Summary: A sermon in the Lowry "Oops, Ugh, Aha, Yeah, Whee!" narritive mold, focusing on puting on the armor of God.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (p.184)
Oops (Life can be hard)
My brothers and sisters, we all know that life can be hard. Life can be very hard. And to make it worse… most of the time it doesn’t make any sense at all. In seminary, they have a fancy term to describe it… the “theodicy” question. It is that age old question… why would a good God let bad things happen? Having this fancy label, they have paired it up with fancy explanations and fancy justifications. However, after all the talk and debate, at the end of the day there is still hurt, there are still challenges, and there is still temptation.
We don’t have to look very long to find hurt. It is right here in this town. It is right here in this neighborhood. It is right here in this church. Perhaps, it may even be closer, and you may be the one who is hurting. And there is so much hurt. I’ve heard far too often of people who have just simply stopped watching the news because they can’t stand to keep listening over and over to the pain, the violence, the hurt. Others of us put up blinders and are entirely aloof to the suffering of others.
Yet… whether we realize it or not, the hurting still surrounds us. We can’t turn a blind eye on the hurting forever. We can’t ignore the pain in our own lives forever. Eventually, something will happen and we will be awakened to the pain once again. Eventually, something will happen that makes us turn our eyes once more, and stare pain and suffering directly in the face.
We are upon the one year anniversary of hurricane Katrina: the single most devastating natural event ever to happen on US soil. 1 year ago, I wouldn’t have had to paint a picture of the pain and suffering of this world… because it was right before us. It was palpable. Now a year later, the healing has barely even begun, and the one message I hear over and over is “Don’t forget about us.” Yet we do forget.
Ugh (Life can be really… really hard, and our strength/patience may run out)
Either we forget, or we ignore it. We ignore it like we ignore the challenges and temptations of this life. We ignore it like we ignore the doubts that linger in our minds. We ignore it like we ignore the fears we carry. It becomes almost like a package deal which we collectively choose to ignore. You see… life’s hardships don’t stop with the hurt, they just begin there. We also face challenges and temptations, doubts and fears. And I could go into each one in detail and barely even crack the surface.
And the worst part of it all… is that there isn’t enough help out there in the world. Our strength runs oh so very thin and our patience is often stretched to the max. We look at the world’s pain, hurt, challenges, temptations and wonder where to even start. We look at our own pain, face our own doubts and fears and wonder… how we can go on. Or worse yet… we look to the world and its troubles; we look to ourselves and our troubles and ask, “Why even bother.” It takes so much strength just to stand, and we don’t have even near enough.
It takes so much strength to go on… so much strength and patience to fight the same doubts and fears over and over again. It takes so much strength, to pick up and carry on after something devastating. It takes so much strength, just to get up again. And we don’t have it. The strength is not in us. And it definitely isn’t out there. Congress just this last week looked into pouring even billions more into New Orleans, and it sounds like that wont even be enough. I don’t believe any amount of money would ever be even near enough. Where is there strength?
Aha (Our Strength doesn’t come from us, it comes from God)
There is an old story about a pastor traveling on a bus down a very bumpy road. A college student was seated next to him. Almost out of the blue, the pastor asked: “Are you spiritually ready for the temptations that you will face in college?” The young man answered: “I don’t have a problem with temptation. I have a strong willpower.”
The pastor then took a pencil out of his pocket and said: “I can make this pencil stand up on the cover of this Bible even though the bus ride is bumpy.” The young man said, “I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t think you can do it.” Then the pastor placed the pencil on top of the Bible and held it there. “Look, I am doing it,” the pastor replied.