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Faith United Methodist Church

August 23, 2015

13th Sunday after Pentecost / Holy Humor

Rev. Kristabeth E. Atwood

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20

Sermon:  Tin Soldier         

Today’s Scripture reading, in which Paul encourages the early Christians to dress themselves in the armor of God, reminds me of the little tin soldier collectibles you can find in antique stories or on eBay. They are perpetually equipped for battle with their belts, their breastplates, their boots, their shields, and their swords. Some have helmets. Others carry weapons. They are all at the ready. My dad had a few from when he was a boy and I would play with them at my grandmother’s house. As a little girl I wasn’t that into playing battle games, but I remember how the little tin soldiers always looked ready to step into battle.

Real life isn’t like that, though. In real life we may try to hide behind breastplates and under helmets and behind shields, but eventually they must come off. We aren’t always at the ready.

Today we are having a costume party. Some of you are dressed up!   Realizing I didn’t have a costume ready, I went to the party store yesterday and bought some masks. I have this cat-mask, which I think it kind of cute, and this creepy mask that just makes me look weird. I also have these big sunglasses to hide behind, and this Groucho Marx thing that I’m sure masks my identity. But the truth is, we don’t need plastic masks to hide from the world. We each wear masks every day.

We wear a mask when we put on a happy face to go to work, even if we are feeling sad or depressed. We wear a mask when we answer, “I’m fine” when we’re really not to a friend’s question, “How are you?” We wear a mask when we don’t want our friends or family to know that we are worried ~ about our job, about our marriage, about our health. And we wear a mask when we pretend that an insult or a sarcastic remark didn’t really hurt. We wear a mask when we refuse help out of pride, even when that help is truly needed. There are all sorts of masks that we put on everyday to hide the truth from those around us, and sometimes from ourselves. We pretend that we are that tin soldier, at the ready, strong, and prepared for whatever might come our way.

Paul, though, knew that the kind of armor we need is not the bullet-proof kind. The sword that Paul carried was not the kind soldiers carry into battle. Paul’s sword was the sword of the Spirit. His breastplate was the breastplate of righteousness and his belt the belt of truth. His feet were fit with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. And his helmet was the helmet of salvation.

Too often we pretend at being the tin soldier, unmovable, impenetrable, unaffected. We pretend that the things of life don’t bother us. We forget to turn to the real armor that we need, the armor of faith ~ truth, righteousness, peace.   Only when we take all our masks off and present ourselves before God without pretense are we truly fearless. The rest is just a costume party, trying on different masks, different outfits to distract us from the reality around us. The armor Paul talks about isn’t meant to change us, but to make us more who God created us to be.

As I shared with our children, laughter is at it’s best when it is pure and innocent, when it is not used to be hurtful or cruel. So much of humor these days is putting down someone else so we can feel better about ourselves. When we have the full armor of God, though, we don’t need that kind of humor. When we have the full armor of God we can experience the joy of God.   As the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon is thought to have said, “The world will never be converted to God unitl Christians cry less and laugh and sing more.”

Spirit of God, we confess that we put on airs more often than we put on the armor of God.  We are guilty of girding ourselves with lies instead of the truth.  We try to protect ourselves with arrogance, superstition, and self-reliance instead of righteousness, faith, and your gift of salvation.  Our footsteps do not follow your path of peace.  And we are quick to use your Word to attack one another, instead of striking out against the sins we personally commit.  Forgive us, Holy God.  Gift us with the wisdom and strength to change our ways, so that we may live as your faithful ambassadors of the Good News. Amen. (Prayer written by Amy Loving)