Sunday, September 27, 2015
Homily for The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (observed)
Matthew 18:1-11; Revelation 12:7-12; Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
At first hearing, today’s readings may seem like a mish-mash of spiritual themes: War in heaven; angels and demons; guardian angels; temptation; greatness in heaven; the humility and innocence of children; and, the atoning blood of the Lamb. Nevertheless, there is a method in this Divine madness. The problem for us, however, is the scope of time involved, for, the themes in our texts range from before the foundation of the universe and the six days of creation to the prophecy of Daniel in the 6th century BC, to the days of the ministry of Jesus in the 1st century AD, to our present day, to the Last Day which only God the Father knows. In short, the scope of time encompasses, predates, and goes beyond the entire existence of humankind, even the universe itself!
But, what for us is an impossible scope of time, for our eternal God is but a moment. God exists outside of time, for He is the Creator of time, and He sees all things at all times at one time. This is a Divine mystery, to be sure, which is comprehended only in faith, but it is also a humbling and comforting reminder of who God is and of who we are: God is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End and, well, everything in between; and, perhaps what is more amazing than all that is that this God loves you so that He sent His own Son into your flesh to die for you and to be raised again that you might live with Him forever. This awesome God loves you and promises that He will keep you and preserve you in His Son and raise you up to eternal life on the Last Day. Even though you are so very small, He is so very big and good that you have nothing to fear, not even war, devils and demons, temptations, or death.
Now, does that make you feel weak and helpless? Does that make you feel like a little child? Good! That’s the point, for it is weak, helpless, and humble little ones that are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Those who try to enter the kingdom by their own efforts, by their own strength, wisdom, greatness, or works, will never enter, but only those who humble themselves like a little child will enter the kingdom of heaven.
And, God has assigned His angels to guard over His little ones, to protect them from harm and danger, from all evil, demons, and devils. But, age has nothing to do with it; God protects those who recognize their need for protection, those who humble themselves will be guarded and protected. It was such an angel of protection who visited Daniel in the 6th century BC. The angel touched Daniel and told him not to fear, for God loved him deeply from the day he first humbled himself and set his heart to understand. The angel was sent to guard and protect Daniel in his days, and the angel promised that God would send the Archangel Michael, called a Prince, in days to come to throw down Satan and his evil angels. And, that day has come. On a Friday afternoon nearly 2000 years ago, there was a war in heaven, but that war is over and your Enemy has been defeated; what you experience now as sufferings and woes are but the last skirmishes of a trounced enemy heading for hell.
For, “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.” The war is over, it is a done deal! The devil and his host of hell have been defeated – but, still they seek to convince millions that this is not so! Through lies and deceptions, which are their only weapons, they deceive millions into believing that the war is not over, that, in fact, God has been defeated, or doesn’t even exist. The devil has come down to the earth in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.
But, you, children of God, need not fear, for, even now you are conquerors by the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ! And, so, there is rejoicing in the heavens and there is woe on the earth, but the victory ours remaineth!
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? You, who, in childlike humility, love not your lives unto death, are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Concerning you, God has commanded His angels to guard you in all your ways. Your angels, who behold the face of God the Father in heaven, watch over you and fight the host of hell on your behalf. Yet, still, temptations to sin will come, temptations to sin must come, but God will always provide you a way out. This is why Jesus says to you, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life [crippled or lame, or] with one eye than with [two hands or two feet, or] two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” The way out may mean loss in this world, in this life, but all loss is gain in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Your angels fight for you against temptations to sin, therefore do not create temptations for others of God’s little ones. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!” warns Jesus, “but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” To tempt another to sin, or to contribute in the temptation in some way, is nothing less than complicity with the devil and his evil works. It is nothing less than to wage war against God’s angels and God Himself! Jesus warns, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
But, you who are victorious in the blood of the Lamb, need tempt no one, for all is yours in Christ Jesus and it cannot be taken from you! Do not clamor, then, to possess material things and worldly wealth, for, these have no value in and of themselves and they do not last. Your heavenly Father provides you with all that you need, so you need not worry about what you have, what you need, or what you want, and you need not begrudge your brothers and sisters what they have, need, or want. This is what it means to love not your life even unto death. This is what it means to be humble and childlike, simply to trust in the Lord your God for your life and all that your life requires; this is to die to the world and to live to God.
How it should humble you to know that God places the noblest of His creatures in your service, that the angelic hosts, who are truly holy, standing in the presence of holy God, should minister to you. How it should humble you to know that the angels are not ashamed to serve you, nor do they begrudge their service to you, for they know the love of God the Father for you, perfectly displayed in the sacrifice of His Son, the blood of the Lamb shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. To quote Johann Gerhardt: Why, then, does man elevate himself unduly? How can he comfort himself with the protection of the angels and desire their service if he will not serve others in love and humility? Pride is the devil’s seed. Let all who wish the angels to live with them beware of pride, and let it not take root in their hearts. May God help us through Christ.
And, now, let us join with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven around the throne of God and the Lamb in the victory feast of Jesus’ most holy body and His most precious blood, that He may dwell in us and us in Him in Holy Communion for the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our faith, and unity in the bond of Christian love.
In the + Name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.