Sunday, October 31, 2010
Oct. 31 Sermon: It's Not a Costume!
Psalm 139: 1-12
Can you remember the costumes you wore as a kid on Halloween? Perhaps you still enjoy dressing up? Many were here last night at our annual Trunk or Treat. You kind of made a costume for your automobiles, and many of you were dressed up too!
It’s always fun to put on a costume, isn’t it. We can pretend we’re something we’re not for a while.
Halloween is a very old holiday, and probably the most enduring aspect of Halloween was there from the beginning, dressing up as ghouls and ghosts.
In pre-Christian England, the people celebrated Samhain on Oct. 31. Nov. 1st was the new year in the pre-Christian society, and on the night between the old year and the new year, spirits were thought to have free reign on the earth. The “veil was thin.”
So, people would dress up like spirits and other creatures that people couldn’t fully understand, in an attempt to “blend in” and not be bothered by the evil spirits.
I remember some of my favorite memories of Halloween was going trick or treating with my best friend Matthew as a pair of nerds. Steve Urkel was pretty popular at the time, and his rise to fame as a suspender wearing, oversized glasses on the tip of his nose, mega-geek gave hope to people like me.
We’d watch his show every week on TGIF while eating chicken sticks and French fries at the Mattox house. My sister and I would bump into things in imitation of the great Urkel, and would do our best impressions of his “eheheh, Did IIIIIIIII do thaaaaaaat?”
I think Urkel must be alive and well somewhere on TV, b/c on Friday when I was taking Wesley to school, a boy hopped out his car, and Damien said, “Look, he came as Urkel!” I almost fell off my bike.
So anyway, one of the problems you run into as a nerdy little kid deciding to dress up as a “nerd” for Halloween is that you will inevitably hear from some other kid, “Hey Nathan, where’s your costume?”
What can you say to that? Where’s the little quip that equalize the embarrassment? There is none.
In today’s passage, Paul is speaking to the Ephesians about “dressing up” too, but instead of talking about things we hope we aren’t, Paul is talking about the qualities that can define us in a struggle against the darkness.
“Put on the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
That’s quite a costume, isn’t it! But that’s the thing—It’s not a costume. It’s not putting on something that is making fun of what we aren’t, it is putting on something that magnifies who we are.
Instead of utilizing the age-old principle employed by the ancient Celts, who dressed up like the demons and spirits to try and “blend in,” Paul had something very different in mind—stand out! Put on your armor and prepare for the onslaught!
Instead of skulking back into the shadows, Paul wanted the people of Christ to “stand their ground.” He says it three times in three different ways, Stand your ground, after you have done everything, to stand. And Stand firm!”
And what is Paul wanting us to stand firm against? Not the flesh and the blood, in other words, not our temporary struggles with vice or worldliness. If that is what defines our Christian faith—that it is some kind of safeguard against loose morality, then Paul has something to say to us.
There is a menace against which we must stand firm—it is the rulers and powers and authorities that propagate evil in the world. It is the darkness that seeks to defeat the church, and you know how that darkness is weaving it’s way into our lives in the most insidious and destructive way?
“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction” William Osler
“So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating effect.”
“My generation's apathy. I'm disgusted with it. I'm disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other -isms the counterculture has been whinning about for years.”
Apathy born of fatalism, and a lie that we deserve everything we want.
Do you see Paul’s Armor of Faith as a costume or your baptismal gown?