Evensong – Ninth Sunday after Trinity Sunday

Harry Entwistle Crest RGB

By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle

Sunday 24 July, 2016
St Ninians & St Chads Church, Maylands

In his book Screwtape Letters, C S Lewis says that the greatest thing the Devil can do to draw disciples away from God is to convince them that he, the Devil, does not exist.

I our time look at how the press, politicians and commentators will avoid describing acts of terror as evil. They will use any word but that, but Scripture has no scruples about naming and shaming evil for what it is, namely the enemy of God. Evil creates chaos out of order, so frustrating the creative work of God.

Joshua is faced with a physical enemy as he prepares to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. Although God had promised this land to his people, it was unknown to them and of course people were already living there. Joshua had to invade this land and defeat the inhabitants in order to make a space for God’s people. So if any of you wonder why the Jews and Palestinians are still fighting each other, this is when it began.

God promised Joshua that he would not be abandoned if he was courageous enough to keep God’s law which was given to Moses. In other words, the real weapons Joshua and his people needed were obedience to God and being resolute in prayer and faithfulness.

In addressing the Christians in Ephesus, St Paul says that the enemy they face may appear to be hostile opponents of the gospel which the Church proclaims, but the real enemy is the Evil One and the real warfare is spiritual in nature.

In tonight’s second reading, Paul says three things. He says that in order to resist evil, the Church must clothe itself with God’s armour. Paul then describes this armour and urges the faithful to be vigilant and also to pray for him so that he might faithfully preach the gospel.

The wars that the Church must fight are always against the activities of the Evil One who works against the growth of the Kingdom of God’s truth, love, mercy and justice.

Evil is real and if the Devil can persuade you otherwise, then you are vulnerable. Evil will always masquerade as goodness in order to deceive and manipulate people together with the institutions and structures of society which are part of God’s plan for the growth of his kingdom.

The current penchant for social engineering is presented as being in the pursuit of equality and justice, but is destructive of God’s plan for creation. Abortion is killing a human being while masquerading as being for the good of the mother. Euthanasia is murder masquerading as compassion. Much child abuse masquerades as love. We could go on.

So what is the armour St Paul describes must be worn by Christians? He presents a military image based on Roman soldiers.

The belt, used to carry a weapon, usually a sword, must be truth.

The breastplate that defends the heart must be integrity that is never compromised.

The heavy soled shoes that protected the feet on long marches and enabling the soldier to stand his ground, must be for the Christian the preparedness to preach the gospel anywhere at any time.

The shield that defend from fiery arrows, must be faith, unflinching trust in God that never falters.

The helmet identified the legion to which the soldier belonged. For the Christian the legion is God’s army of salvation.

The sword of the Spirit with which the Christian must fight is the Word, the laws and truth of God which will never be vanquished. The gospel must not be diluted or defaced.

In his imagery, Paul describes the soldier in a defensive, not an attacking mode, so he is urging his readers to stand firm and to hold their ground.

In our day when the Church and the Christian faith is under concerted attacks, it is vital that we must stand our ground, proclaim the faith that we have received with courage, without fear no matter what the cost. In standing our ground and refusing to capitulate to the push towards liberalisation and secularisation within the Church no matter what the cost. These things masquerade as being relevant and up to date but are evil because they are not faithful to the faith we have received.

In standing firm we will reclaim the territory that Jesus has already won for us through his victorious death on the Cross. We must not be afraid – the Lord is with us if we love him and obediently trust him at all times.