A week and a half ago, the New York Times printed the names and faces of all the men and women who have given their lives for the sake of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. 2000 men and women, their postage-stamp sized pictures spread out over four or five pages of the paper. Among them was Army Sergeant John D. Meador, II, who died on June 20th in Afghanistan. Sergeant Meador was in the South Carolina National Guard, and he was called up to serve oversees several years ago. He and two others in his Company were attacked outside of the city of Khost by a suicide bomber, who all told killed 21 people, mostly Afghans. I only know Sergeant Meador’s name by chance, because my mother came across him and his family eating at restaurant. My mother anonymously paid his bill but was found out, and Meador came over to say thank you to my parents. He knelt down at my parents table, told them that their gesture meant more to him than they could know, because he about to be deployed, about to leave his home and his family for the stark wilderness of Afghanistan, and my parents little sign of respect was a huge boost for his family. He was a Christian, and he asked my parents to pray for him. He was 13 months younger than me.
The Epistle reading we just heard from Ephesians reminded me once again of Meador and his fellow soldiers. When you read a lot of history or grow up with a history teacher as a father, you end up reading or hearing about a lot about the military, and it’s always fascinated me. When Doan and I go to the Museum of Art in Philly, just after saying hi to Rocky, I always want to go see their great collection of medieval armor; I’m always entertained by how much smaller people were back then, today the suits would fit jockeys and few others. “In his book, ARMS AND ARMOUR THROUGHOUT THE AGES, Helmut …Nichols said that one of the first people to ever wear suits of armor were the Sumerians. The Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia…and they were the first people to wear helmets and heavy leather coats to protect them in battle. The heavy coats were the first armored suits. By reading this book, you also come to the conclusion that armor was always intended to be worn during wars. [It may seem obvious, but] Armor was not to be worn to a picnic, a family reunion, or a party. Armor was intended for war, and only a fool would go into battle without wearing his full suit of armor.1
The same can and has been said of the Christian, that only a foolish Christian would go to into battle, that is just go through life, without wearing their suit of armor. If you listen intently during the Mass, when I bid the Prayers of the People to being, I sometimes say the old bidding, “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church Militant here on Earth.” That’s what was said for more than a thousand years before 1979, when those prayers were called the Prayers for the Church. Christ’s Church Militant refers to us, Christians still living our earthly lives, and therefore still fighting against evil forces, still arranged, if we are wise, as an army of sorts, if only because we are still so exposed to the devil. We heard St. Paul today talk about how we need not fear flesh and blood, but that we are rather to gird ourselves against principalities and powers (which are types of angels/demons), to ready ourselves lest we are subject to the fiery darts of the devil.
The whole armor of God is needed in our battle against the devil; no one piece is sufficient. When I was a kid, and Doan loves this, I had a costume set of the whole armor of God. It had everything: the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness, it had the little booties of peace, an awesome shield of faith, and of course, the killer plastic sword of the Spirit.
I looked like a ridiculous toy Roman soldier, but I can still remember the tools I need to fight the good fight. I, along with all Christians, need righteousness in my heart (the breastplate), I need the willingness to spread the Gospel (the boots), I need to faith to protect my mind, body, and soul against the temptations that can lead me to hurt myself and other (the shield), I need the knowledge and assurance of my own salvation (the helmet), and of course, every kids favorite, I need the sword, the sword being the Bible, the word of God, ready to strike down the enemy, just like how Jesus used Scripture when fighting off Satan in the wilderness. Righteousness, evangelism, faith, assurance, and Scripture. Sounds like a good mix, a good suit of armor against what the enemy throws at us.
If you were very attentive to the bulletin last week, you would have noticed that the candle that lit the Blessed Sacrament last week was given in honor and memory of Sgt. Meador, a man none of us really knew, but a man who every day put on two suits of armor, the armor of his country and the armor of his God, for our benefit. And as we strive to put together our own godly armor, say a prayer for Sgt. Meador, for his family, and for all the men and women of our Armed Forces and their families, that their bodies and souls may rest in the hand of God, that the wiles of our raging enemy prove of no avail.
1Edward Markquart, Put on the Whole Armor of God, Sermons from Seattle