Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Faith Formation
MOVE ...In Love Worship Series, week 4
August 26, 2018
From Worship To Discipleship
Fellowship (Snacks or a Meal; 10 minutes with snacks; longer obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — In pairs or groups of three, discuss: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening Exercise: Name a time when you experienced overwhelming power.
Read: Ephesians 6:10-20
- Have a different person read Ephesians 1:17-20. What words and themes do these two passages from Ephesians share? [power] In Ephesians 1:20, the power refers to the power of the resurrection. When Paul refers to being strong in the Lord, what might it mean to live in light of this power at work within our lives?
- Paul uses the imagery of battle armor. What is the nature of the battle Paul is referring to? Why do you think he used this image?
- When we are baptized, one of the questions we are asked (according to The United Methodist Hymnal) is, “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?” Part of this baptismal question is grounded in this passage from Ephesians. Discuss your understanding of this baptismal question.
- Which pieces of armor named by Paul are for defensive purposes and which are for offensive purposes?
- What might it look like for Christians to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”? [The group could entertain both positive and negative images that come to mind. For example, some people use the Scripture as a weapon instead of as an instrument that provokes abundance and Christian maturity.]
- (R) Paul has strategically led up to this image. How does being built up in love, learning to live in love, always giving thanks in love empowered by the Holy Spirit, equip us then to move in love
This passage seems to be the concluding and catch-all category in Paul’s house code that began in Ephesians 5:21. A more literal translation of Ephesians 6:10 could read, “for the rest [of you], be continually empowered in the Lord and in the might of the strength of God."
Earlier, Paul commanded us to “put on the new self” (4:24), and now he commands us to “put on the whole armor of God.”
The militaristic language might be off putting for some reading this passage. Yet notice the image of “armor” leads Paul to encourage us to prayer and keeping alert, so that Paul might preach the gospel boldly (verses 18-20). The imagery Paul uses is about battling, not people but “the spiritual forces of evil” (v. 12).
Christian Perfection — The first thought we might have when it comes to Christian perfection is something like the Ten Commandments or some other “Thou shall not” list. That’s not entirely wrong. There is a sense in which we Methodists believe that Christian perfection is a freedom from sinful behaviors. Equally true is that we believe Christian perfection has a positive meaning — freedom for new behaviors. More specifically, as we grow closer to Christ, we gain a freedom that enables us to grow in loving God and neighbors more fully. Like our salvation, Christian perfection is ultimately a work of God. Therefore, growing in Christian perfection includes repentance and works of piety (Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, receiving Communion) and works of mercy (acts of compassion, working at a soup kitchen, hospitality to strangers). All these are more than good deeds, but acts that open us to receiving more of the power of God’s transforming grace.
Sending Forth (2 minutes)—End by praying the Wesley Covenant Prayer together:
“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
Ephesians 6:10-20, NRSV:
10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.”
Introduce Paul and Ephesians
The apostle Paul was a teacher and pastor in the time after Jesus returned to heaven. Paul went to different cities and told people that Jesus is the Messiah whom God raised from the dead! Paul started many churches. Church leaders wrote him letters, asking questions about what they should do. Paul prayed and listened closely to what God told him. He wrote letters to guide the church as a community of faith in Jesus. Paul’s letters on how to live as a Christian became part of the Bible in the New Testament. These letters help us to grow as disciples today. Ephesians is a letter to the church in Ephesus, a big port city in Turkey where many people worshiped other gods.
Our verses for today are Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 10 and 11, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God.”
Can you think of any special clothes or gear that people wear to play a sport?
(Suggestions may include a bicycle helmet, shin guards and cleats for soccer, a hockey goalie’s gear, a baseball catcher’s pads and mask, etc. Affirm answers. Add other suggestions as you feel led.)
These are things to protect the body and help to do good job in the game.
In a similar way, we are to put on the whole armor of God.
But it’s different; it’s invisible! It’s like a spiritual layer between us and the world.
The whole armor of God is powerful because it is from the Lord Jesus.
Every part matters, so we should think about putting it on through prayer every morning.
Our belt: truthfulness and honesty hold everything together securely.
Our breastplate: righteousness is doing what is right and good in God’s sight. We listen to the Holy Spirit in our heart, and the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to do the right thing.
Our shoes: make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace, the good news of Jesus. We are prepared to go and walk right in and speak a peaceful word to people.
Our shield: faith is a strong shield that we hold and move. Faith deflects the fiery messages of doubt and unbelief. They just bounce off, fizzle out, and don’t get through to us.
Our helmet: salvation is knowing in our mind that Jesus is our Savior. We remember that we can count on his faithfulness because he has already saved us.
Our sword of the Spirit is God’s word. God’s word cuts through lies and gives us wisdom.
Dear God, thank you for providing what we need to live as brave Christians in the world. Please help us every day to trust you and your spiritual power. Thank you for sending your Spirit who keeps us alert and helps us to pray for others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Print this page for children and parents to read each morning as they prepare for the day. They can draw or color an image of themselves wearing the armor on the other side.
The Whole Armor of God
It’s invisible, like a spiritual layer between me and the world,
with the strength of Jesus’ resurrection power.
My helmet: salvation is knowing in my mind that Jesus is my Savior. I remember that I can count on Jesus’ faithfulness because he has already saved me.
My breastplate: righteousness is doing what is right and good in God’s sight. I listen to the Holy Spirit in my heart; the Holy Spirit gives me courage to do the right thing.
My shield: faith is a strong shield that I hold and move. Faith deflects the fiery messages of doubt and unbelief. They just bounce off, fizzle out, and don’t get through to me.
My sword of the Spirit is God’s word. God’s word cuts through lies and gives me wisdom.
My belt: truthfulness and honesty hold everything together securely.
My shoes: make me ready to proclaim the gospel of peace, the good news of Jesus Christ. I am always prepared to go, to walk forward and speak a peaceful word to people.
See Ephesians 6:10-20.