Angels At Work Defending Us
Four Part Sermon Series; From Where Does My Help Come?
Daniel 10:10-14/12:1-3, Rev. 12:7-12, Matthew 18:1-11
September 27 and 28, 2019
Michael and All Angels / 16th Sunday After Pentecost
Psalm 121 – I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have a theory I’d like to run past you in this four- part sermon series. It is that there are only two kinds of people – those who need help and realize they need help and those who need help but don’t think they do.
Permit me to get personal. Did you come to church this morning looking for help to make it through this week, or did you come, as Forest Gump might say, for no particular reason?
Two parts to our sermon today:
Part I – We all need (help.) Back in 1975 or so, Debi and I were married, in college, didn’t have a lot of money, and didn’t always think things through very well. It was a summer weekend, and we were invited to a campground by friends of ours several hours north of the Cities. And so we took off after work in our 1968 Mustang, arrived at the campground in darkness, and had no idea how to find our friends. No cell phones in those days. No idea what their camper looked like or even what kind of vehicle they drove. And so we decided to sleep in our car and wait for daylight. Except it was hot, and the mosquitoes were bad, and so we decided to drive back to our college apartment. Except we were tired, and could hardly keep our eyes open. We needed help, oh how we needed help. It is our belief that an angel drove our car the past 8 or 9 miles or so. I opened my eyes on the corner of Lexington and Marshal, and I repeat, it is our belief that an angel drove our car the past 8 or 9 miles or so. (My hunch is that if I asked for a show of hands, a fair number of you all would have similar close call stories to tell, stories of angels watching over you and your families.
Part I is that we all need help, but it’s by no means an occasional help that we need. Every day we need assistance in resisting the devil, who is like a lion roaring around, seeking him who we devour. In both Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers, we pray that God would send his angels to be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us. In Baptism liturgy, we say it again and again that we renounce the devil and all of his works and ways. In our Lord’s Prayer we have prayed it thousands of times, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There is a 16th century painting by Gerard David titled St. Michael Defeats the Seven Deadly Sins. There are seven demons underneath St. Michael’s feet representing the seven deadly sins. This painting reminds us that these sins are evidence of Satan’s work among us.
The 7 sins the ancient church has considered deadly are lust, gluttony, and greed. They are sloth and out of control anger, they are envy and pride. Every day, Satan and his angels have an agenda, which is to draw everyone of us away from Jesus Christ and all that is true and right and salutary. The Bible says that the evil angels were created holy, but they sinned and are forever rejected by God. The Bible says the evil angels are cunning, they are powerful, and they are of great number. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I’m still wondering – did you come to church looking for help today, or as Forest Gump might say, did you come for no particular reason?
Sermon Part II – Help has already arrived, and this very day, help is (on the way. ) Three sets of comforting truths we would offer today about this help that has already arrived, and is in fact on the way in this hour. The first set of comforting truths is about St. Michael, the second is about the good angels, and the third is about Jesus Himself.
What we know about Michael
The Feast of St. Michael and all angels dates back to the 4th century in the eastern church and the 12th century in the western church. In the 16th century, Luther rejected all kinds of saints days from the church calendar, he felt there was too much superstition included. But this feast he encouraged because it pointed so clearly to Christ and the very comforting nature of the doctrine of the angels.
We hear of Michael three times. First in our Old Testament reading for today, a messenger came to Daniel while Daniel was in captivity in Babylon. Daniel needed help, and one angel showed up to do just that. Daniel must have presented a sorry sight, crouching on hands and knees, trembling in fear. Here we find an Angel showing God’s love to a broken man, an angel stooping in love to help a man laying unconscious near the Tigris River, an angel reminding Daniel he was precious to God, an angel giving him information God wanted him to know about future generations.
The messenger tells Daniel that he would have been there sooner but had been delayed because he was being held by the kings of Persia. But then Michael, one of the chief princes came to help him. The angel tells Daniel things would get worse before they got better, but that Michael, the great prince would be in charge of the nation of Israel. Michael, the great prince would be delivering his people, Michael, the great prince would be watching over everyone whose name would be found written in the book of life.
Dear friends, we learn today, along with Daniel, not to be discouraged, no matter what the world is throwing our way. Do not be discouraged, there are forces at work in the world we don’t know about and we cannot see. We trust in a God who is charge both of the visible and the invisible.
