“St. Michael and All Angels” by Pastor Sommerer
Sept. 29th, 2019
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, God’s Church celebrates the Festival St. Michael and All Angels, an especially important day as fewer really understand what God’s Word teaches about angels and demons. Angels are part of God’s invisible creation. You won’t become an angel or a squirrel or anything else. If you die believing in Christ, your soul will be with Jesus until the Day God raises your body from the grave. If you die as an unbeliever, you will burn in the eternal fires of hell.
You shouldn’t think your dead loved ones become angels. Don’t think your dead in Christ are doomed watch over you, suffering silently your struggles on earth, or that they’re your guardian angel doomed to take care of your every whim after death. They probably don’t even like doing that while you’re alive.
If you think about it – wouldn’t that be a real drag? To watch your loved ones flail and make mistakes and go through life’s struggles… certainly not what Jesus could call being with Him in Paradise. I’d rather Aunt Tilly rest with Jesus, and rejoice God is more than strong enough to take care of me. The Christian hope isn’t growing angel wings, it’s the resurrection of the body.
Hebrews 1:14 says the angels are “ministering spirits sent from God to serve us who will inherit salvation.” In other words 1) The angels serve God. 2) At God’s command they help us. 3) There are lots of angels and they are strong. There are also lots of demons who hate God and want to destroy everything good – especially faith in Jesus. But remember demons or devils are no match for God, they’re just fallen angels.
Angels do God’s bidding, and the angels’ work glorifies our Lord in heaven. So don’t pray to angels or Mary or anything else – that’s idolatry, making false gods. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” And, for sure, learn how to talk about the Christian hope without making it seem like our dead are angels now.
Since angels are spirit beings – that means no body – It’s interesting that they can take forms… most often as young men. Angels are God’s creation, they don’t “get their wings” every time a bell rings! There are different kinds of angels – cherubim and seraphim – some are pictured with wings in Scripture, sometimes 6-wing seraphim or 4 or two-winged angels – most times wings aren’t mentioned at all.
Only three angels are mentioned in the Bible by name. Gabriel is the Christmas Angel, announcing to Zechariah and then to the Virgin Mary that God’s saving plan was beginning. Gabriel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife, because “the child to be born was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Because of his prominence in the Birth of Jesus, Gabriel is often thought of as an archangel – though Scripture doesn’t refer to him that way.
What’s an archangel, you ask? Well, in God’s angel armies there are ranks – just like in any army – and the highest ranked angel is an archangel or chief angel. In the communion liturgy we sing: “Holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth.” When I was a kid I thought “Sabaoth” meant – Lord God of the Sabbath – as in the day of rest. Really, Sabaoth means armies. So when we sing about the Lord God of Saboath, we’re praising the Lord, God of the angel armies.
The only archangel of God actually named that way in the Bible is Michael the Archangel found in our first two readings. Michael seems to be the angel commander in chief. In Daniel, Michael is the protector of God’s chosen people. In Jude, Archangel Michael protects Moses’ body and takes it to the Lord when Moses dies. In Revelation 12, Michael and his angel armies threw Satan out of heaven after Jesus ascended into heaven. So this is the significance of St. Michael, he’s the Protector of the Church, the angel designate for God’s chosen people.
Sadly, the Bible mentions another angel by name – Satan. Satan was an angel, too, a good creation of God who rebelled against God and many evil angels or demons joined him, falling into sin and falling under God’s judgment. From Revelations 12, we guess that 1/3 of the angels fell with Satan in that initial rebellion against God.
The Bible tells us that after Adam and Eve listened to the devil’s lies and fell into sin, Satan was constantly before God’s throne accusing and condemning God’s people. God promised Adam and Eve to send a Son to crush the devil’s head. Jesus defeated Satan by concealing His Divine nature in human flesh, like fishing bait that hides the hidden hook. The devil knew Jesus was God’s Son, but Satan remembered God’s threat of one who would crush the devil’s head.
When Satan tempted Pilate and the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus, he was like a fish that swallowed the bait. When God raised Jesus from the dead, the devil’s plans were destroyed. In the perfect, sinless life of Christ and by His innocent sufferings, death and resurrection, God fulfilled His promise. Jesus crushed the devil’s head by rising to life. Christ the Savior swallowed up sin and death by gulping it down to the dregs and emptying the cup of death – all that you and I could drink of His waters of life and salvation.
Satan means accuser, but since Jesus defeated the devil on Easter morning. Satan can’t accuse God’s chosen people in the Divine Courtroom. Romans 8 says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Through Jesus’ victorious death and resurrection, Satan was thrown down from heaven. Revelation 12 tells us Michael tossed him out. But like a snake with his head cut off, Satan still flails and lashes out against God’s people.
His days are numbered and we need not fear, but we must be wary. There are demons and devils who want to destroy God’s people. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Wise Christians see the demonic activity all around us and heed the words of 1 Peter 5: “Be self-controlled and alert; your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Stay away from the Ouija boards and New Age junk. Don’t crack a door in your heart to demonic influence. Joined to Jesus’ victory in the waters of Baptism through faith, Jesus said, “No one can pluck you from My hand.”
So what else does the Bible tell us about angels? When one sinner comes to repentance, the Bible tells us the angels of God are celebrating and praising God in heaven. Matthew 18 even says God’s angels are sent to guard and serve his people – especially the little children. On the Last Day Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and the angels will gather the harvest of souls for judgment. 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us Michael will sound the Call that heralds Jesus’ coming. Jesus’ coming will be very visible – not a secret – like lightning from east to west. That’s also why cemeteries are oriented to the East so our dead in Christ will stand up and see Jesus when He comes.
Earlier in the service, we took upon our lips the angels’ song in the heavenly temple: “Worthy is Christ the Lamb who was slain; Power, riches, wisdom and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen.” Our worship is with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. We sing their words, though one day we’ll learn their tunes. We sing their songs because they stand in the presence of God, and so do we when we receive Christ in His true body and blood. As Jesus says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood will have eternal life and I will raise him at the last day.” One day our bodies, fed with Christ, will be carried home by God’s angels. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.