14th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 17) LSB #668
Text – Ephesians 6:13
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, & having done all, to stand firm.
Because our Lord Jesus Christ personally taught the prayer to His disciples, we say this every Sunday, at every service: “…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” If you’re a lifelong Christian you’ve probably recited those phrases well over a thousand times. Yet, because of our sinful nature, familiarity can breed contempt.
Familiarity also causes us to assume that we know what we’re saying, even though we’ve never given it one moment’s thought: “…but deliver us from evil.” Who doesn’t know what that means? Yet, if we ask 100 people we’d very likely get 100 different answers.
Some would say that guns are evil. Others say that gun free zones are evil. Alcohol is the devil’s brew, & alcohol is a gift from God to mankind. Even the selling of body parts from the aborted children of God is considered a good thing by almost half of our nation’s people in a recent survey. It’s an appalling & horrifically evil practice in the eyes of the other half.
To the question, “What does it mean?” the wide-ranging diversity of answers guarantees that they will not all be on target. Some of those answers have to fall short. In our heavenly Father’s dimension there is only one truth, & it is Jesus Christ – risen from the dead!
In today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, you & I are being called to withstand evil. But how are we to withstand evil if we don’t recognize it? Part & parcel of our fallen condition is that we do call evil – good, & we call good – evil! To say our Lord calls us to withstand evil out there in the world is a Mr. Obvious statement.
Our Lord is also calling us to withstand evil right here, in this place, on Sunday morning.
The direction this sermon is going could make you very uncomfortable. You may feel a knee-jerk reaction to what I say. If your heart rejects what you hear, if your mind rebels against God’s teaching, you need to withstand the evil that is coming from your own heart & mind, even right here, especially right here, in God’s house.
The callous, heartless & depraved souls, that are dissecting aborted children of God for their kidneys & livers & brains, have been blinded by the devil. If you don’t believe that, just try picturing Jesus Christ, working in one of those labs, sorting out, in a petri dish, the livers & the kidneys of aborted children to whom His heavenly Father had given life.
People working in those conditions desperately need to hear the Good News that Jesus Christ has paid for their sin. Without that news, those workers are already experiencing hell in some measure. No soul that is connected to the Lord of life could butcher a human baby in order to retrieve its organs, even for medical research.
During WWII the Nazis performed many atrocious experiments upon living & dead human beings. The medical community has been fairly resolute since then, in not using the results of that research, even when it could help people today. Yet, when it comes to aborted children, almost half of Americans approve of using those bodies, or parts of them, for research.
A man who knew firsthand of the Nazi horrors, was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He started his career as a pastor with a pacifist mindset. By the end of his life, he’d been involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. One of his more famous quotations reflects his change of heart:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Another man who knew well the face of evil, & bore the brunt of it on many occasions, finally being assassinated himself, was Martin Luther King, Jr. Regarding evil, he stated: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Are you cooperating with evil? Have you remained silent in the face of what Planned Parenthood is doing to God’s children? Not to speak is to speak. Your silence is saying that you can live with the dissection of dead, possibly even living, babies for the purpose of furthering medical research. And don’t even think that money has nothing to do with this.
Dr. Ben Carson, a man who knows the medical world inside & out, has stated that such research can be accomplished in other ways. Our scientists do not have to chop up the bodies of tiny children of God in order to further our ability to provide health care. The devil is using greed, & he is using evil, to further his ability to destroy the souls of human beings.
Satan has an agenda & he is fervently pursuing it. These closing words of St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus have been referred to as, “…the Lord’s great call to arms.” They are a call to fight the good fight of faith; to do battle against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness & the spiritual forces of evil.
Paul wrote: “Finally, be strong in the Lord & in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, & having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13 ESV)
The picture of the armor-clad Christian is one of defense not offense. We are not fighting to obtain truth. We have the truth. You & I do not fight to obtain victory. We fight because we already have the victory in Christ our Savior. We fight to defend the truth upon which we stand, because it is the Truth that guides us in the Way to Life.
