Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sermon -- The Festival of St. Michael and All Angels (September 29, 2013)

LUKE 10:17-20 / REVELATION 12:7-12
REJOICE!  FOR THE ACCUSER HAS BEEN THROWN DOWN.

In the name + of Jesus.

      And there was a war in heaven. (Revelation 12:7)  That just sounds wrong.  When we speak of heaven, we think of bliss and peace and rest.  But instead we hear of a battle.  It was a fight for supremacy. 
     On the one hand, it was stupid.  Does Satan really think that he can overthrow the Lord?  Does Satan really believe that he can reign supreme?  God’s throne stands unchallenged.  It’s not that it shouldn’t be taken.  It can’t be taken.  There is no other God.  There can’t be any other God, no matter what any rival thinks.
     On the other hand, Satan does not believe that God should reign supreme.  Satan does believe that he can thwart God.  Satan is called the prince of this world.  He wants to be God.  He has no interest in giving up his reign. 
     And so, there was a war in heaven.  But the Lord employed his angelic creatures to cast out the demonic creatures.  The archangel, Michael, and his angels (were) fighting against the dragon.  And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down…  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:7-10) 
     St. Michael and his angels are employed by God to serve the heirs of salvation, that is, you.  While there are a few times God records how the lives of his saints were spared by the intervention of the angels, the angels usually go about their work silently.  Yes, God’s angels watch over you.  They protect you, but they do not promote themselves to you.
     Of course, you do know the most obvious way the angels have thrown down the enemy who accuses God’s people.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them…and said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…  For unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:9-11)  It is Jesus who overcomes the devil and takes away his claim on you.  And again, the angels appeared and said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5-6)  It is Jesus who has paid for sin, conquered death, and crushed Satan underfoot.  The angels declare God’s love and Jesus’ victory.
     Therefore, rejoice!  For the accuser has been thrown down.  He does not own you or control you.  He can no longer accuse you or afflict you.  Jesus Christ has overruled every taunt and every accusation.  Your guilt has been taken away.  Your sins have been forgiven.  And your death is not to be feared.  For, the Lord Jesus has taken away its terror.  It can only hold you for a short time.  But “now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.” (Revelation 12:7-10)  Your eternity is with God, and your heaven is secure.  There is no war, but only bliss and rest and peace.  For the devil and his demons have been thrown down, and there is no longer any place for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:8)
     The head-crushing blow of the ancient serpent took place when Jesus suffered, died, rose, and ascended into heaven.  There is no longer any question about Jesus’ reign.  And for that reason, there is no longer any question about your forgiveness or salvation.  If Jesus reigns, his word is supreme.  He declares that you are forgiven.  You are saved.  Your eternity will be glorious and joyous.  But the glory has not come for you just yet.
     As pleasing as it is to hear that St. Michael and his angels have thrown down the accuser, and as comforting as it is to hear that Jesus lives and reigns forever, we are alerted to the reality of life in the Church Militant.  Rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:10)
     And there is a war in heaven, that is, in the heavenly realms.  The Church is militant, and the battle rages.  But be sure that you do not mistake your enemy.  You might think that your enemy is a thief or a murderer or a slanderer or a terrorist.  Granted, these things can make life difficult.  They can do some real damage.  But these are not the real enemy.
     And there is a war in heaven.  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)  Thieves can take your things.  Slanderers can take your good name.  Terrorists can take your security.  Murderers can take your life.  But none of them can take your salvation.
     There is a war in the heavenly realms.  Your enemy is still the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  He will not concede that he is defeated.  He still exalts himself as the prince of this world.  He still has no interest in giving up his reign.  He fights hard and he fights dirty.  If he cannot be God, he will play God.  He wants to deceive you with hollow promises.  He lures unsuspecting souls into his trap.  He has no mercy because he does not care.  He has come down in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:12)  He still tempts, still taunts, and still accuses.  He wants you to despair so that you are consumed by your sins and give up on your Savior.
     There is a war in the heavenly realms.  And though you cannot defeat the enemy, your Savior has!  Rejoice!  For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:10-11)  Your victory remains where it always has been.  Jesus does not tell you to make plans to go out and to conquer and to fix the world.  Instead, seek refuge in the Savior who has already won the victory.  “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)  The victory comes through the blood of Jesus Christ which atones for your sins and purifies you.  The victory is heard in the word of the Lord which overrules every accusation of Satan.
     And that is why the Church gathers week after week around the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper.  St. Michael and his archangels are here.  We join with them and with all the company of heaven to laud and magnify the name of our Savior.  The Lamb of God is here.  He who takes away the sin of the world comes here again today to have mercy upon us and to grant us peace.  Here the blood of Jesus Christ is given to take away sins and deliver from death and the devil.  Here, Satan is cast down.  His accusations melt in the presence of God, and the word of forgiveness and salvation stand.
     Rejoice!  For the accuser has been thrown down.  He lies crushed under Jesus’ feet.  And though people may rage against you and you may feel the fury of the devil, do not fear.  Jesus promises, “Nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)  Salvation belongs to our God.  All authority has been given to Jesus, even authority to raise the dead to eternal life.  He commands his angels to watch over you.  He sends his ministers to absolve you.  He himself has won your salvation.  And therefore, he declares peace.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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