SERMON FOR ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, 9-29-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Collect of the Day:
Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Observing and celebrating this feast of St. Michael and All Angels has a tendency to shake things up a bit. Did you ever hear the phrase “Things got real fast”? It’s popular in internet memes or more of a slang phrase. You say it when the reality of some matter is fully felt or underway.
So it seems to me that the Feast of St. Michael is just one of those days in the church where you might say, “Things get real fast.” Which is to say we are reminded of the gravity of what goes on in the Christian life and what it’s all about. Our faith is no private matter. It’s not a Hallmark special. There’s nothing trite or sentimental about Satan and St. Michael, dragons and demons, and armies of angels. Today, the eternal realities of heaven and hell, death and life and cosmic war become real. And it’s no child’s play.
Today, on the feast of St. Michael, things get real fast. We ponder what we confess in the Creed when we say that we believe in all things visible and invisible. We acknowledge the cosmic battle between Christ and Satan, a cosmic contest that involves the whole visible world, with all its people, including YOU, and the whole of God’s invisible creation as well.
So what sort of war is going on then in the heavenly places? Well, St. John in the Book of Revelation this morning gives us some insight, some heavenly perspective, into this battle.
Listen to the words of John’s revelation: “Now a 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. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
What’s going on here? At the center of this warfare in heaven is Satan’s ability to stand in God’s holy presence and accuse the saints of God. That’s you! So this cosmic war, It’s a war, so to speak, of words – the words with which Satan accuses you of your sins. That’s what the word Satan means after all, adversary, accuser, the one who slanders God’s saints. And sure, he’s got some real dirt on you. On me too. Every last one of us. And if all those accusations could be validated in the heavenly court before God and if the devil alone represented us, we would be lost, utterly consumed, and condemned forever.
So this morning, remember your instruction in Luther’s Small Catechism. That we have a Lord who has redeemed us, rescued us from lordship of the devil’s kingdom and brought us into His own glorious kingdom. He has purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.
How has Christ our Lord done this? How has He won the war of words? Well, not with the puny weapons of this world, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.
And why has He done this for us? Christ has done it that we would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
So know this: the victory of Michael and his angels against the dragon and his evil angels, this war, this casting out of Satan from heaven, took place as a result of Christ’s victory on the cross for your redemption. It’s no coincidence that every icon of St. Michael depicts him with a spear – driving right into the devil’s jaws.
Like I said, this war in heaven is a war of words. Christ’s atonement, His victory on the cross shatters Satan’s accusations of you. Satan can’t speak against you. How could he now that Christ took all that dirt Satan had on you and made it all His. What can the devil slander you with now that Christ, our dear Lord, took those sins of yours, paid for them in full, and triumphed over them all in His resurrection?
You see, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He was coronated and enthroned at God’s right hand. Satan was therefore banished, never again to appear before God’s heavenly court. He was shown for the phony that he was.
This morning Jesus sends out the 72 disciples to preach the Gospel – to preach repentance, faith, and the forgiveness of sins. Those 72 they returned with joy. “Lord,” they said, “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
This morning the kingdom of God advances against the kingdom of the devil. Called ministers of Christ the world over announce the forgiveness of sins – the blood-bought peace of God, proclaiming in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ that all your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That’s the name that drives out demons. So open your ears when you hear Christ Himself absolving you of your sins. And then open up your eyes and see Satan fall like lightning from heaven. He doesn’t represent you anymore! He’s a phony and fraud. Instead, behold Christ, your advocate, speak good words about you before your Father in heaven. Truthful words, that you are loved, forgiven, and belong to Him.
In this war, in this cosmic battle, you are no mere spectator. You are a participant, a victorious foot soldier of Christ, called to the front lines of a battle that’s already won. In Baptism you renounced the devil. You renounced all his works, and all his ways, you broke covenant with him. And you received the gift the Holy Spirit.
With what weapons do you now fight? Well, with God’s own word and promises. You conquer by the blood of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The blood that cleanses you and consecrates you as a holy people when you drink the blood of the Lamb in Holy Communion, trusting in it for your deliverance and safety you overcome Satan.
God’s richest blessings to each and every one of you on this feast of St. Michael and All Angels. This morning, listen again to the preaching of the angels. “Don’t be afraid,” they say. The angel armies surround you all to bring you into communion with Christ and His great love for you. The angels serve you. They preach Christ to you. Those holy angels are more zealous in their protection of you than even Satan in all his wrath. His time, after all, is short. He is defeated. And nothing will hurt you.
This morning things get real. Real as the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you. Like those 72, return to Christ, tread upon the serpents and scorpions on your way to the altar, and say, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Because they are! And treasure in your heart our Lord’s words to you when He says, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.” In the name of Jesus.
Hymn of the Day: LSB #522 “Lord God, to Thee We Give All Praise”
Author: Philipp Melanchthon, 1497-1560
Author: Paul Eber, 1511-69
Translator: Emanuel Cronenwett, 1841-1931
1 Lord God, to Thee we give all praise,
With grateful hearts our voices raise,
That angel hosts Thou didst create
Around Thy glorious throne to wait.
2 They shine with light and heav'nly grace
And constantly behold Thy face;
They heed Thy voice, they know it well,
In godly wisdom they excel.
3 They never rest nor sleep as we;
Their whole delight is but to be
With Thee, Lord Jesus, and to keep
Thy little flock, Thy lambs and sheep.
4 The ancient dragon is their foe;
His envy and his wrath they know.
It always is his aim and pride
Thy Christian people to divide.
5 As he of old deceived the world
And into sin and death has hurled,
So now he subtly lies in wait
To undermine both Church and state.
6 A roaring lion, round he goes,
No halt nor rest he ever knows;
He seeks the Christians to devour
And slay them in his dreadful pow'r.
7 But watchful is the angel band
That follows Christ on ev'ry hand
To guard His people where they go
And break the counsel of the foe.
8 For this, now and in days to be,
Our praise shall rise, O Lord, to Thee,
Whom all the angel hosts adore
With grateful songs forevermore.