The devil is fighting to destroy your soul. He is fighting for the soul of your neighbor, &
your children & your grandchildren. Are you going to remain silent? Do you not have the courage to act? If you passively accept evil, you might as well be helping to perpetrate it. As Bonhoeffer said, “God will not hold us guiltless.” Hear God’s word to the prophet Ezekiel in the 8th verse of chapter 33:
“If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, & you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”
Are you feeling that knee-jerk reaction? Is the chair you’re sitting in becoming less comfortable? Maybe your heart & mind are rejecting the fairness of God’s Law, which demands absolute perfection?
If any of those are true, you can sympathize with the predicament that abortion doctors & nurses are in. You can relate to the guilt being suppressed by “technicians” who are searching for kidneys & livers in a petri dish. We need to hear the Good News that Jesus Christ died for all sinners. Anyone working in the abortion industry needs to hear that same Good News.
It truly is the only message that will restore life to their heart, mind & soul. They need, & you & I need, men, women & children who are strong, not in themselves, but “…in the Lord & in the strength of His might.” We need them & the world needs them, though it doesn’t know it.
Lutherans have known throughout their history that schools are critical to the task of training men, women & children to be strong in the Lord. It occurs in properly run Lutheran childcare centers & schools. It occurs when Lutheran teachers instill the message of life & hope through our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ in all subjects – religion, reading, ’riting & ’rithmetic.
However, the absolute best place for this to begin is in the home. For there it is that children see real life play out in all its triumphs & all its failures. It’s in the home that they see trial & struggle, victory & defeat, life & death, along with sorrow & laughter. Life in the home is life in the real world. As good as it can be life in school is still an artificial environment. Home life, or family life, was given to Adam when our heavenly Father created Eve for him & established the family as the basic unit of society.
If not before, when their firstborn son murdered the 2nd born, they clearly saw the depravity their sin brought into the world. The Lord Himself counseled Cain to withstand evil: “Why are you angry…? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV)
The weapons of Satan are the constant temptations which he puts in our path every day. He uses everything from little white lies to serious doubts that arise from the constant challenges to our faith like the false yet repeated claims of evolution, or the attention that Gnostic literature such as The DaVinci Code gain in our media.
The devil has been very successful, in our wealthy & complacent culture, at convincing us to water down our religious teaching & practice. He’s made tremendous gains in deceiving people to think that all religions are of equal merit, value & truthfulness. To those defending the selling of the kidneys, livers & brains of babies, for medical research, these words apply well:
“Woe to those who call evil good & good evil, who put darkness for light & light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet & sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, & shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21 ESV)
What is evil? As people drift further & further away from all that is good, meaning they’re drifting away from God, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand & recognize what truly is evil. Greed, gossip & slander have long been recognized as such & no one is working to create a positive public image for them. St. Paul encourages us to take up the whole armor of God that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, when good is called evil & evil is called good. However, we are also called, at the same time, to love sinners. How do we love others so they will finally be able to see Jesus? We begin by remembering God’s tremendous love, which He’s demonstrated in our own lives, as today’s OT reading stated:
“Only take care, & keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things [of God] that your eyes have seen, & lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children & your children’s children…” (Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV)
At the beginning of Ephesians, Paul made clear that Christ has won, & now sits “far above all rule & authority & power & dominion…” (Ephesians 1:21 ESV) We only need stand firm in Christ’s victory, which has erased even our most heartless sin. In other words, before people confess their sin of silence in the face of evil, they must have the hope of being forgiven.
Before doctors, nurses & technicians will confess the depravity of their actions in those Planned Parenthood clinics, they too must have the hope of being forgiven, of having their cold-hearted deeds washed away. That is after all, the message of the cross. The greatest evil of all history was the crucifixion of the holy Son of God. Yet, Jesus willingly died to erase all sin.
Withstanding evil is not about fighting fire with fire; nor is about killing it before it grows. You & I can love sinners freely & fearlessly, because everlasting life, full life, is already ours. This fallen, broken life that we endure here is nothing but the blink of eye in our heavenly Father’s dimension. His children will know that perfectly one day.
