Steps Toward Peace: Finding the Right Shoes

Hello and Good Morning! Many of you probably do not know me. My name is Logan Lovelace. I am a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, going into my senior year and I have been in Chicago this summer doing my clinical pastoral education or chaplaincy training at Northwestern Hospital. I am from the Diocese of Western North Carolina. It has been a pleasure to worship with you all this summer.

Thank you all for allowing me to be here with you all today and to speak these words.

“Put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”

I speak to you in the name of the one God, Father, Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Mother of us all.

When I was a kid, I used to love playing with action figures. I had all kinds of heroes and Disney characters like Flash, Aladdin, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wonder Woman, you name it. But one of my favorite action figures was this transforming Bruce Wayne action figure. The figure itself was Bruce Wayne, but it came with all the parts- the Batman suit and armor- to make him Batman!

The figure came out shortly after the Batman Forever film where Val Kilmer played Batman. There were pieces that clipped onto the chest, arms, legs, and head. He even had boots. As a kid I loved the idea that Batman, or Bruce Wayne, was a person with no mutations to make him a superhero. It was in the suit and his gadgets that aided him in fighting evil. And he did so anonymously, masking his identity with a suit.

So, I loved having a normal looking action figure that could quickly become a disguised hero with a few little snaps.

Now, I don’t think Paul is telling the people then or us now that we need to make a bat suit and look for “bad guys,” but there are some things we do need to “put on” on to stand strong in the Lord. I’m fully aware this passage has been used to encourage some terrible behavior and discrimination. Some have taken the notion of warfare to justify wars against particular peoples, or name particular others evil and “enemies of God.” However, if we look back at the original context and audience, we are reminded of the pacifism of the early Christians. These Christians may have faced daily discrimination, harassment, and possibly even suppression by the authorities. If we look at the whole of this letter to the Ephesians the author speaks of the transformed life Christians are to live. Christians, their households, and communities are to have a high moral standard- living in love, forgiveness, and thankfulness. This seems hard enough to attain today. I cannot imagine what it was like for the early Christians.

This passage provides a framework for what the transformed lives we as believers are supposed to live. The author is quite specific about most of the armor we are to put on and the posture we are to take. It is not a passive stance- about four times we are told to stand. Some of you may even be familiar with some of the items. We are told to fasten the belt of truth around our waist, put on the breastplate of righteousness, to take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. If you notice, most of these items are for defense.

However, there is one instruction for the armor that really stands out to me this time- “As for the shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” So we need to take with us truth and righteousness, our faith, our identities as Christian people, and the word of God that helps to ground us. But, we have a choice in our shoes?

“Put on whatever will make you proclaim the gospel of peace.”

Put on your high heels or your flip flops or your sneakers or your boots. But we probably want to put on something we feel comfortable in, something we can stand firm in. After all, these are the shoes that are going to help us proclaim the gospel of peace.

What does this even mean to proclaim the gospel of peace?

Today it seems there is little place for peace. We fight and argue about nearly everything.  Today we are divided. We are divided politically, on how we are going to live our lives during a global pandemic, on who does and does not have a right to love, and we are divided religiously. These differences lead to horrific violence such as what we are seeing in Afghanistan. We are still plagued by racism that needs to be dismantled. We take on these labels of liberal and conservative, democrat or republican separating from one another and further removing ourselves from relationship to one another. And it can all start to feel overwhelming.

But we are to proclaim the gospel of peace. This does not mean we are to be peace keepers. No, we are to be peace makers. What Paul is talking about for our lives is not about conformity. In fact, our stance and our convictions to be a people of peace can make us unpopular. Even Jesus offended some folks and lost some disciples in today’s Gospel lesson. 

Paul is not even asking us to be stubborn, wedded to an opinion that makes us prejudice or close-minded. A stubborn person will not listen to ideas that differ from their own. Stubbornness rejects alternatives and refuses to change one’s position. It is not informed and there’s little room for growth. Standing firm is different. Standing firm means that a person is willing to draw from their convictions to debate, listen, and consider alternatives that benefit the whole.

No doubt stress and anxiety are present when we have to engage in significant matters. We have to consider our basic principles and beliefs to appropriately prepare for struggle. We have to think about what we are up against if we want to be successful. We must prayerfully prepare ourselves inwardly so that we don’t react outwardly in a way contrary to the peace, grace, mercy, and love of God we proclaim.

It may not be popular. We may have to admit we are wrong sometimes. We may have to listen to someone we don’t agree with. However, as Christians and Children of God, we are called to strive to do better, be better neighbors, and to love our enemies. When criticism comes, we seek nurturing from our tradition and our community of faith. I have seen great things from this congregation and parish. It is obvious you all are peace seekers.

When we wake up in the morning, we have to consider what shoes we are going to wear for the day. We need shoes that are appropriate for the occasion. Can the shoes handle the terrain? Will the shoes get us where we need to go? What shoes do we need to put on to be a maker of peace?

Our other pieces of armor will protect us, but we have choices to make on what shoes will help us get to where we are going, shoes that we can stand firmly and confidently in. We have to move forward as Christians, in whatever shoes we have, to proclaim the gospel of peace.

What kind of shoes are you wearing right now? When we leave here today will we be led to stand for peace, justice, and love?