September 29, 2007

A Sermon for St. Michael's Day

Matthew 18.1-10

The Church in her wisdom has set aside one day a year, September 29, for us to remember the work of Angels, and to thank God for them. We are moving that remembrance to tonight, because it is important to remember why God gives us these strong protectors. The Holy Angels are God’s instruments, His servants, to take care of us. The book of Hebrews says, “Are [the angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1.14).

If He wanted to, God could sustain and preserve us against the devil without the angels. But God does not want to do things this way. God works through means. Fathers and mothers, governments, teachers, sun and moon, water and air – God works through means. Luther said that God “has so arranged it that one creature is to serve another.” God has built servanthood into the structure of creation; everything is ordered around love and service. Parents care for children, spouses care for each other, and so on.

God cares for us by means of the holy angels. Why do we need this care? Because the demons hate us. All manner of people seem to believe in angels, but belief in the devil and demons is relegated to the mockery of medieval superstition. I cringe when I remember how a fellow pastor castigated me when I once people with deep psychological problems might be tormented by demons. For this pastor, everything was purely chemical, and the solution to all problems is counseling and pills. Of course, this is precisely what the devil wants. An enemy is most deadly when you are not expecting him, not on your guard.

St. Peter exhorts us to be sober and vigilant, always watchful, because the devil is like a roaring lion prowling about seeking to devour us. What do the demons want with you? They want to destroy your body and your life, to be sure, but there is more—they want to destroy your faith, to lead you away from God, to bring you to hell with them for eternity.

If God did not continually restrain the devil by His Holy Angels, there would be no food to eat, no clean water to drink, no relief from rain and wind and snow and fire. When someone loses an eye or a leg; when someone contracts cancer or a deadly disease; when there are disasters - you can be sure these things are the work of the devil.

More deadly than those things which kill the body, though, are the things that kill the soul. When a person is sorrowful or depressed; when a person is filled with apathy or anxiety; when someone lacks the strength to love anymore; these are the works of the devil.

Most deadly of all are the devil’s direct attacks on God: when a person remains in or falls into unbelief, that is the devil’s deed. Where there is false doctrine, that is the work of the devil. When people in the one holy Christian Church turn against each other, that is the work of the devil.

We should thank and praise God that He has given us the Holy Angels. Without them, we would never have any peace, day or night. Yet through them God ministers to us and blesses us. One of the seraphim ministered to the prophet Isaiah in his distress, proclaiming to him the forgiveness of his sins. Angels guard us when we are in peril. The angel of God stopped the mouths of the lions when Daniel was cast into their den. An angel delivered the Apostle Peter from the cruelty of Herod. An angel gave bread and water for Elijah when he sat starving under the broom tree.

You also are protected by the angels. Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” The person who does not fear God does not receive the protection of the angels. We should not cause grief to the angels by our impurity and wickedness; neither should we grieve the angels of others by our sins.

So, every morning thank God for His protection throughout the night, and every evening thank God for keeping you through the day. And every evening and every morning, pray that God would continue to guard and keep us under the protection of His holy angels. This is how Dr. Luther taught us to pray: “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” Likewise when we pray the Our Father, we say, “Deliver us from evil.” God does this through means, through the means of the holy angels. Every night, every morning, pray the Lord’s Prayer, pray the evening or morning prayer, and thank God for His protection through His angels.

All praise to God for these wonderful protectors, the holy angels, which He gives to us all by His grace! +inj+

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