+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today we recognize and celebrate the day of St. Michael and All Angels. Although the day is named after an archangel, in this case Michael, the celebration isn’t primarily about Michael or about angels. Rather, it is to celebrate God’s protective care of us and to remind us of the militant nature of the Church as we wrestle against things the eye can’t see and the mind can scarcely comprehend. Hidden behind the ordinary and mundane events of our lives a battle rages between good and evil, between the redeemed of God and those condemned, those damned by their own rebelliousness and evil intent. Our fight, the Apostle reminds us, is not with flesh and blood, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Since trying times make us vulnerable to discouragement and even doubt, the spiritual battle rages most intensely at those times when we think the earthly struggle is primary. April 2 of this year was one of those days for one of our church families. It was the day that little Adeline Johnston was born. On that day, all of the focus was on the temporal gifts of God, a skilled medical and nursing team who brought Addie into the world. With a lot of care and love Addie is now a happy, smiling little girl, who brings joy to her parents and to all those who see her smiling little face.
But, as amazing as Addie’s birth was, premature as she was, it wasn’t the most amazing thing that happened on April 2, nor was it the only struggle, the only fight that took lace that day. Once Addie was brought into this world, the real fight was yet to come. Shortly after she was taken to the neo natal ICU her dad and I stood over her tiny little body and through water and God’s Word she was given the new birth in Holy Baptism. I have to tell you, my friends, nothing demonstrates the mercy and love of God like the baptism of a helpless little child and none appear more helpless than one born premature! On that day, God, through water and His Word, literally reached down into time and space to snatch Addie from the devil’s hands and to take her up into His arms! He put His hand on her and said, “Adeline Johnston you are mine! I have bought you with a price, the life of My own dear Son!” It was a fight Christ would win! We knew that already because of the promise of His Word. But, it was a fight nonetheless, one the eye could not see, but, a fight in which Christ, the Valiant One, once again emerged victorious over sin, death and the devil himself.
There are a lot of those kinds of battles that go on in our lives. Oh, we never see them, but they happen. Long before the battle was fought over Adeline, or over any of us, there was another crucial battle fought 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.”
Why a battle in heaven!? Why would angels be fighting one another!? All that God created is good, right! Well, what else could it be? God isn’t capable of evil. Even the devil, the dragon was created to worship and serve God and His creation. He was not, however, willing to do so. Thus, before Adam even ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree the devil had fallen from his heavenly home. Michael and his angels fought valiantly and they prevailed. The dragon and his angels were thrown down to the earth. It is here, in this earthly plane, that the devil fights against all that is good and right and holy. Human beings, created to love and serve God, are the focus of his attack. And Christians, who have been adopted into God’s kingdom of grace through the water of Baptism, are on the front lines of the battle, for they have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and the devil wants only to draw them, you, back into the darkness.
John, who by way of a vision witnessed the great celestial battle between Michael and the devil, went on to tell you how you are going to win the battle over the devil and his minions. After the devil was thrown down to the earth, John says, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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 brothers 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. “
Friends, don’t ever think you can win the battle over Satan by your own strength! You cannot and you will not! You will fail! You will be defeated! You will be consumed by the darkness! I know you know that to be true and you believe it. You have, after-all, sung of it many times. “The old evil foe now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; On earth is not his equal. With might of ours cannot be done, Soon were our loss effected.” You are no match for the devil and his wickedness!
God, however, is more than a match for the devil and it is He who fights on your behalf. “For us fights the valiant One, whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabbaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.”
Your victory over sin, death and the devil are guaranteed in Christ! Though the devil accuses you night and day, holding your sins ever before you, he is put at bay by the testimony of Christ. Yes, devil, I am guilty of all the sin of which I am accused, but, there is One who stands between me and you, indeed, there is One who stands between me and damnation, Christ, my crucified and risen Lord! It was a bloody fight to win you from the consequences of who you are and what you’ve done, but Christ willingly fought on your behalf, and though it was His blood that was poured out for you, in His resurrection that blood has cleansed you and made you whole before Almighty God.
So, to borrow a few words from that paragon of theological insight, Charley Daniels, we can say with absolute confidence, “just come on back devil if you ever want to try again.” I will, by God’s grace, hold before you my crucified Lord and you will slither away once again in powerless impotence, for “greater is He that is in me than you who are in the world.”
You win the victory, my friends, over the devil by the “blood of the Lamb and by the word of your testimony.” And God, who is rich in mercy, assures you that you will win the victory over the forces of darkness, for you are surrounded by an army of angels, who are appointed to defend and serve you. Luther reminded himself daily of that promise in the prayer that he prayed each morning. “I thank Thee my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger. And I pray Thee that Thou would keep me this day from sin and every evil that all my doings and life may please Thee. For, into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me.”
God sends the protection for which we ask. And the angels He sends are not those plump little creatures we often think of when we think of angels. No, they are, as Michael is pictured on the front of your bulletin, formidable creatures, warriors who protect you and fight on your behalf “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
So, you see, we have every reason to celebrate St. Michael and All Angels day. It reminds us that so many of God’s blessings are unseen, and yet, they are so very, very real. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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