Eigteenth Sunday after Trinity
Sunday of St. Michael and All Angels
Observed September 30, 2018
A War Already Won
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Angels have several jobs. They are messengers (indeed, angel literally means messenger) who are sent by the Lord to deliver key messages to human beings. Think of the angel Gabriel speaking to Joseph while the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus Christ.
They also stand in heaven and sing praise to the living God. Think of the song we sing every Sunday as we gather around the Holy Sacrament: “Holy is the Lord of hosts! The whole earth is full of His glory!” This is the song of the angels revealed to us in the prophecy of Isaiah.
Here in our reading from the Revelation to Saint John, we see another job: to protect and guard and fight for God's people. We know that the Lord God has sent us guardian angels. These good and kind creatures aren't a metaphor or symbol; they are actually working to keep us safe, body and soul. They are working for their Lord and for us, His people, by working against the Devil and his evil angels.
It's a war. We see a glimpse of this on-going conflict in Daniel's prophecy. Some demons were trying to work behind the scenes to harm God's people as they lived in exile in Persia. We aren't giving many details and what we are told is perplexing:
However, an officer of the kingdom of Persia was standing against me for twenty-one days. Yet Michael, one of the chief officers, came to help me, for I had been left there against the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 EHV)
Behind the scenes in battles that are mostly hidden from our eyes, God's angels are contending with the demonic forces of the Devil. Paul the Apostle speaks of this war in his letter to the Ephesians:
Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities and cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)
The Devil is fighting to replace Christ as the One who gets to speak the final word about us before God's throne. While Christ speaks forgiveness and peace before His Father in heaven, the Devil, Satan, wants to accuse us of all our sin and have us sent away from God's gracious presence forever.
This war is a war of words. But it is a war already won. And it was won by more than words—blood was shed. While many believers have been and will continue to be attacked and murdered because they bear the name of Christ, there is only one fountain of blood that wins us into God's presence. The blood of Christ shed on Golgotha is the winning sacrifice that forever unites us to Him and drives the Devil away.
But like the old evil foe that he is, the Devil refuses to quit, even though he has already lost. Why would an enemy keep on fighting even when victory is impossible? Because rebels who hate God are vicious and irrational. They know they have lost, but want to murder as many souls as they can before they are finally sent away. There are many differences, but the raging anger of fighting despite the evidence might be seen recently in the final days of the Second World War. After D-Day, the Nazis were finished for all intents and purposes. But Hitler made them fight. After the Battle of Midway, the tide turned against Imperial Japan and they hurled suicide planes against our ships. Senseless death in the face of certain defeat.
This is where we find ourselves, in the midst of a war. We were born into this war on the losing side, but Christ brought us onto His side. Our baptism makes us victors in His name.
We are given glimpses of this heavenly battle raging, but mostly we are aware of our own battles against our sinful flesh, this evil world, and its prince, the Devil. And we fight with friends, our brother Jesus Christ, who died for us, and His servants, His angels who guard and protect us in ways that we usually don't see. But they are there and they care for us.
And now we can't lose even when we lose our reputation, our children, or our health. Lose in this life still hurts, but its sting is not fatal. Our pain will not kill our souls. But we do suffer because we are in a war. But the One who has suffered for us will never turn on us. He will never accuse us; instead He will lift us up with good words about us to His Father. And His Father will listen to His Son, because of His death and resurrection for us.
There was also a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought with the dragon. The dragon fought back along with his angels, but he was not strong enough. There was no longer a place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down—the ancient serpent, the one called the Devil and Satan, the one who leads the whole inhabited earth astray—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7–9 EHV)
When Christ died for us, the great dragon, the Devil, was defeated once and for all. This is the victory won by Michael and by us, but really by Christ Jesus. And so we and the angels sing now and forever:
Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11They conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony. They did not love their lives in the face of death. 12For this reason, rejoice, you heavens and those who dwell in them. (Revelation 12:10b–12a EHV)
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Boehringer has been preaching Christ and Him crucified to himself and to his congregation at Gethsemane since 2009.