Until then, we struggle to share the truly Good News that even the sin of murder is forgiven. Therefore, withstanding evil is about turning away from our sin & turning back to Jesus. It is Christ alone who enables us to stand firm in His victory over sin & death & evil. In Jesus, there is no repented sin left unturned. That’s why St. Paul asks, at the end of his letter to Ephesus, “[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel…” He wants just the right word on just the right occasion & asks for courage to make the mystery of the Gospel known.
If anything in this sermon made you uncomfortable, or gave you that knee-jerk reaction, you will find health & healing in allowing God to turn your heart back to Christ. He offers you His strength through His Word & His body & His blood. He offers you daily cleansing in the mystery of Baptism.
Here in God’s house you’re enabled to withstand evil through putting on the whole armor of God. You can do that today, right here with your brothers & sisters in Christ, for God has promised that we do not stand alone. Even now we rise with all the company of heaven & stand in the presence of our Lord & Savior, as we pray, “…deliver us from evil.” Amen.
Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; for Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s word, the weapon glorious; against all foes be thus victorious. For God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield to Christ, our shield, & we, the victors, hold the field.
Cast afar this world’s vain pleasure And boldly strive for heavenly treasure. Be steadfast in the Savior’s might. Trust the Lord, who stands beside you, for Jesus from all harm will hide you. By faith you conquer in the fight. Take courage, weary soul! Look forward to the goal! Joy awaits you. The race well run, your long war won, your crown shines splendid as the sun.
Wisely fight, for time is fleeting; the hours of grace are fast retreating; short, short is this our earthly way. When the Lord the dead will waken & sinners all by fear are shaken, the saints with joy will greet that day. Praise God, our triumph’s sure. We need not long endure
scorn & trial. Our Savior King His own will bring to that great glory which we sing. Amen.
Normally, this is the end of the sermon manuscript. However, I felt that, although the material below didn’t seem appropriate to be preached from the pulpit on this particular day, it was important for you to have the opportunity to read it. Some of you may have already seen it. If you haven’t, I encourage you to read it, but it would be wise first to put on the full armor of God. It is a very disturbing rendition of what is going on, not in the back alleys of our nation, but in the back rooms of an organization that is destroying not simply the lives of those being aborted, but also the lives & souls of those who work in the Planned Parenthood clinics. May God be with us if our nation is ever to halt its decent into the depths of hell.
From the LCMS Office of National Mission:
“It had a face. … Its nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids.” In the seventh Center for Medical Progress video, Holly O’Donnell, ex-procurement technician for StemExpress, describes what she witnessed in a Planned Parenthood clinic: A baby boy, an abortion survivor, was rinsed off and dropped in a pie plate for the procurement of his organs.
She continues, recounting the doctor’s words and her own thoughts: “‘I want you to see something cool, kind of neat.’ … She has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating. ‘You know why that’s happening?’ I knew why it was happening. It’s because an electrical current, nodes were still firing.”
Her words are heart-stopping.
A child, still alive, is then cut — through the chin and face and forehead — so that his brain can be invoiced and sold. “I can’t even, like, describe, like, what that feels like,” O’Donnell says.
But we as the Church can. It feels like — it is — evil.
The infanticide that is occurring at Planned Parenthood must end. It is not simply time to defund that organization; it is time to end abortion in the United States altogether.
As for us, we can no longer claim that we didn’t know Planned Parenthood doctors killed children so ruthlessly or that we weren’t aware human bodies were cannibalized for their organs.
We can’t just say it’s a woman’s choice or shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Who are we to judge?”
We can’t hide behind the half-truths that women have no other place to find health care or that Planned Parenthood provides millions of mammograms per year.
It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.
Children are being killed, their organs are being sold, and their mothers are left with physical scars and — greater still — haunting memories that sometimes never fade. The death of these children is barbaric, and it is evil, and we are without excuse. Silence and attempts at justification are no longer options. The only option is for each one of us to act.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet