A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 26, 2012“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit!”
Man, that feels good to stand in a pulpit and say.
Makes me feel strong. Makes me feel powerful. Makes me feel good!
But here’s the thing … What is the armor of God? What is the sword of the Spirit?
Lui, Sudan, was spent shell casings … the remains of bullets that had been fired in the not too distant past right there where we had just landed.
This was evidence of Sudan’s civil war … a two-decade holy war between the Muslim north and the primarily Christian south that killed more than two million people. There was a fragile peace but still much evidence of war – mine craters in the road and teenagers with automatic weapons.
But more than that, there was what I came to call the “arming of the heart.” The same eyes that embraced us with love brimmed with hate when they talked about the soldiers and planes from the north. Choirs sang Onward, Christian Soldiers with a passion and fire of people for whom the armor of God, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit were not metaphors but physical instruments of their very survival against an enemy they saw as nothing short of demonic.
And I imagined that if I had lived the life they were living, my heart would be armed the same.
As we gathered our last evening, Bishop Smith asked Bishop Bullen, may he rest in peace, what it was that they needed most from us. I expected him to say bore-wells or school buildings. But Bishop Bullen knew his people, and he knew Jesus. And so he looked at us and said, “We need you to teach us about reconciliation.”
This man, whose own brother was brutally murdered in front of his eyes was begging us to help them reconcile with his murderers. Peace agreements might get rid of the bombs and the guns. But what about the armor of the heart?
“Teach us about reconciliation.”
What he was saying was, “Teach us how to be the Body of Christ.” What he was saying was the words of the Greeks who come to Philip late in John’s Gospel: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Words which prompt Jesus to tell his disciples that the hour had now come for him to go to the cross.
Those words have stayed with me since that night. They have stayed with me as I have realized this is not something we have to teach and our sisters and brothers in Lui have to learn, but something that we desperately need Christ to teach us all. We all need to see Jesus.
We are a heavily armed people … and I’m not just talking about the size of our military or the guns on our streets and the gates on our communities. We are armed with airtight, self-reinforcing political, theological, social and cultural ideologies. Our armor has labels on it: Fox News and MSNBC. Liberal and Conservative. Red and Blue. Black and White. City and County. Gay and, as Desmond Tutu calls it “so-called straight.” The list goes on and on and on and on … and on.