A second time we hear of Michael is in the book of Jude, where we read that Michael challenged the devil over false teaching about the body of Moses. While on the one hand, churches and pastors and teachers in every generation are called to contend for the truth of God’s Word against false teaching and false doctrine that comes from men and women……..there it takes Michael the archangel to contend directly with the father of lies, the Satan himself.
A third time we hear of Michael is in our second reading for the day, where John catches a glimpse of the invisible, he sees war in heaven. He sees Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. He sees the casting of Satan out of heaven, which culminates with the ascension of Jesus back into heaven, where he is forevermore sitting at the right hand of his father, ruling all of heaven and earth.
You may remember that back in the day of Job, the devil was permitted to stand in the presence of God and accuse Job of being righteous only because God had blessed him so richly, the devil was permitted to stand in the Council of Angels before God in heaven, he asked for and received permission from God to afflict Job as few men have been afflicted.
Dear Friends in Christ, such good news we have on this Feast of Michael and All Angels, as a result of the suffering, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Christ into heaven, the dragon, aka the ancient serpent, aka our adversary, aka the devil has been cast out of heaven, out of the presence of God. Oh he still roams the earth and causes all kinds of trouble. His leash has been shortened, and in the last days, it will be lengthened, and he will cause even more trouble, but praise be to God, help has already arrived, and this very hour, help is on the way.
What we know about the good angels – The Bible / Catechism tells us three truths about the good angels. #1 the good angels are holy spirits confirmed in their bliss. They are a fixed number, and no, it is not true that when loved ones die, they become angels. When baptized and believing people die, they go into the presence of Christ, and their bodies go into the ground to await the resurrection of the dead. The Bible / Catechism tells us that good angels are of great number and great power. In Daniel, thousands upon thousands of angels, even millions of angels are minister unto Jesus. In 2 Kings 19 one solitary angel slaughtered 185,000 of Sennacherib’s army. Let that settle in the next time your grandchild is afraid of the dark or your child is afraid of classmates at school or you are trembling at what the future might bring your way. In today’s Gospel lesson, we learn once again that angels spend their days praising God, they spend their days carrying out his commands, and specifically, they serve as guardians over God’s people, especially the children.
We think today about every child that is baptized in this sanctuary, we think about the 80 or 90 children in our Sunday School, we think about the 100 or 110 children in our Lutheran School, we think about the 50 pre teens in our confirmation classes, we think about the 80 or 90 teenagers in our Release Class time these days, and we hear Jesus saying, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save the lost.
In the church, there is truly no child left behind. Oh parents will still be making all kinds of mistakes, and school systems and Sunday Schools and Confirmation Classes will be far from perfect, but every child, with no exception, will have an angel watching over him, every child, with no exception will have an assigned angel with intimate access to God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
Dear friends, two lessons in closing today, as we realize #1 that we all need help and #2 help has already arrived, and in this very hour, help is on the way. Lesson #1 is to not be overconfident, and Lesson #2 is to never despair. We learn not to be overconfident for this simple and frightening reason – the devil and his angels are many, they are cunning, they are nasty, they are powerful, they don’t play fair. But lesson #2 is to never despair. We know that Michael and his angels number more than the evil ones, we know that the good angels are smarter, they are more powerful, they are in the presence and do the bidding of our father who is in heaven, they rejoice every time a single sinner repents, we know three are legions upon legions of angels fighting the same battle in the same world right along side of us.
What we know about Jesus
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who know that their help comes from their Lord who made heaven and earth. They know that it wasn’t for the angels that Jesus left the right hand of the Father almighty and came in the flesh, it was for them. They know that it wasn’t for the angels that Jesus went to the cross with his physical body and was crucified until he was dead and buried. It was for them. They know it wasn’t for the angels that Jesus paid the price and cancelled the debt and drank the full cup of a righteous God’s wrath. It was for them. They know that it wasn’t for the angels that Jesus Christ rose upon the third day, ascended into heaven on the 40th day, and sent out his Spirit on the 50th day, it was for them. They know it is not the angels that Jesus gives his body and blood to eat and drink. It is for them. On their normal days, they stumble, they fall, and they need all kinds of help. But they know exactly where to go for that help, and on their good days, they stave off discouragement, they do battle with the temptation to be full of themselves, and by the grace of God they never despair. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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