear a mask or vaccine” ” and this is spoken out of a reaction to fear as well. For many, they see the evil plots of man to coerce the other, and leave little room themselves for faith. When we draw near to God, he calls us to live by faith. Sometimes he gives us intelligent designs to help protect us and other times he protects us from proclaimed anecdotes that may cause harm. How will we know the difference? How will we know the truth? Why do we not live by the sage advice we have heard so often, “All may, none must and some should?” We need to have the whole armor of God if we are going to reason, think and pray through these broken times.
We have failed our Lord miserably over the years, taking on the wrong armor that is too heavy and prevents us from doing the Lord’s business. Please pray. Be able to discern the difference between your voice and God’s voice. If there is any brokenness here, I pray God will build us back together. The Church has to get this right. I know I have been broken and I know God puts us through this earthly boot camp together in order to build us up. If you are looking to be strong, turn to Christ Jesus for he will always strengthen you by his love, his truth and salvation. Through these, God will restore the broken. For the love of each other and for the love of God, put on the whole armor.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Ephesians 6:10-20
 John 6:56-69
 Hebrews 4:12
 John 21:17