Right before we were married Shiloh needed a car to travel back and forth for her internship in college. At this point our collective knowledge about cars could fill a postage stamp, maybe. We were of the naïve understanding that you put in the gas, got in, turned the key, hit the pedal and off you go and you would keep going without ever having to worry about what was under the hood. So with this naïve confidence we bought a car from the lot not realizing we had bought a car from a person who had the same understanding of cars that we did and never changed or added oil to the car. First time we opened the hood after the car was sputtering there was oil all over the inside of the hood shooting out from the spark plug. Pretty soon it became a habit for us to carry spark plugs and a quart of oil with us all the time changing them every time we filled the tank. Then it became two and three spark plugs, the head gasket was blown, then the smoke, then we would need a whole new engine. The car still looked good on the outside but under the hood it was shot. We learned pretty quickly not only how to work our way around under the hood but how important it was to know what was going on inside of there.
Do we approach our lives in so much the same way without ever looking under the hood to see what is really going on, in our life, in the world and in all things around us.
We are this wonderful kind of creation, a unity of body, mind and spirit. Mind and body keep us breathing and heart beating (no small feat with how awesome our bodies are!) but there is the Spirit as well, the driver in the car that seeks higher things, deeper knowledge, meaning and purpose, truth and God. This same spirit that gives us courage and compassion, awe and wonder, love of beauty and hatred of evil, all of those things deeper than simple survival. But when we ignore the spiritual reality its like being asleep at the wheel. But underneath the hood of reality is not simple gears and mechanisms but a spiritual reality connected to the physical, like two halves to the same whole, in this reality is the God who loves us but also their are intellects and powers meant on destroying us.
We wonder why so we see people commit heinous actions, or why life feels meaningless, or why people drive their bodies purposefully into walls and end up as wrecks? Do you find this in your own life; do you wonder this happens around us? Some might say our actions and feelings are only the results of chemicals and neurons bouncing around in our heads, but if that is true then there is no accountability and no morality, just a misfiring neurons that makes the rapist and the pedophile morally the same as the victim and the child; all simply puppets on a string in the end. But our very spirits groan inside of us when we see such evil occur and even some of the worst perpetrators have admitted their own guilt. There is more going on, there is something missing there, no one has checked under the hood, or wondered why oil is spraying from the spark plugs, or if that black smoke might actually be a sign something is wrong.
Before our reading today in Ephesians 6, Pastor Paul in the last couple of chapters gives a list of a whole bunch of moral and God pleasing ways of living for: husbands and wives, parents and children, bosses and employees, listing these things are a good way to live, a good way to drive our cars like traffic signs on the road- slow down children are playing here. If you drive 80 down that road you’ll kill a child, it’s that important and the same way if we forget these ways of living: Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church, wives give of yourselves as to Christ, parents don’t provoke your children to anger, children honor your parents, workers work as to the Lord, bosses remember you have a heavenly boss who shows no partiality; someone will get hurt, we know this. But why then do we ignore the good way of living and blatantly run children down in the street? Paul says, look under the hood, this isn’t about misfiring neurons but about the spiritual realities underneath.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Paul wants us not to be under any illusions that what happens under the hood doesn’t pertain to us; instead he gives this vivid description of the powers that are struggling to take away all that we are.
The Paul calls these the powers of darkness, not simply afraid to turn off the lights darkness, but something much more ancient, from the beginning. The word darkness brings our minds back to another passage about darkness in the very beginning “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” This darkness meant void and chaos and the ancient powers want nothing less than to brings God’s good creation, including you and me, back to nothing and chaos. These powers they obscure and hide the light of God from our eyes and our hearts as they rule the world that tries to live apart from God. Think of that implication, if you are living apart from faith in God you are living underneath the rule of the ancient forces of darkness and chaos, whether you admit to it or not. These forces in the spiritual realm are literally pain-ridden, foaming at the mouth, insane, spiritual creatures gone mad by the pain of their own evil actions. All of these forces are part of the schemes of the diabolos, the great accuser, whose name literally means to “throw across” like cutting a cord, determined to sever the light from above. This is simply a glimpse of what is under the hood that wages war against us; the first powers of chaos and darkness with their foaming at the mouth insane spiritual creatures all acting to sever the light of God from your eyes. We see the physical implications manifesting from these spiritual realities in the everyday hurt and pain, disbelief and apathy, violence and hatred in our world and lives each and every day.
So, does anyone know a good mechanic? Because it seems like we need one. This is the ultimate place where our Christian hope is very clear, that these powers that wage war against us have been defeated and all of creation will be moved to that time of eternal healing and peace. This is the story of the cross of Christ and the spiritual reality of what we see on the outside, where God allowed all of these powers to lay all they had against the son of God and on the third day what remained was not death and darkness but light and life on Easter.
So what do we do with this bit of knowledge of what is under the hood, is it just for show, like chrome plating, no because these spiritual realities effect us in the very worse and very best ways. Pastor Paul reminds us that God has provided provision for our everyday life to live in His light and faith and not to be torn apart by the darkness. This living, described like spiritual warfare, is not us charging into the fray with sword flashing, nothing Hollywood about this, God has already won the victory in Jesus, in our faith we are driving our cars through that victory even though hell itself may chase after us.
It starts with that good, declaration of faith that comes from God, that Jesus is your living savior and Lord, each and every day. Whoever believes in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved.
Then roll up our sleeves and crack our necks, get ready for some work ahead. The Christian life is all that you are, it involves your heart, mind and soul, it is a glorious journey and every journey has work that needs to be done.
Remember that because of Jesus you already have God’s stamp of approval and His unconditional love. You don’t have to prove a thing but knowing how much God gave for you how will you live within those things that give glory to God and not to the darkness?
Kick the tires, change the oil, fill the tank and remember God has made you whole and filled you with his power.
Get in your Godly vehicle with God’s promises surrounding you that will not ever fail. Nothing can break through but don’t open the door and give it a chance to crawl in.
While you drive, let your mind think on those things that are beautiful and right, that are holy and acceptable in God’s eyes.
When the temptation to turn of the narrow way comes, hit the gas and run over those gone mad spiritual creatures of darkness. Don’t ponder the darkness and let it creep in, quick and fast is best.
Turn your radio to the word of God; hear His living, breathing promises made just for you with your name on God’s very lips. Look around you, both in front and behind. Know you are not alone on this journey but you are part of a vast caravan stretching throughout time of the faithful all encouraging and supporting you on the road.
By the grace of God keep on driving till our good Lord brings us home. Amen.