St. Michael and All Angels - Matins
Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven, MO
September 29th, 2013
Grace, mercy and peace.... Introductions, etc...
Today we observe an unusual day in the church calendar, St. Michael and All Angels day. We are in some ways, perhaps well acquainted with angels. At least culturally speaking:
We have “Touched by an Angel” and “It's a wonderful life”, books and movies, and a song by Aerosmith. We have angelic precious moments figures, and a guardian angel motorist club. Angels are all around us, but just how biblical are these cultural images and uses?
Scripturally speaking, an angel is a heavenly being which speaks and acts as an agent of God. The good angels are numerous and powerful, and they are ministering servants sent to help God's people in various ways. They are not to be worshiped, nor do we become angels when we die.
In our reading from Revelation, there is pictured in John’s vision, the war in heaven... Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon, that is Satan, and his angels. The good angels of God are victorious, and win the day. The enemy is strong, but the enemy is defeated. Thanks be to God! And though the devil still inhabits the earth, we know his time is short.
But perhaps the most important thing to know about angels, is simply what the word angel means – literally, “messenger”. It's the same word which makes up the ev-angel of evangelism – the good-message or good news. Angels are messengers. And as such, it's not so important who and what they are as it is what they do and especially what they say.
Especially in the New Testament, when God's plan of salvation in Christ takes a major step forward, angels make an appearance, as if by their very presence to highlight the importance of the message: “Glory to God in the highest, for born this day to you in the city of David is the savior, Christ the Lord.” Angels minister to Jesus in the toughest moments of his work for us, in wilderness and garden. Angels bookend the empty tomb and proclaim the Easter message, “He is not here. He is risen, as he said!” And the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God will announce Christ's second coming, when all his angels accompany him, and the final victory celebration is announced.
To be sure, there are false angels, with false messages. Satan himself, a fallen angel, is the father of lies. He wants nothing more than to distort and pervert the true word of God, and turn the good news into bad news. He would tell you that your salvation isn't sure. That it depends on your own good works. And that your sins are too terrible even for God to forgive. He would pollute the Christian message with all sorts of mixed messages to unfix our eyes from Jesus. And his goal is ultimately to drive you to despair and unbelief. Preserve us from the evil foe, oh Lord! Send your angels to strengthen us, and keep us steadfast in your word.
If an angel is a messenger, and what's important is not so much the messenger, but the message, then there's another way to think of angels.
Pastors, are God's angels – his messengers, to you, his people. In fact there is some good reason to think that when John writes, in the book of Revelation, to the angels of the seven churches – he is really addressing their pastors. Now, I've known Pastor Erhard long enough to tell you that he is certainly no angel, but I also know the message he preaches is Christ crucified for sinners like you and me. I know you will hear that message week in and week out, a message of Law and Gospel, sin and Grace. A message which keeps Christ always before you, and which points you to Christ's means of grace: word, baptism, supper. He is your minister, your servant, in this place, to bring you a crystal clear, life-saving, life-changing message of salvation in Christ alone.
But others need to hear this message, too. Some who live in far away places, other continents, even in Singapore. There God also sends messengers so that Christ's message can be proclaimed. The same message to people who have the same problem of sin and death. The same savior crucified and risen for all.
And you people of Trinity, like all of God's people, also bear the message. You do it in a different way than a pastor or missionary or heavenly angel – but you witness and give answer for the hope that is within you. You speak a message when you confess your faith with other Christians, kneel to receive Christ's body and blood (you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes). And your actions of Christian love and service speak sometimes louder than words about the love that you have first known in Jesus. God has called you to various stations and roles in life – parent, friend, worker, citizen, spouse. In all these callings you are God's agents and messengers to bring his message and his gifts to your neighbor. In this sense, you are angelic. Thanks be to God.
But there would be no angels were it not for Christ, the chief messenger of God. The agent of creation, the living word of God, the original (though uncreated) angel. He appears in the Old Testament as the “Angel of the Lord”, and accomplishes God's purposes. In Jesus Christ, the word, the message, is made flesh and dwells among us. Thus he is both the messenger and the message, the author and fulfiller of our faith, the content and the conveyer of our salvation. It's all about Jesus. And Jesus is all about procuring and proclaiming our salvation.
And both for angels, and for us, we can do nothing apart from Christ. We can win no victory apart from him and his message. Read again from Revelation 12, verse 11... concerning that great war in heaven, “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony”.
They conquer Satan and his evil forces. They conquer sin and death itself. As do we... Not by strength of arms. Not by cleverness. Not by novel approaches and fancy programs. Not by excusing sin or rationalizing it. Not by living in denial. Not by trusting in the princes of this world. Not by intellectualism, nor by emotional experience. Not by the will of man or by any decision we make. Not by my own reason or strength in any possible way.
But only, and always, by the blood of the lamb. Only, and always by the word of testimony - to what Jesus has done for us, in his death, in his resurrection, and what he will do when he comes again in glory, all his angels with him. We are more than conquerors, as are the holy angels, always, and only, through Christ.
What a joy to share this message with you today. What a blessing to know we believe and proclaim the same message. That together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven... with pastors and missionaries and all the people of God on earth.... and through the blood of the one who is both messenger and message, even Jesus Christ himself, we have heard, and we believe, and we will live and praise him forever. In Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.