Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sermon -- The Festival of St. Michael and All Angels (September 29, 2019)



In the name + of Jesus.

     In Martin Luther's Small Catechism, there are morning and evening prayers for Christians to pray.  Each of those prayers offers this petition: “Let your holy angel be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”  We begin the day asking for God to send his angels to watch over us, and we begin the night with the same request.  This is what God has given his angels to do, as the Scriptures declare: "Are (the angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)  
     We often fail credit angels with the work they do.  I'm sure you've heard it said, and maybe you have said it yourself: “I know that Grandma is watching over us.”  Or you credit some loved one who died unexpectedly or died young.  I suppose it is emotional attachment that leads us to do this, but there is nowhere in Scripture which suggests that the saints who have gone before us are watching over us.  The Bible tells us that they rest from their labors.  They are not given new assignments.  The angels, however, have been assigned to watch over you.  The Psalms state plainly: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11)  
     It is also fairly common for people's fascination with angels to lead to idolatry.  Whether people want to communicate with the angels for special aid or to worship them with prayers or vows, this is idolatry.  Angels are creatures—created by God for his purpose.  Now, the purpose God gives them is to defend and protect his people.  We call upon our God to have them to just that: “Let your holy angel be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”  We thank God for them, but we do not worship them.   Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.
     St. John reminds us of what is at stake regarding the angels and their service: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels 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.” (Revelation 12:7-8)   God did not have to use angels for this purpose, but he chose to.  In the same way, God does not have to use parents to bring people into the world, but he does.  He uses mothers to feed and to nurture children.  He uses fathers to discipline and protect children.  For this, we give God thanks, but we do not worship parents for this.  It is the same with the angels.  And just as we dare not undervalue parents for the service they give to their children, so also we do not want to undervalue the angels whom God uses to serve us.
     The Lord employed St. Michael and all the angels to drive Satan out of heaven.  That means when we finally enter heavenly glory, we will be forever free from all of the temptation, affliction, and destruction the devil plots against us.  We will be forever free from all enemies and will enjoy uninterrupted peace and rest.  For, there (is) no longer any place for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:8)  It is not so on earth.  “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 12:12)  That is why we pray every morning and every night: “Let your holy angel be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.” 
     When we pray for the angels' protection against the wicked foe, we ask God to send his angels to protect us from all that would harm us in body and soul.  We probably think more about protection for our bodies.  We want to be delivered from illness and injury and protected from loss of property and possessions.  But even when the angels deliver us from injury, it is done mainly to protect our souls from harm.  Consider the case of Job.  When the devil wanted to afflict Job, it was not merely to see his portfolio get drained. Satan stripped Job of all that was valuable to him—killing flocks and herds, almost all his servants, and all ten of his children.  Later, Satan afflicted Job's body, leaving him a shriveled man with sores from head to toe.  The point was not merely to make Job miserable.  Granted, Satan wanted to afflict Job with loss, but he stated the reason why.  “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11)  
     Losing your possessions or your health cannot damn you.  But if, in your anger or because of misplaced trust, you abandon the Lord, you forfeit his mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.  That's ultimately what Satan desires.  He does not care about you.  He will continue to harass, afflict, and tempt you.  He will also accuse you—for that is what Satan means, accuser—so that your guilt will consume you.  And that is all the more reason to plead to God: “Let your holy angel be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”  
     Now, for as much as the angels do for you, they do not save you.  They serve you, but they do not save you.  That is done only by the Lord Jesus.  When Jesus came to the world, he did not come as an angel.  He became a man.  The angels marvel at what the Lord has done to save you.  The angels do not need to be saved.  They are confirmed in holiness.  Still, the angels marvel at the grace that God has upon sinners, that he would become a man to unite himself with you.  Jesus took upon himself all of your sins.  Every accusation that Satan could hurl at you, Jesus took for you.  And when Satan had a chance to kill God the Son, he could not help himself.  For, Satan knew that if he could kill off Jesus, he could claim the whole world for himself.  If God in the flesh could not overcome sin, death, and the devil, then all flesh is lost.  Not even the angels could fix that. 
     For you, Jesus gave himself into death with your sins upon him.  He let the grave swallow him up.  But on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave.  All sins have been paid for by his death, and every accusation of Satan is overruled.   Your are forgiven.  All the charges are dropped.  No accusations stick.  By Jesus' resurrection, death and the grave are overcome.  Salvation belongs to our God.  The authority to forgive sins and deliver from death belong to Jesus.  He has done all of these things for you.  For, St. John speaks of the saints: “They have conquered (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11)  Whenever Satan would harass you with your sins or accuse you of your faults, flee to Jesus.  The word of his testimony silences the devil.  Flee to the altar; for the blood of the Lamb purifies you of all sin.  The wicked foe has no power over you; for you are Christ's.
     The day will come when we will depart from this world.  On that day, the angels will carry us to Jesus' presence in heaven.  And there, we will be forever free from all of Satan's accusations, from his harassment and temptations and afflictions.  For St. Michael the archangel and all the other angels have driven the devil and his minions out, “and there (is) no longer any place for them in heaven.” (Revelation 12:8)  This is why the heavens rejoice, and all who live in them.  And then, in that heavenly joy, we will join together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven to laud and magnify the Lord for his grace and his glory. 
     Meanwhile, the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven already join with us in our songs of praise: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” as we come to the altar to partake in the blood of the Lamb for our salvation.  The angels rejoice not because they need God's grace, but because God has acted to save us.  They marvel at how good God is.  They rejoice over even one sinner who repents, and they rejoice over you.  More than that, they rejoice in serving you—in obedience to God and for the good of his people.  God sends them in answer to your prayer: “Let your holy angel be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”  Thanks be to God—the angels are with you.  Satan has no power over you.  For, “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.” (Revelation 12:10)  Because Jesus lives, we too will live.  And all of God's holy ones—saints and angels—rejoice together. 

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

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