27 September 2015
Text: Matt 18:1-11 (Dan 10:10-14; 12:1-3, Rev 12:7-12)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
And they were both good, perfect in fact. But something happened in heaven: Satan and his rebel angels defied God’s will. And in this context we are taught about the Archangel Michael: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon.” St. Michael is a warrior.
And though angels exist in a plane of reality outside of our universe, being eternal and having no fleshly body, artwork depicting St. Michael the Archangel shows him not only with angel’s wings, but with a muscular, masculine form, and carrying a weapon.
And as is often the case, this cosmic conflict was not contained. It spread from the heavenly plane to the earth, from the invisible to the visible, from the realms of spirit to the world of flesh. The angelic rebellion was then joined by the humans, by Adam and Eve, who in their greed to “be like God,” were tricked into joining Satan’s rebellion.
And so the entire creation is at war. We cannot see with our eyes the underlying reality of this vast War Between the Angels. But as with any war, there are casualties, atrocities, death, destruction, and both courage and cowardice, as well as both honor and horror.
And in this epic conflict, St. Michael is the chief archangel, whose name means “Who is like God.”
In the days of our Old Testament reading from Daniel, God’s people were under the domination of the Persians. And this earthly conflict seems to spill over into the heavenly realms, as St. Michael, “who is like God” in his faithfulness, contends for the people of God, even though they are descendants of Adam and Eve who wanted to “be like God,” but who most certainly were not “like God” in their sin.
And even today, the warfare is all around us, even when we can’t see it.
Our Lord Jesus even tells us that the “little ones” are under the divine protection of “their angels” who “always see the face” of the Father in heaven. Even children who innocently snuggle in with their mothers are targeted for death and destruction by Satan and his ruthless rebellious demons. What a great blessing that St. Michael and his holy legions defend us, though we can’t see them.
Before the two falls, both the one in heaven and the one on earth, there were no conflicts. Everything was just as it should be. Every creature carried out the will of God like a precisely running clock. Every galaxy and every electron spun perfectly in its orbit without conflict or collision. But when sin was introduced, it all changed. Now things crash into other things: be they inanimate objects, animals, or humans. The clock is broken, and is winding down thanks to wear and tear and friction and competition for space and time.
And this is the warfare, dear friends. This chaos explains everything from dying stars to hurricanes, cancer to genocide, violence to vainglory. And angels are dispatched by God to protect His people. This is why Luther’s morning and evening prayers both ask God to send his holy angel to be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.
Most of these warriors are not known to us by name. But Michael (who is like God), is mentioned by name in Scripture, as is Gabriel (whose name means “God is my strength”), and as is Raphael, (whose name means “God heals”) mentioned in the Book of Tobit. All throughout the Bible we are told that there are legions and myriads of angels.
And just as all of these names end in “el” – which means God – they are all under the command of a man whose name also ends in “el” – that is Immanuel, “God with us.” Immanuel is our imminent God, the God who is indeed with us as one of us. Jesus is not merely like God, but is God who has come to restore humanity to communion with God. He is not merely one who reminds us that God is our strength, He is our strong God who defeats death and the devil for us. He is not merely a messenger who reveals that God heals, rather He is the God in the flesh who heals us by His Word and Sacraments.
For as high and exalted as the angels and archangels are, we humans have cause to consider ourselves of even higher estate. For one of us, Jesus of Nazareth, Immanuel, is God. He is the commander of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, of angels and archangels, and of all the company of heaven.
What comfort, dear friends, to know that God doesn’t leave us on our own to face sin, death, and the devil. Jesus has conquered all of these, and sends His angels to keep us safe. For how many temptations have we been spared from because Michael, under the orders of the God that he is like, threw the dragon down? How many accidents have been diverted and never happened because Gabriel is strong on God’s behalf and protected us? How many illnesses never took hold of us because Raphael heals us under the authority of Christ, our great physician?
Indeed, how many children avoided falling into the minefield of sin and death and the devil because “their angels always see the face” of our heavenly Father?
And while the war rages on until the second coming of our Lord, we know who the victor is. He won the victory at the cross when He paid for our sins by His blood and declared once and for all, with the authority of the One who is God: “It is finished!” He celebrated that victory when He descended into hell to strongly proclaim His kingdom even to death and the demons. He made that victory known when He healed His own dead body when He rose from death.
He shares that victory with the very little ones whom He protects through His angels, by calling men to forgive sins by His authority, to baptize in His name, to give out the Holy Supper in accordance with His Words of Institution and life-giving gospel. And at the preaching of this Word and the administration of the sacraments, there is truly joy in heaven that cannot be contained. For the final victory in the heavens and the earth is imminent and certain.
And, dear friends, when this happens, chaos will be replaced by communion; our crashing and clashing universe will again run like a perfect clock; discord will give way to concord; swords will be beaten into plowshares; no more will galaxies and electrons crash into one another; no more will accidents, natural and manmade, occur. Thus will all sadness and sorrow come to an end. There will be no more separation, conflict, want, misery, warfare, rebellion, punishment, nor death itself.
And Michael will lay down his sword and join us in the perfect peace of eternity. Gabriel will no more have to be the messenger of the strength of God, for we will all be in God’s presence. Raphael will no longer have to communicate to us the healing power of God, for there will be nothing left to heal.
And these guardians, these watchers and holy ones, will no more have to protect the little ones from harm, for there will be no more harm. Indeed, dear friends, we look forward to the end of the strife, the spoils of victory, and the triumph of harmony over and against the evils of chaos. And these angels and archangels will join us, the company of heaven, to laud and magnify the name of the Lord, praising the Triune God with us, we who will “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.