Bring Forth

Preacher: Nolan McBride

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20

I confess to almighty God 

and to you my siblings in Christ 

that I have not historically been a big fan

 of today’s reading from Ephesians. 

I was raised in a devout Church of the Brethren family

that took our peace tradition seriously.

My mother’s father and stepfather

both performed alternative service 

as conscientious objectors 

during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. 

I started at Bethany Seminary to peruse a 

Graduate Certificate in Just Peace and Conflict Transformation.

Now as a MA student I am working on a thesis contrasting 

the Church of the Brethren and the Episcopal Church’s

historical approaches to peace witness.

I have never been particularly comfortable

with using armor or weapons 

as a metaphors for our relationship with God.

Last August when I had the opportunity

to preach at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, IN

and looked at that Sunday’s lectionary readings

I fully planned to quietly ignore this Epistle 

and focus on the Gospel. 

The Gospel reading for that Sunday

was from John 6,

the last of a month spent focusing 

on the bread of life discourse.

This being an Episcopal parish,

all four lectionary options

are read in worship each Sunday.

I planned to preach on Communion, 

abiding in Christ, 

and Peter’s proclamation 

“Lord, to whom can we go? 

You have the words of eternal life.” 

But when I tried to write that sermon 

It would not come. 

It seemed that God had other plans, 

and I found myself looking 

at the Ephesians passage again. 

And this time something caught my eye. 

In verse fifteen Paul tells us 

that part of putting on the armor of God 

is being ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 

If we keep this in mind,

how does it shape the way 

we understand the rest of the passage?

Paul is explicit that 

when putting on the armor of God 

we are not preparing for a physical battle 

against “enemies of blood and flesh.” 

We are preparing for a spiritual battle 

not against human opponents 

but against the demonic forces of evil in the world 

and the oppressive systems they maintain and sustain. 

For Paul and the early Christians 

this meant living under the domination 

of the Roman Empire. 

Though the Roman Empire is long fallen, 

I do not think I need to tell you 

that this fight is just as relevant now, 

if not even more so. 

In the face of these powers 

Jesus calls us to another way, 

his way of love 

rooted in the gospel of peace.

The belt of truth, 

the breastplate of righteousness, 

the shield of faith, 

the helmet of salvation, 

the sword of the Spirit, 

which is the word of God. 

These are not weapons for attacking others 

(though they can be abused to do so) 

but a call to root ourselves 

and our lives in Christ.

In her book See No Stranger

activist and author Valarie Kaur 

writes about her own reclamation 

of the warrior tradition 

in her Sikh faith.

She says 

“I assumed that being part 

of the antiwar movement

 meant that I had to be ashamed 

of this martial history. 

I saw all violence as reactive, 


and destructive, 

no matter its justification. 

Nonviolence was thoughtful, 


and creative. 

I knew which side I wanted to be on, 

so I had thrown war metaphors 

out of my vocabulary 

and downplayed my heritage. 

But this denied me the ability 

to draw upon the strength 

and wisdom of my ancestors. 

The fight impulse is ancient and fundamental. 

These ancestors fought 

with swords and shields, 

bows and arrows, 

because they had no choice. 

They did not have a sophisticated matrix

of legal and political avenues 

to defend civil and human rights, 

nor international law 

to mediate conflicts between nations. 

We have these avenues today. 

We no longer need literal weapons

like our ancestors. 

But we could still learn 

from how they marshaled 

the fighting impulse 

on the battlefield.” 

Though a different faith, 

Kaur’s approach to interpreting 

her religion’s warrior tradition 

can serve as a model 

for how we can understand 

the call to put on the armor of God.

Thankfully, we do not have to take up 

the armor of God alone. 

Paul describes taking up the shield of faith 

“with which you will be able to quench 

the flaming arrows of the evil one.” 

One formation used by Roman legions 

was the testudo or tortoise formation. 

The legionnaires would link their shields, 

with those in front creating a wall, 

and those behind them holding 

their shields over their heads. 

It was slow moving 

but offered protection 

against arrows and other projectile weapons. 

By working together, 

the legionaries protected each other 

in a way none could do on their own. 

Likewise, extending Paul’s metaphor a bit, 

when we gather together as the church 

for worship, 



and service 

we can find depths of faith 

we never would have reached by ourselves. 

Our Brethren heritage

reminds us of the importance

of community in the life of faith.

We strive to continue the work of Jesus

“peacefully, simply, and together.”

The instructions to put on the armor of God 

end with a reminder to 

“pray in the Spirit at all times” 

and especially to 

“persevere in supplication for all the saints.” 

I don’t know about you, 

but with the continuing realities of COVID, 

 national and international tensions, 

and recent events in my personal life

this hit me particularly hard. 

We are not to be separate from each other’s burdens, 

but to carry them together 

and hold them before God. 

Christianity is a team sport. 

It is not just me and Jesus, 

but each of us supporting each other 

in prayer and action. 

Paul ends by asking the Ephesians to pray for him

 that he will be able to proclaim the gospel. 

May we also pray for each other

 to share the good news in word and deed, 

and especially for those facing persecution 

because of their faith.

At this point it is extremely trite 

to say we are living in uncertain times. 

I for one would really like to go back 

to living in certain times.

But were the times ever really certain? 

Ephesians shows us that the struggle against injustice 

has always been something Christians can expect to face. 

It is not a physical battle against a human foe, 

but a spiritual one that Jesus calls us to. 

Valarie Kaur shows one model

for how we can interpret the call to arms

in our life of faith.

Our allegiance as soldiers of Christ

is above any in this world 

and guides how we are to act 

when confronted with evil.

But we are not alone in the fight. 

As the Church we are called 

to support each other 

in prayer and action. 

The Summer I served as the Youth Peace Advocate

one of the daily themes in that year’s camp curriculums was

the concept of Ubuntu, 

I am because you are. 

In taking up the armor of God 

we are bound together 

with one another 

and with our siblings in Christ 

around the world. 

Be it new variants of COVID, 

or the oppressive systems of this world, 

or the chaos we see in the news 

we will face it together.

Strengthened by our faith, 

we can work together 

to face what comes next. 

May we together, 

as the chorus of number 226 

in the blue hymnal states,

“Bring forth the kingdom of mercy, 

bring forth the kingdom of peace. 

Bring forth the kingdom of justice, 

bring forth the city of God.” 


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