Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Portbury

Sunday 22/08/21

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 

John 6:56-69 Ephesians 6:10-20

I confess: my car runs on diesel. It was promoted by the government when I bought it, and I thought it was a good idea at the time. Cheaper to run and all that. Now, though, with diesel all but being banned in cities and being phased out, I have come to regret that. Cars are not cheap; and electric vehicles are even more expensive. But, one day, I shall have to comply and look out for something more in line with present day requirements, even if it will be the costlier option. I’m sure you come up against issues like that from time to time. And it’s not always as ‘relatively easy’ as coming to terms with a different type of car… But let’s think for a moment about the way we handle issues of importance. Do we accept the things that we are told because they are convenient or do we hold on to principles because we know them to be right, especially when we measure them against God’s word? In other words:

Where do you stand? Perhaps it all depends on the way a certain issue affects you or your loved ones. Putting it bluntly: if you don’t believe in climate change, you won’t make much haste to change your habits that contribute to it. In the main, the general public doesn’t believe that there’s something like spiritual warfare, or that there’s a struggle between good and evil. They certainly don’t personify evil and call the devil by his name, or they make a joke of it. From the start, Jesus knew what he was dealing with. The temptation in the desert – as recorded in the other three gospels – has made that perfectly clear. As he says in this passage in John 6, ‘It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ In his work, of teaching and healing and performing miracles, Jesus often speaks about the fact that it is the people’s faith that has healed them or helped them receive what they are asking for. And it seems that their faith also recognises the struggle between good and evil, God and the devil, far more easily than we do today.

I know that we have all the advantages of science to help us understand illness and how it can be cured in many cases. Science can be a blessing and it can be complementary to faith. But it isn’t science that will win the victory over evil. Science cannot give us love, grace, mercy, kindness and the like. In that sense, for faith to really flourish it needs to accept the Son of God and the work of salvation that he has done. As Jesus has said: ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.’ It doesn’t go down well with many; they are not able to see beyond the physical and don’t appreciate the spiritual dimensions that Jesus is talking about.

Simon Peter, who speaks in answer to Jesus’ question whether they, the disciples will want to leave him like many others, because they find his teaching too hard, says, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Amazing words! The Spirit of God gave Peter this insight, as Jesus had already indicated.

So, where do you stand? The enemies of the Christian believer are not human but spiritual, as Paul warns in Ephesians 6. Therefore, we need the armour of the divine protector: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Wear it. It may not be the most popular. It may not even be fashionable. But it helps you to stand in the strength of God’s power when it’s most needed. Amen.

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