Ephesians 6:10-17 and Psalm 118:1-14
Rev. C. Dan Brand

Over the past few weeks, we have been considering this equipment which God provides us in our spiritual excellence—the armor of God; the belt of Truth, God’s Truth that God loves this world and sent Jesus Christ to redeem it. Then the Breastplate of Righteousness, God’s righteousness, the promise of a relationship with this world God loves that will never falter.  On to the shoes of the Gospel of Peace, God’s peace, the peace that passes understanding, the peace that a child feels snuggled up to Mommy and Daddy in the midst of a midnight storm.  Last week, the shield of Faithfulness, God’s faithfulness, that guarantees Gods love and care even when we are miserably unfaithful.  But now we are told to put on the Helmet of Salvation, and the question that quickly comes to mine, “Why? Haven’t we already said salvation is a done deal for all of us who trust Jesus?”

Perhaps we should look more closely at what salvation really is. The first thing to note is that the word comes from a Latin word, Salus, which has nothing to do with life after death. It means Health or wholeness, very similar in meaning to the Hebrew word Shalom that we talked about as being “peace”. But when we get to the Greek version, it means “yeshua” or “Jesus” Do you remember the announcement of his coming? The angel told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”” In fact, there were all sorts of little boys being born around the time of Christ whose Jewish Moms and Dads named them Jesus in the hope that their son would be the promised Messiah, the deliverer, the salvation of Israel from the bondage of Rome, the one who would restore God’s order. Life after death was no issue.  Most of us think “Salvation” as life after death.

As Jesus began his ministry, something new became very apparent. The salvation he was offering was much more than political deliverance for the chosen people.   He said himself that he had come “to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, restore sight to the blind, to seek and to save the lost.”  To the woman he healed of a hemorrhage, the blind man who could now see, the leper who had been cleansed, he said, “Your faith has Saved you.” Salvation was not a promise of pie-in-the-sky-bye-and bye, but a restoration of order in the here and now.

Of course, Jesus encountered a problem, one that went back to the difficulties in Eden. The religious folks of his day were real thinkers. They knew good from evil, order from chaos, saved from lost.  Good and order and salvation were obedience to the Law.   Good and order and salvation were condemning sinners.  Good and order and salvation would come in overthrowing Rome.  Evil was anyone who disagreed. Get rid of him. Crucify him!

As we all know, that is what they did. The so-called thinkers thought that they were restoring order—saving things. But God intervened and, in a preliminary way on that first Easter morning, saved and restored divine order, the order that had been lost back in the Garden of Eden.

By the time we come to the end of the Bible, the book of Revelation, we find more clearly than anywhere else that salvation—restoring order—goes beyond this life.  In its complicated but beautifully poetic way, Revelation affirms tot he early church, people who were in danger for their very lives because of their commitment to Christ, that God will deliver, will Save, God’s people and will make creation good again: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more tears, no more death. But—SALVATION!

The Christian message is that you and I are not capable of restoring things to their original good condition. Only God can do that, and that process has already begun—God sent Jesus.  As the Gospel writer has it, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Salvation is something much more than a promise of pie-in-the-sky for believers.  It is nothing less than making a sick creation healthy and whole again.

Our problem is that we are trapped between two worlds.  God has already proclaimed salvation, God’s restoration of order, in the death and resurrection of Christ.  But we still live in a chaotic and disordered existence—there are still hunger and thirst, still tears, still death.  We are caught between the already and the not yet. We do not know what to think.

There is an old story that one day Eve on the outside of the Garden met her old friend the serpent. The serpent said “Good morning, nice dress you’ve got on. How are you doing?” Eve replied “It’s kind that you ask but actually I’m not doing so well. The serpent said, “I understand, it is the after effects of the fruit, it does taste rather sour. Eve responded by saying “But how can I get back inside the garden?
Good question said the serpent, it is easy for me, I just slide under the hedge. But I’ll give you a hint. Go back the way you came.  The point of the story; Eve and Adam can’t go back into the garden because they do not think they can. They think themselves into all kinds of problems. It must be the after effects of the fruit.

Probably that is why Paul chose the metaphor of the helmet for salvation.  It protects a foolish thinking head, a head like the one back in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes instead of just doing what God wants us to do, we think too much. We look at our lives and know they are not all they could be or should be. We think that neither the world nor we is worthy of salvation. But God says NO. What Paul is suggesting makes a lot of sense. The Helmet of salvation that tells us stop thinking so much about the outcome of this world—that has already been taken care of.

What the Helmet of Salvation provides is a chance for us to genuinely pursue spiritual excellence. We can be about our business of proclaiming God’s love and care for the world—in words and deeds—without being sidetracked by worrying over God’s love and care for us.

Yes, we are caught between the already and the not yet. We think about fate of this world, watch TV shows about life after death, worry about salvation, and even maintain abnormal fascination with dead celebrities—Elvis is still alive. This is perhaps the after effect of the fruit. But the wonderful message of the Gospel is that we need not worry. God has begun to restore Eden in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all who put their trust in him have a Helmet of Salvation.

I had an instructor once that came into the class and said that you all have “A’s”, so now lets get to work. We didn’t have to worry about the grade, but we could go about the class really learning. That is the way it is with God. He has already given us all an “A”, Now we can get to work.

Let us pray:

Lord, we confess that we worry too much and that we are often paralyzed in our action because of it. Help us to trust, to be confident of your promise of love for the entire world and us as shown in Jesus. For we pray it in his name.