Narrative Lectionary for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year Three
August 6, 2017
Lessons: Ephesians 6:10-20, Matthew 10:28-31
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people stand strong in the Lord, wearing God’s own armor and ready to face with courage the trials and tribulations of this present age.
Key Scripture: Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:19
Some days it may seem like a better plan to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Life can be tough. More often than not the news is quite depressing: war, drought, hunger, homelessness, contentious politics, fear-mongering, hate, etc., etc., etc. Even the perkiest and pluckiest Christians among us can find life daunting and distressing when face-to-face with the sheer magnitude of pain and suffering in the world.
It’s easy to forget that we don’t do life alone. We are not left to our own devices to slay dragons singlehandedly or feed all of the world’s hungry and homeless. Most of us have at least some amount of resources, a community of faith, and some semblance of hope. Very few of us in the Western world fear we will be killed for practicing our religion. In reality, we have it pretty good; in fact, we are blessed beyond measure.
Still, because we are both saint and sinner, we possess the capability to get pretty worked up over the minor stuff and totally ignore the really dangerous, subtle, and systemic evil around us. We’d rather fuss about worship times and what to put on the church sign instead of how to alleviate child hunger in our own city. Granted, that’s a sweeping generalization, but there’s truth to it if we’re honest. We let our fear and our perspective of scarcity get the best of us.
Fortunately, we serve a God who does not relent and who will not forsake us. We are beloved children of the Creator who is still active in, among, with, and through us in this world. Because of this amazing God, we have power that can withstand the forces of evil, armor that can protect us.
Paul writes about this armor to the Christians at Ephesus, and he does so while he is imprisoned — an “ambassador in chains.” He exhorts those early disciples (and us!) to clothe ourselves with truth, righteousness, faith, Spirit and Word, and whatever we need on our feet to get about the business of “proclaiming the gospel of peace.” We are covered, head to toe, in God’s own armor. We cannot fail in the long run. We are of great value to the One who cares even for each tiny sparrow (Matthew 10:29).
It’s also true that we don’t have to go out alone as a singular knight in divine armor. No, we are part of the Body of Christ, and together we are a formidable force for all that is good, right, and hope-filled. We have audacious good news to share and the Holy Spirit to give us words and will to speak out against injustice and stand firm in the face of evil.
Be of good cheer, friend in the faith. Gather with your community of faith this week to hear the word of God proclaimed, to be strengthened by the bread and wine of communion, and to offer God your very best in gifts of praise, time, and resources. You will be strengthened and equipped to be sent back into the world, fully decked out in some mighty fine armor.
Spend some time today in worship “unpacking” the fears that bind us. What prevents us from sharing the good news, from speaking out against injustice, and from doing the good we wish we could do? How can we embrace the full armor of God that Paul references? Add a prayer petition to be emboldened to quench the fires of evil and to speak the good news. Consider adding words to the sending and benediction about God’s armor and speaking a bold word of truth and hope to a hurting world.
Chances are many of your youth watch (or at least are familiar with) the series Game of Thrones. If not that series, then perhaps other fantasy series or Arthurian lore are more familiar to them. Because armor is not exactly something we wear today (at least not in the traditional sense), you may want to make some visual links to begin thinking about armor. Of course, we do wear “protective armor” in the form of logo clothing, jewelry or shirts we like and that give us security or a sense of status or belonging. So how is it that Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians about wearing the “full armor of God” applies to us today? How can we enter the world each day, surrounded and protected by that which strengthens us? What might it look like on the outside AND on the inside?
“Dressed for Discipleship”
Key Verse: “Finally, be strong in the LORD and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God…” Ephesians 6:10-11a
Have a bag or box filled with various components of “armor” of God. It’s all right to be a little silly with crafting these pieces. You will need a “belt of truth,” a “breastplate of righteousness,” “gospel of peace footwear,” a “shield of faith,” a “helmet of salvation,” and a “sword of the Spirit.” Again, be creative with how you image these articles of clothing and accessories. You might use galoshes for the footwear, a football helmet, a Star Wars light sabre with a “Bible” handle, and so forth. Deck out one volunteer in the crazy garb and talk about each piece and why it’s important. Have fun with it. Alternatively, you can call on an adult who will willingly play along, and then dress that person in armor (much to the delight of the children). Then tell the children that the good news is that we don’t have to wear silly clothes to be disciples. Each of these items can be carried within us, as part of who we are in Christ Jesus. End with a prayer that each child will be surrounded with God’s presence and dressed for discipleship success both inside and out.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
God values us so much so that even the hairs on our head are numbered. We are that beloved. As God’s beloved, let us be compelled to put on the powerful armor available to us so that we can be good stewards of this amazing good news we bear to the world.
Stewardship at Home
Take some time this week to marvel at God’s good creation. Watch the tiny birds, the rabbits and chipmunks that frolic in the grass. We know God cares for even the tiniest members of the created order, so also marvel how much more God cares for you and for all of our neighbors. Pray, as Paul, to declare boldly the mysteries of the faith and the good news that is truly for all people.
Photos: Michael Coghlan, wilderdom, and tnarik, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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