Sermon for September 29th 2013

Sermon for St. Michael and All Angels, September 29, 2013

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Revelation 12:7-12

Sermon Theme:  “The Truth about Angels and Saints”   

 (Sources:  Emphasis online Illustrations; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 23, Part 4, Series C; Online; Online Aardvark Alley Saint Michael and All Angels; Online Ask us anything St. Michael Saint; Steve Bauer, “How Do Angels Serve God?”; original ideas; Lutheran Cyclopedia; Concordia Journal, Summer 2013; Nelson’s Three-in-One)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

There seems to be more confusion about “angels,” than about perhaps any other subject in the Bible, — mainly because the most popular concepts today regarding angels are un-biblical.  Many of those we get from Hollywood movies.  To be sure, angels are real; it’s just that their reality is misunderstood. 

I want to begin by telling a funny story about angels, — partly because it’s funny, but mainly because it presents the most common misconception about angels that you will find.

Here’s the story: 

Saint Peter sat in his celestial office and wondered at the sad state of affairs on earth.  He needed more information.  Perhaps a spy from heaven could find some redeeming value in the current state of affairs. 

He called in his purest and best angel, Saint Theresa.  “Remain unstained.  Give evidence.  Make regular reports.  I trust your judgment.  For the rest, you’re on your own.”  That’s the way saints are supposed to operate.

A couple of days later, Peter got a phone call.  It was Theresa.  “I’m inNew York.  Evil reigns here.  Everybody’s out for a buck, there’s gang warfare, and even the Broadway plays use bad language.  Can’t I come home?”

Peter said, “Good job.  Press on.  Find out more.  Report back.”

A week later Theresa called again.  “I’m inChicago.  This town is a den of thieves.  Sin and corruption everywhere.  Can I please come home?”

Peter replied, “Have patience.  Be strong.  Look further for the good.  Then you can come home.”  Six weeks later Peter began to wonder what became of Sister Theresa.  She was sent as a pristine observer to a spoiled world.  Had she gotten lost? 

Just then the phone rang.  “Pete, baby, this is Terry.  I’m inHollywood. TinselTown.  Ya gotta come over and see my latest video!  I’m really awesome in it!”

Although there are 19 saints named Teresa, including the well known Teresa of Avila, this one is no doubt Theresa of Calcutta.  She was known as “Mother Teresa” before she died.  But all of them were human beings who died, and then were declared Saints by the Roman Church. 

Thus the story presents the most common fallacy, that saints become angels.  Even if you look at it from the Protestant viewpoint, that all true believers, living or dead, are saints, those dead in heaven do not become angels. Hollywoodmovies show the false picture of human beings dying, going to heaven and becoming angels.  What stirs up the confusion even more is that the Archangel Michael is known as Saint Michael.  Today is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels (also known as “Michaelmas” [                            ], and almost invariably on that day somebody always asks, “Why is the angel Michael called a “saint’?

Unlike most saints, St. Michael theArchangelwas never a human being who lived on earth, but instead has always been a heavenly angel who was declared a saint in honor of his work helping people on earth.  According to Scripture, angels are invisible spirits who sometimes do appear to us human beings as people, but they are eternal spiritual beings who cannot be seen in their natural form, and who cannot die.  In the order of creation, they were created before human beings.  Since the word “saint” means “holy, without sin,” the term could actually be applied to any angel, except for Satan and the other fallen angels (who in the beginning chose sin over holiness).

Another myth is that angels earn their wings.  They do not.  If they have wings, they were created with them, to be manifested in their physical appearance to people.  Still another myth is that angels are cute and adorable like Clarence in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  The angels of Isaiah and revelation are anything but cute, chubby cherubs.  On the contrary, real angels are imposing enough to strike fear and worship in those who see them in the form they choose to appear in.  There are more myths and legends about angels, but they would be pointless to pursue.

In addition to our sermon text for today from Revelation, our Old Testament reading from Daniel, and the last paragraph of our Gospel from Matthew offer true facts about angels.  Those texts, and especially our sermon text, teach us that in addition to serving God as messengers (the word “angel” means “messenger”), they struggle, they sing, and they save from danger.  Let’s look at each of these.

First, they struggle.  In the first few verses of our text, we see a picture of how the angels served God long ago.  “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.”

When Michael, the leader of the Holy Angels, attacks Satan and the other un-holy angels to cast them out of heaven, the evil angels, who made the choice to rebel against God, fight back fiercely.  When God created the angels, He gave them free will, so they made the decision to oppose Him.  Then when they fought with the Holy angels, they lost and were kicked out.

Second, they sing.  After the evil angels, now demons, are cast out, John, in his vision, hears the Holy ones singing, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brother has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

And you remember, two Sundays’ ago, in the sermon text from Luke 15, Jesus tells of the joy in heaven when a sinner repents, not once, but twice, in the text.  We can just hear the angel choirs singing and the archangels’ trumpets blaring!

Third, they save from danger.  In our text, St. Michael and all the angels saved heaven from the danger of Satan and his cohorts.  But when they were kicked out of heaven, the danger was transferred to the earth.  Look at the last words of our text:  “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”  So that’s why we have the devil down here on earth.  However, Michael is still struggling and fighting against him, protecting us from danger.

When you talk about angels, the question always arises, ‘Do people have Guardian Angels?’  Based on Scripture, is that true, or is that just a Roman Catholic belief.  The last paragraph of today’s gospel text from Matthew answers that question if you listen carefully to it.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones” (Jesus is talking either about little children or about all of us who are helpless like little children).  “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  Note the words, “their angels.”  Their angels, — in other words, their guardian angels, the angels who protect.

Psalm 91:11 assures us:  “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”  In Genesis 24:7, God promises to send an angel to protect Abraham.  In Chapter 5 of Acts, God sends an angel to let the Apostles out of prison.  Just a few examples to prove Guardian angels are real.

I want to close with the summation of Pastor David Schmitt, because I can’t say it any better than this:  “This brief but powerful heavenly vision [in our sermon text] offers a way.  The church lives by trusting that the kingdom of God has come and Christ’s authority has been established, by resting assured that on account of Christ all accusations have been silenced, by participating in the victory of Christ through faith in the blood of the lamb, by confessing this faith in  life, by loving Christ more than the preservation of our own lives, by lifting our voices to join in the angelic song of redemption, and by remaining confident that our confession of faith which may seem small and insignificant in this world, a source of controversy for some and ridicule for others, is actually part of a much larger story:  Christ’s ultimate triumph, our earthly participation in his heavenly battle, and an eternal cry of joy.”  Amen.

 The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus