Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

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.
You have heard the proverb “Pride goeth before the fall.” This saying is a colloquialism of Proverbs 16:18, which reads in the King James Version of the Bible, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” How many fables, moral lessons, and anecdotal stories are based upon this Proverb, which we all know to be true? Those who are puffed up with pride and are full of themselves often rise to lofty heights, yet too often do they also meet with a precipitous fall. Lucifer’s great sin, and the cause of his fall, was his pride. Though he was one of the highest of God’s angels, an angel of light as his name means, he begrudged the LORD to be a servant, particularly as servant to God’s most treasured creatures, man.
Did Lucifer want to be a god himself? Quite likely, yes. But, this much is certain, he did not want to serve mankind, whom he deemed to be beneath him. Yet, God loved mankind and gave him dominion over all things that He had made, even the heavenly ranks of holy angels. Lucifer’s pride could not tolerate that truth. His pride consumed him and filled him with anger and resentment and the darkness of hatred for God, and, even more, hatred for man loved by God. Lucifer’s pride caused him to fall from the highest ranks of God’s holy angels to the darkest depths of hellish separation from God’s presence.
In his fall, Lucifer became Satan, which means adversary or enemy, the accuser of men. He knew that he could not defeat God, therefore He attacked and defeated mankind whom God loved. Cunningly, he tempted our First Parents by appealing to their pride. He promised them that by disobeying God they would become like God. But, that was a lie. They were already like God, made in His image, the highest of all that He had made. Though they were the highest of the high, Adam and Eve gave into their pride and they fell precipitously, just as Satan who deceived them.
However, God’s love for mankind moved Him to right this situation. Though our First Parents rebelled and fell from grace, God had compassion for them and showed them mercy. He set in motion a great plan of redemption through the sacrificial offering of His Son. Mysteriously, and beyond human wisdom and understanding, God pre-ordained before the foundation of the world that His own Son would become a man, would fulfill the holy Law of God in perfect obedience and righteousness, and would suffer and die in man’s place, redeeming him from his sin, restoring a right relationship with God once again.
Though Satan was undoubtedly aware of God’s plan, once again his pride blinded him and he truly believed that he could thwart God by destroying Jesus. Thus, when Jesus died on the cross, Satan thought he had won, but truly the opposite was the case. Jesus knew no sin, but God placed upon Him the sins of all mankind. Taking our sins to the cross with Him, they died there with Him and were buried, while He alone rose from the dead. Truly the cross of Jesus Christ is the sign of Satan’s defeat. In His selfless, sacrificial, and innocent suffering and death, the Seed of the Woman, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, crushed the ancient serpent’s head. He rose from the dead on the third day, just as He had said, the living proof of Satan’s defeat and the forgiveness of man’s sins through faith in the victorious and atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The war in heaven of Revelation chapter twelve describes the result of Jesus’ victory on the cross. Satan, the accuser of men, has been thrown out of the presence of God. No longer can he accuse you before the Father, for your sins are atoned for and forgiven in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Satan cannot accuse you, judge you, or condemn you any longer, for you have been justified, wholly apart from yourself, by the obedience, suffering, and death of Jesus for you.
However, though Satan cannot accuse you before God, now he roams and prowls the earth in a violent rage, for he knows that his time is short. Satan cannot harm you, for you have been sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ, yet, he does have one powerful and dangerous weapon that he uses against you – lies and deception. Satan cannot defeat God. He cannot defeat Jesus. But, he can, and he does, attack you by lying and deceiving, tempting you to disbelieve that you are forgiven and righteous before God in the blood of Jesus. He tempts you to sin, he makes sin seem attractive to you, even the right thing to do. But then, when you do it, he accuses you of your sin, and he tempts you to believe that you are not forgiven, that you cannot be forgiven, that you are beyond God’s forgiveness and outside of His grace. This is a lie, a deception! But, how often do you believe it? How often do you allow Satan to cause you to disbelieve God’s love and forgiveness? How often do you allow Satan to cause you to doubt God’s goodness and mercy?
Satan’s purpose in lying to you and deceiving you is to separate and isolate you from your brothers and sisters in Christ, from your neighbor, and, ultimately, from God. He has no other reason for doing this than hatred for God and for you whom God loves. There is no victory for him to win. There is no power or glory for him to gain. There is only his evil, twisted, hatred, and the anger and fury which fuel it. He wants to see you destroyed eternally, and he relishes in the irony that it is all a lie and a deception, for he knows that you already have eternal life in heaven with God as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ.
Thus, Satan is your enemy. He is your only enemy. Indeed, it is true to say that no man is your enemy, but all men have the same enemy. It was pride that caused his fall. He was too filled with pride be your servant. He was jealous of God’s love for you. His pride and jealousy consumed him, and it corrupted him and transformed him into a self-loving, self-worshipping, and self-righteous demon. But, he was not a demon before, but an angel, a messenger, as that word means, to bring the Word of God to men. For, that is the work of God’s holy angels, to proclaim His Word to men. Often the Holy Scriptures use that same word to describe pastors, for they too proclaim the Word of God to men. However, while pastors perform the message-bringing function of angels, they are not angels in an ontological or essential sense. God’s holy angels also protect and defend His children from the attacks, lies, and deceptions of Satan. Truly, angels guard and watch over you, just as Luther teaches you to pray for both in the morning and evening. Yet, they are servants – servants of God, and your servants – therefore, you are not to pray to angels or to worship them, but you are to thank God for their service and honor and glorify Him.
Further, you may emulate the angels of God by serving your brothers and sisters in Christ and your neighbor in need. Put away your pride, and serve all in the faith and knowledge that, when you serve the least of your brothers, you are serving Jesus. You must bear with all your brothers, sisters, and neighbors in patience and kindness, even those who do evil to you or hate you, believing and knowing that God alone is judge and that He works all things, even the evil things men do, for the good of those He has called in Jesus Christ. For, God has ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order that you will be helped and defended here on earth.
Do not be afraid! No matter what befalls you in this life, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ. That is the truth! Anything else is a lie of Satan! But, he is ceaseless in his attempts to cause you not believe that! He never sleeps or rests, but he prowls the earth like a lion seeking prey to devour. He will try to isolate you and separate you from your brothers by tempting your pride, causing you to judge and condemn and hate others and thereby separate from them. Then he has you, then he has them, to work on in private, in isolation, without the support of the body of Christ and the family of God. He will lie to you and deceive you so that you take your eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ and forsake the redemption He won for you there.
Therefore, pray that God send His angels to protect you and defend you, and pray for the Church of Jesus Christ to persevere. And, more than anything else, continue to gather around the Words and the Wounds of Jesus Christ as His body and receive the forgiveness of your sins again and again; be strengthened and encouraged in His Word, and commune with your Lord and Redeemer who laid down His life in selfless, sacrificial service for you to purchase, win, and redeem you for eternal life with Him, His Father, and His most Holy Spirit in the courts of heaven. There, as now, in a foretaste of that great feast to come, you will worship with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, God, and the Lamb upon His throne, Jesus, to whom be blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might forever and ever! Amen.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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