Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sermon: St. Michael & All Angels

29 September 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 10:17-20 (Dan 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Rev 12:7-12)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The last book of the Bible, the Revelation, gives us a crucial piece of understanding the first book of the Bible, Genesis. And without this important piece of the puzzle, all of life itself would seem a mystery.

We are at war.

This is a celestial civil war that pitted God’s loyal angels under the command of St. Michael the Archangel against a rebellious band of angels led by the “great dragon,” that is, “that ancient serpent” that tempted Eve with the seduction of forbidden fruit, who also led Adam ever so willingly into his own grave. This commander of the fallen angels is indeed “Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”

We human beings, created in God’s image, became casualties in this great cosmic war.

Our world is truly a war zone. Our lives are exercises in daily combat. Every breath we take is drawn upon the field of battle. And as much as we try to cover it up with chemicals and perfumes, with surgeries and vain attempts to fool ourselves, we are all dying in this battle, hour by hour, day by day, year by year.

Thanks to our old evil foe, our bodies weaken and wear down as time passes. Our world becomes worse and more decadent and godless with each passing year.

And yet, dear friends, all is not lost. Far from it! In fact, in spite of appearances, we are not only winning this war, but we have won it! For Jesus won it at the cross. The cosmic bomb of His blood was dropped on the enemy. The enemy knows that “his time is short.” And that same blood of Christ, shed for you, is also a Balm of Gilead, oil and wine for our war wounds and battle scars, “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Indeed, even as the battlefield of this earth smolders, and even as the wounded and dying surround us on this contested territory, the victory is ours.

Our Lord declared the triumph when He cried out “It is finished!” He proclaimed victory and announced that the result of this victory is eternal and universal armistice. “Peace with God once more is made.” All that needs to happen now is the final mopping up, the rounding up of the guilty, the trials for the transgressors against God and creation, the executions – and then the final rebuilding will happen.

We are not only at war, but we are in the waning days. The enemy has been routed. The ink on the treaty is still wet. The vault of heaven resounds!

The angels in heaven are the Lord’s ministering spirits, servant-beings who have no physical bodies, yet exist eternally before Him who created all creatures: angels, humans, animals, and all non-living matter as well. And indeed, the Lord created man “a little lower than the angels,” but even that order has changed with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. For “God became man, that Man might become God.” And so men do not worship angels, but now, angels worship the man Jesus and serve mankind at the command of Jesus.

We do not pray to the angels, nor even for them. Rather, we pray with them to the One who has created us, redeemed us, and sanctified us. We pray to Him who sent St. Michael into battle, and who also send us.
The seventy-two preachers sent forth by Jesus to preach in His name were stunned: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” The name of Jesus is wielded like a great sword against our unseen, and yet very real, enemies, even unholy demons. And we fight alongside of St. Michael and all holy angels – though we do not see them either. As we pray with Dr. Luther twice a day, we ask our Heavenly Father to allow that His “holy angel be with [us], that the evil foe may have no power over [us].”

For the Lord Jesus saw Satan “fall like lightning.” And indeed, the Lord gives His servants authority over demons, treading on them like serpents, even as Jesus, the Seed of the woman, has come to crush the serpent’s head. His victory is our victory, because His name has become our name.

We Christians are, as St. Paul teaches us, “more than conquerors” because of the triumphant name given to us by grace and through faith.

God gave the name “Michael” to the chief angel, a name which means “Who is like God?” Even as the name of Christ was given to us Christians, the name of Him, before whom all the angels bend the knee, has likewise been given to the chief among them. For like all of us engaged in this war, Michael is a subordinate, a worshiper of the Christ: to whom his own name points.

Unlike the fallen angel Satan, St. Michael is faithful. Unlike the fallen man Adam, Jesus is faithful. And Jesus fights for all of us fallen men, even as we yet carry around the burden of our own Old Adams, even as the angels serve as God’s messengers to us men created in God’s image.

This good news is why on this day, the Church, not only served by our Lord’s servants, the angels, but also served by our Lord Himself, calls to mind St. Michael and all the angels. We honor the angels who remain loyal to our Lord. We praise the angels for their mighty deeds of valor and fidelity. We pray for the watchfulness of the angels, whose service before the Lord includes protecting us from every harm and danger and battling back against the ruthless evil that constantly and continually threatens us.

And most of all, we thank the Creator for His providence and love in creating these fellow creatures, these angelic beings, these mighty warriors of the unseen world. We thank God for the loyalty and ministry of St. Michael, the “great prince who has charge of [our] people.”

For even as our Lord Jesus has defeated Satan, we know that the heavenly hosts will assist our Lord on that great day when our “people shall be delivered” and, “everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  Amen.

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

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