“Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels” (Revelation 12:7-12)

St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2019

“Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels” (Revelation 12:7-12)

Today in the Christian church year is Michaelmas, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. It always falls on September 29, and since this year that date falls on a Sunday, that’s why we’re celebrating it today. Angels, thus, will be topic of this sermon: who they are, what they do, and why we thank God for them. We’ll even get into who this mysterious figure St. Michael is. So now let’s get to it, under the theme, “Thanking God for St. Michael and All Angels.”

First of all, we should explain who angels are, their nature, what kind of beings they are, according to Holy Scripture. We can begin by saying that angels are created beings. Sometime during the six days of creation, the Lord God created these beings we call angels. They are unseen spirits, doing the will of God. “Ministering spirits,” the Bible calls them. “God’s secret agents,” you might say: “Secret,” in the sense that human beings rarely have ever been allowed to see angels, to know exactly what they’re doing at any given time. And “agents,” in that angels act at God’s direction and by his authority.

The Bible is clear throughout that there is an unseen spirit world, with lots going on that we mere mortals are not privy to. We may see the results of this unseen spiritual activity in our world: in human history, in the rise and fall of nations, in the protection and safety of the church or even of individual believers. We may see the results, but we do not see the angelic activity itself. Sometimes at key moments in salvation history God did let humans catch a glimpse of what’s going on in the spirit realm. We have those moments recorded for us in the Scriptures. And that’s the only place where you will find reliable information about angels, that is, in the Bible. Do not base your theology of angels on what you see in TV shows or movies or on what some person claims an angel told them in a private revelation. No, only in God’s Word do we get the solid truth about angels.

And the truth about angels, as we survey the Scriptures, we can briefly summarize in three words: messengers, worshipers, and warriors. We’ll take these now one at a time.

One, angels are messengers. In fact, the word “angel” means “messenger.” The Greek word “angelos” can be translated as that, as “messenger.” That’s the word used to identify these unseen spirit beings, because often when we encounter them in the Bible, that’s what they’re doing: they are delivering a message. God sent angels to deliver messages to man, particularly at key moments in God’s dealings with mankind.

For example, the angel Gabriel was sent, first to Zechariah, to announce the coming birth of John the Baptist, and then to the virgin Mary, to announce that she would give birth to the Christ child. And when she did, an angel appeared to shepherds out in a field, to tell them that that night a Savior had been born to them, which is Christ the Lord. Then, from Christ’s birth, we fast forward to his resurrection and ascension. Again, angels are there to deliver a message. The angels at the tomb tell the women, “He is not here. He is risen, just as he said.” Forty days later, at Jesus’ ascension, angels tell the disciples: “Why do you stand staring up into the heavens? This Jesus will come again in the same way you saw him go up into the heavens.” So at key moments in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, you find angels delivering a message from God, explaining that moment to the persons who witness it. Angels are messengers.

Second, angels are worshipers. Go back to Christmas night. After the one angel delivers the message to the shepherds, a whole host of angels light up the sky and sing the praises of God: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” That’s worship. And in the throne room scenes of Revelation, angels lead the praises of God. That’s what angels were doing back in the temple scene of Isaiah, singing “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of thy glory.” Notice, by the way, how the angels, in their worship of God, set the pattern for the worship of the church. In the historic Christian liturgy, the main canticle in each half of the Divine Service is based on one of these songs of the angels: the Gloria in Excelsis in the Service of the Word, and the Sanctus in the Service of the Sacrament. Angels are worshipers, and we in the church follow their lead and join in their worship.

Angels are messengers. Angels are worshipers. Third, angels are warriors. Warriors? Yes, warriors. Now this does not fit with the popular image of angels as rather soft, even effeminate, creatures, or else as cute little cherubs with rosy cheeks. No, those are not the biblical picture of angels. In the Bible, when angels are described, they can be fiery and frightening. Rather than “Touched by an Angel,” it’s more like “Torched by an Angel.” In the Bible, when angels appear to human beings, they startle and scare them, so that the angels invariably have to say, “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid.”

Angels are fearsome warriors. They do battle for God. They are his heavenly host, God’s troops that he sends out to do battle for us, to defend us against any evil forces that would harm us, whether seen or unseen. God’s angels are our guardians and protectors, guarding the church as a whole, protecting particular churches in various places, and even guarding individual Christians. They guard us against all types of harm, both physical and spiritual. We can’t say for sure that every individual Christian has his own guardian angel assigned to him, but we can say, with thanksgiving and confidence, that God does send his angels to watch over us. As Luther puts it in the Daily Prayers, “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

Now this brings us to the special focus of this day, namely, how God guards and protects us with his angels. In particular, how St. Michael the Archangel does battle for us, so that the old evil foe, the devil, does not have any power over us.

St. Michael is a rather mysterious figure in the Bible, only mentioned by name a few times. You see him mentioned in the readings today from Daniel and Revelation. The name Michael is a Hebrew name, “Mi-cha-el,” which means, “Who is like God?” Good question. Indeed, who is? No one can match God in his power and majesty. But Michael the Archangel, as God’s appointed agent acting with his authority, is one who is like God in his power and might. Michael is the angel God uses to throw down Satan from his position of power over humanity.

How can Michael do this? On what basis? Here is where the gospel in all of this comes in. The reason Michael can defeat the devil in battle is because Christ has defeated him on the cross. This is why St. Michael and All Angels is considered a Christ festival. That’s why the paraments this morning are white. St. Michael and All Angels have their prominence because they glorify the person and work of Christ. They carry out the victory he has won for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has defeated the devil and all evil, and therefore St. Michael and All Angels can act to throw down Satan and to guard and protect the church.

The message from Michael today is this: We win. We Christians win the final victory because Jesus has won the victory for us. Jesus has redeemed us from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. Remember, this was promised right from the beginning, when God cursed the serpent and told him that the woman’s seed would strike him in the head, dealing him the fatal blow. Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, is the woman’s seed, and he dealt the devil that death blow when he, Jesus, was nailed to the cross. Our Champion Jesus took our sins and carried them to the cross and suffered and died for the sins of the world. Jesus descended into hell and declared his victory there. He rose from the dead on the third day, showing that his life has power over death. Jesus ascended into heaven and now is interceding for you.

So now, there’s no longer any place in heaven for Satan, the accuser of our brothers. He has been thrown down. Jesus took away the devil’s ammunition against you. Satan has nothing left to charge you with before God. Your sins are forgiven. You who have been baptized into Christ share in his eternal life. Jesus’ victory is yours. We conquer by the blood of the Lamb.

So it is on that basis of the decisive victory Christ has won that God dispatches Michael the Archangel and the angel army to throw down Satan: “Now 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.”

Michael and his mighty warriors win the day. Your future is secure, dear Christian. Walk on in, the way is clear. And God will send his angels to see that you get there. “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” No evil shall prevail against you.

Today on this Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, we have heard that angels are unseen ministering spirits sent to do God’s will. They are messengers, they are worshipers, and they are warriors. They serve and protect. They serve God, and they protect us, God’s people. The power they have to throw down Satan and guard the church comes from the victory Christ has won for us by his death and resurrection. For all this, we rejoice and give thanks. Today we worship and praise God for the mighty ministry of St. Michael and All Angels.

Published in: on September 27, 2019 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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