Going Deeper 08.19.2021

The second reading for Pentecost 13... Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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.  Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Over the years I have found myself increasing reluctant-- with one notable to exception-- to choose hymns from the section of the Hymnal called "The Church Militant."   I grew up singing hymns such as "Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war..." and "Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross..."  Perhaps it was when I learned of the horrific period in church history called "The Crusades" that I began to find such hymns and expressions off-putting.  And the same can be said of the process of learning more and more clearly the teachings and ways of Jesus.  I have come to find aggressiveness and coercion to have little or no place in how the church relates to the world and culture around it.

A commentary I read on this week's text has helped me process my thoughts a bit more.  The theologian writing the piece points out that " in the armed struggle with evil, the saints of God are on the defensive, not the offensive. This text is not an “onward Christian soldiers” type of battle cry in which the church militant will usher in God’s kingdom by attacking and rooting out all the forces which stand in opposition to God. Rather, the call is for the saints to stand firm and withstand the attacks of evil."  Indeed, we are called to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power."

The one hymn which stands as my notable exception from "The Church Militant" section is Luther's classic "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."  For the most part, this hymn reflects the defensive stance of the church against the devil(s) and forces of evil which surround us.  We are not called to use political and other forms of power in how we respond to the various types of attacks which come from the world and culture, but instead use 'weapons' such as kindness, service, and love.

In other words, we are to learn to 'fight' like Jesus.

Together in His Service,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"