Proper 17 – Series B
I want to play on the familiar phrase “Armed and Dangerous.” Unlike the dire warning of the local police department about a fugitive from justice, we are best described as “armed and safe.” God has given us the components of spiritual armor which fend off the attacks of our wicked foe and empower us to bring the battle to him. Too often we have sat passively by and said only God can do this. It is true, but in this passage Paul is equipping people to do something, to bring the battle to Satan’s kingdom of misery. The whole book of Ephesians has a missional cast to it. Paul sees his legacy as a movement by which Christ is saving more and more people, eventually uniting all things to himself in Christ (Eph. 1:10)
The preacher may, however, want to limit himself. There is a lot here and an attempt to hit it all may result in a sermon which is very broad and not very deep. A better approach may be to pick up one of these, perhaps a theme which has already been touched up and which you thought particularly necessary for this time and place.
For instance, you might just preach on the shield of faith. As the Roman army used shields, they were not only for the protection of the person holding the shield, but they also protected the weapon arm of the man who stood to your left in the line as it advanced on the enemy. You then depended as well on the shield held by the fellow on you right as you poked your spear or sword through the gap in those shields at your enemy. Shields had a communal function. Paul says that faith saves us and gives us confidence, earlier in Ephesians, which makes sense. He also speaks of the unity of the faith, we are united in one faith. That could work into the shield’s communal feature.