Ephesians 6:10-17
Rev. C. Dan Brand

I was channel surfing one night recently when an image came on the screen that surprised me. The author Salmon Rushdie was being interviewed. Do you I was channel surfing one night recently when an image came on the screen that remember Salmon Rushdie? He is the one who wrote the book The Satanic Verses which infuriated faithful Muslims because of what they felt was a blasphemous attack on their prophet Mohammed. There were demonstrations, riots in the streets, even people killed in response. Finally, the Ayatollah Khomeini put a multi-million dollar bounty on Rushdie’s head and told Muslims it would be the right thing to do to assassinate Rushdie. The rest of the world was horrified at that, but, ever since (even though the Ayatollah is long since dead), Salmon Rushdie has been forced to live in hiding. That is why I was surprised to see him on television the other night. He says the contract is still out on him, but folks do not take it quite so seriously anymore. He had better hope not. 

What caused all the upset? WORDS! Nothing but words. Words in a book; words from a vengeful religious fanatic. Words have power. When we were children, we chanted “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names (or words) can never hurt me.” HA! Some of the deepest wounds we ever suffer come from words. 

When my grandmother was a little girl, about ten years old, someone in church made an unkind comment about her ability (or lack of it) to sing. So she stopped. She never sang anymore. She did not sing in worship. She did not sing at parties. As far as I know, she did not sing in the shower. She lived to be three weeks shy of reaching 100 years old, but in all the years I knew her, the only time I ever heard a note from her throat was to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of us ONCE. I will confess that whoever told her she could not sing was right – it was awful. But lack of talent had not kept her from trying; it was the cutting remark, the unfeeling word, that kept her silent for 90 years. Words have power.

The Sword of the Spirit—What is Paul talking about? This is the final piece of equipment with which Paul describes the Lord’s provision for Christian soldiers—the armor of God—the protection we need if we are serious in our search for spiritual excellence.  We began with the Belt of Truth, God’s Truth. God loves this world and sent Jesus to save it.   Then the Breastplate of Righteousness, God’s righteousness, the promise that in God’s loving relationship with this world God will do What God is supposed to When God is supposed to.  The shoes of the Gospel of Peace, God’s peace, the peace that comes when we feel secure in that relationship.  The Shield of Faithfulness, God’s faithfulness, that guarantees God’s love and care even when we are miserably unfaithful. The Helmet of Salvation is to protect us from worrying about the ultimate outcome for this world or ourselves; that is already taken care of.  Now, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Yes, the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

So what is the word of God? Most of you will probably answer quickly “ The Bible”. Well, yes and no. I can find nowhere in scripture where there is any reference to the Bible as being “the word of God.” The word of God is more than pages in a book, even this very special book.  One of the eminent theologians, Eugene Osterhaven says “The broadest meaning of the word of God’s entire disclosure of himself and his purposes…mediated through prophets, apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Conceived more personally the Word is Christ Himself, the person of the speaking God.”

In a unique way he is saying that Jesus is the WORD OF GOD. Remember in John where it says “In the beginning was the WORD and the word was with God and the Word was God, and the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”  

It reminds me of the story that has been told about King Arthur. One day he was riding in the carriage across the country when they stopped near a farmer. When he stopped and asked him what was in the bag, he replied that it was wheat. The King asked him if he might have some. The farmer reached into the big bag of grain and gave him one single grain of wheat. The king reached into his big bag of gold and gave him one coin and then departed. The farmer thought about what if I had given him the whole bag of grain.

Well, back to the metaphor of a sword? What did Paul mean?  The armor of God is a protection against evil. The Word of God is our protection against evil.  God’s word helps us see everything more clearly, even ourselves. I think that Paul means that the Sword of the Spirit is the Written Word, but also the Jesus that lives within each of us. It means that the Bible is our source of good and how we live our lives from this wonderful guidance is what God expects. But, oftentimes the Bible is the last thing read in our daily routines if at all.  

“The B-I-B-L-E yes, that’s the book for me; I stand alone on the word of God, The B-I-B-LE.” “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”

Is the Christian’s owners Manual. Have we gotten to a point in our lives that we always go to the instructions last when all else fails? Then why is it neglected? Some folks probably avoid the Bible because they do not care what God has to say, but I doubt that many in the church would make such a statement. Some, no doubt, avoid it because they do not want any standards for life except their own.  It is true that the same BIBLE that says believe also says Behave. Mark Twain said “It ain’t hose parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.”

A couple was entertaining a visiting minister in their home. Near the end of the evening, the wife asked the guest if he would care to read the Bible and offer prayer before they all retired. Being assured that he would enjoy the opportunity, the hostess said to her young son, “Bobby, go into the other room and bring that big book mommy and daddy read so much.” In a moment the lad came back…with the Sears catalogue.

There was a survey done that asked people that didn’t read the Bible—WHY? The answers were: Can’t Understand. Not Exciting, No Time, Lazy.

If any of these are true for you, let me make a few suggestions. Too tough to Understand? Do not give up. If you do not already own one, buy a copy of the Bible in Modern English. Perhaps Peterson’s “The Message”. Then begin to study one book or passage that has interested you with the help of a good commentary. Start reading short stories about Bible stories.

If the Bible is not exciting for you, get into a study group. I think our “Purpose Driven Life”  is real exciting. There is an old saying that “No scripture is for private interpretation.” We can all learn from each other.

Not enough Time? Perhaps. Most of us admit that we make time for things we consider important. Remember that you can never tell about a pop quiz that God may give you.

If sheer laziness is the reason for neglecting your Bible and you know it, get down on your knees and ask God for the gumption to get your priorities straight.  If spiritual excellence is really your ambition, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God cannot be neglected.  God’s Word is very powerful.  

It never ceases to amaze me that people understand so well that a healthy body requires proper exercise, nutrition, and care or we will get sick. They also understand that a car needs water for the radiator, oil in the crankcase, and grease on the axles—good maintenance—or it will stop running.  Why can they not understand that unless the deep things of the spirit are cared for –uplifted in fellowship, nourished with prayer, comforted in God’s word—maintenance- they too will break down under the pressures of life?

Yes, the Bible is the sword of the Spirit and Jesus himself so often steps out of those sacred pages—lovable and compassionate and intensely knowable—and with good reason we find comfort in the thought that if God is really like that, we can trustfully commit ourselves unreserved into his hands, for life, for death, for anything.

Is that what the Bible is for you?  It has been said that if all neglected Bibles were dusted simultaneously, we would have a record dust storm and the sun would go into eclipse for a week.  I hope not.

Let us pray:

O God, we confess that we so often try to go our own way without the benefit of the road map for life you have provided in the scripture.  Help us to commit ourselves to the kind of study that will make us the faithful people we have been called to be. For we pray it in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.