Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sermon for Michaelmas: "Messengers of Jesus"

This sermon was preached at a monthly gathering of Lutheran pastors in Southern California known as the Servants of the Word. We pray Matins, read and discuss the Lutheran Confessions, eat good food together, and have a good time doing it. 

+ St. Michael and All Angels - September 29th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Servants of the Word gathering
Revelation 12:7-12

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today is not “Touched by an Angel” day, nor is it “Angels in the Outfield” day, or even “Charlie’s Angels” day. It is the lesser known and perhaps even lesser celebrated festival of St. Michael and All Angels. Thankfully, our collective amnesia in the Church can’t cause a super blood moon eclipse to overshadow this important holy day of the Church.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of an odd church festival. St Michael isn’t one of the disciples, though he does our Lord’s bidding. He isn’t an evangelist, though he is a messenger of the good news. And he’s not like the saints of old who were martyred for the faith, though he is a witness to Christ all the same. St. Michael is an angel.

Every Sunday Christians confess the angels in the Creed. God is the make of all things visible and invisible. And that includes the angels.

And just so we’re clear, angels are nothing like the cute, cuddly pictures we see on Hallmark cards. Isaiah didn’t run up and pinch the cherub’s cheeks and St. John would never have dreamed of giving a noogy to the seraphim. No, angels are not the romanticized beings we see on our grandm’s wall paintings. They’re a bit more like Jedi Knights or the elves and good wizards of Middle-Earth, or perhaps the Navy SEALs. In other words, they are bad-asses. They evoke a sense of fear and reverence, awe and holiness whenever they appear.

That’s why the first thing out of their mouths is almost always: “Do not be afraid.”
And the next thing is always some kind of message. After all, that’s their job. Angels waste no time talking about themselves. They have a message to deliver. Angels want no worship or attention focused on them, only that we hear the message.

Like Zechariah who heard the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. Or Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds who heard the good news that a Jesus was born to save us from our sins.

And so, just like every other major or minor festival day of the church year, Michaelmas really isn’t a day to celebrate St. Michael just for St. Michael’s sake; it’s about Jesus. There’s a ranking. Michael and all angels understood that, Satan did not. Jesus is the Lord God of Sabaoth, the commander in chief of the heavenly armies. Jesus gives the orders and the angels do his bidding. That’s their job. They’ve no action apart from God’s bidding. God sends. The angels speak. Their task is simple: declare the gospel, and defend God’s people.

Sound familiar? It should. That’s our task as well. God sends and we speak. We’re his messengers sent to do his bidding. Declare his Gospel. Defend the faith. O Lord, open our lips and our mouths will declare your praise. Jesus is our captain and we are his foot soldiers. And our orders are simple: we preach Christ crucified.

We do not slay the dragon. Jesus has already done that for you. The devil may scowl fierce as he will; he may fool you into thinking you’re alone in the battle against him, that you’re not the messenger you promised to be at your ordination, that you’re better off like Elijah hiding in a cave or Moses stuttering away in fear, or that when God’s Word is declared nothing is happening. But he’s wrong, dead wrong. And besides all that, Satan is still an angel…and a liar…and he’s defeated.

Michael fought him and won because Jesus is the boy the devil had feared ever since the Garden of Eden.

We too fight – not against flesh and blood – but against the rulers and authorities of this present darkness. We fight against the devil’s cunning as he sends wave after wave of false teaching. We fight against the devil’s assault on marriage, human life, male and female, and a host of other battlefields. We fight against the devil’s insurgence in our pews and his attempt to capture the throne room of our hearts.

But this is St. Michael and All Angels day, not Satan's day...he has none. He's defeated. Michael, all angels, you his messengers and ministers, and all people triumph in Jesus, for he has triumphed for you. And that means you are never alone in the foxhole.

For… 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.

Satan is conquered. Our sin is defeated. Death is destroyed. And we’re victorious, just like Michael was…all because of Jesus.

And so the closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to his angels. That’s what we sing every Sunday too, isn’t it…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…

You want to visit with angels? Go to the Lord’s Supper. Go to the scriptures. Hear the absolution. Receive the forgiveness of sins. Remember and live in your Baptism. For there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than a thousand who need no repentance.

Today we rejoice in God’s gift of angels. And we rejoice all the more in the message they bear that points us to Jesus. Today really is about Jesus, the one to whom all angels, all pastors, and all people look to as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer.

Do not be afraid. Behold I bring you good tidings of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto us is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
(Psalm 103:20-22)

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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