ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Revelation 12:7-12 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “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. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short
Luke 10:17-20 The seventy- two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven
Lightning is powerful stuff. It races across the sky with incredible speed. And when it touches down you don’t want to be anywhere around. Powerful? Yes, it’s incredibly powerful. It sets forests ablaze. It splits mighty oaks in half. It warps and twists metal like aluminum foil. It blasts whatever it comes into contact with, including you, if you happen to be at hand. Scary? Just a bit. Yes, it’s just a bit scary.
Our Lord couldn’t have picked a better image for Satan’s descent from heaven - it’s a picture worth a thousand words. Lightning doesn’t gently waft down out of the clouds. It tears across the sky toward the earth with incredible speed. It’s ragged bolts are full of angry power. Here we have so much of what the Spirit reveals to us through St. John about Satan’s overthrow and ejection from heaven. Satan is not kindly asked to depart. He is cast out. Thrown down. Hurled out of heaven.
A truth, beloved, that is good for us to keep in mind when we run into the old evil foe in our lives. As powerful and frightening as Satan might be as the mightiest of the angels, our heavenly Father with lightest touch through Michael and his angel host by the power of His Christ can hurl him out of anywhere. Satan only remains where God allows him to remain. He cannot go anywhere or stay anywhere against our Father’s will, which is why the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray to Him to deliver us from evil, because He alone, can and does send the devil packing.
The image of of that angry jagged bolt tearing through the sky to the earth also pictures the great wrath that fills Satan as he is hurled from God’s heavenly court. Lightning ripping across an angry cloud darkened sky captures the heart of the being that speeds toward the earth hellbent on destruction … on wreaking havoc with God’s beautiful creation. Wounded beyond all healing by his own rebellion against God, he descends intent on lashing out with misery to cause as much suffering as he can. Unable to ever know joy again, he looks to rob all others of it.
Make no mistake about it, beloved, every twisting, warping, deformity of God’s perfect creation has Satan’s finger prints all over it. Everything that goes wrong … every injustice … every tragedy… is his handiwork. He may, and often does, work through others to make it happen. Yes, he mimics God in using means to accomplish his ends, but he’s behind it all without question. The trials of Job leave no room for doubt about it. Bad luck? Fate? Chance? No. It’s not just some impersonal force behind it all.
There’s only one who would like you to believe that, beloved. There’s no better way to overcome somebody then when he doesn’t know that your gunning for him. Getting him to let down his guard is more than half the battle. Making him believe that there’s no need to be watchful … to be on alert leaves him wide open to attack. And so the words of our Lord in Gethsemsane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
There is someone gunning for you, beloved, make no mistake about it. Deceiving you into thinking that there isn’t, is one of the ways that he uses to overcome you. He wants you to get lost in the idea of a random meaningless universe where nothing is personal or makes sense because that enslaves you into being random and meaningless also - doing whatever you want because it means nothing anyway, which leads you right down Satan’s path of pleasure at all costs - no matter who has to pay for it or if you leave a trail of misery and suffering behind you.
If you don’t believe that Satan is behind all that’s wrong in the world, then he doesn’t have far to go to get you believing that God is behind it all, which is only a step away from denying that God exists as well, because “you can’t believe in a God who could do such terrible things like giving your Mom or Dad or child cancer or allowing terrorists to shoot and kill people or letting tornadoes touch down on peoples houses. Without question God is always in control but these are not His works, beloved.
If the devil can remain hidden behind the people he gets to do his work, then he’s not far from getting you to hate those that are made in God’s image, which is hardly more than a skip and a jump away from hating God. If all that is going wrong in the Church - the truth that is being abandoned, lies that are being taught, the scandals of sexual abuse are simply the work of men and women, how much easier it is to let our guard down. And so forget to call on God for the defence and care of His holy angels, because we fail to see that the great deceiver could just as easily lead us astray and into great shame and vice.
If all that is going wrong in our world is simply the work of our leaders, then how much easier it is to get us to trample all over God’s holy commandment to honour those set in authority over us. If we believe that they’re only the ones who want to make fools of themselves by dancing around in costumes or uttering ridiculous things, then its much easier to get us to dismiss them and give up fervently praying for them. If we think it’s only our leaders plans to destroy all forms of Godly morality and chastity among us and to sanction the mass slaughter of the unborn, then it’s easy to see them as the enemy rather than men and women set in authority for our good.
And in our own lives, if Satan can get us to think that his whispers are simply our own, that His temptations are our own natural, even God given, desires, then He can get us to dance his dance to his tune all the while believing that we are choosing our own steps and composing our own music, mistaking the greatest of slavery for freedom. If he can get us believing that we alone are the author of all evil within us, then he’s that much closer to getting us to doubt the mercy of God for us in Christ and to question His love for someone like us.
If he can blind us to his yank on the hammer that hits our thumb, then it doesn’t take much to get us to damn the tool that God has gifted to us, or the nail that we were using to build with, or even to look with contempt on the hand that the good Lord has created for us. If our every misstep, mistake and accident are only about us, then he’s got us on the edge of despising ourselves and so the One who made us, instead of seeking for and relying on the Lord and the help of His holy angels in all that we do - no matter how small or simple.
Lightning, yes, it is a powerful image worth a thousand words, one we are wise to keep in mind when it comes to the old evil foe, but so are the images of the wind and the sun, that God uses to blow away the clouds that bring the lightning, and bring us joy and blessing when the storm is passed. As often as lightning may streak across the sky we are blessed with far more sunny days than stormy ones. It is good to remember that the same is true for life in general as it is with the works of Satan. As often as God holds back His holy angels and allows Satan to chastise us and the world (and make no mistake about it it’s the only way that Satan can do what he does) these times are far outnumbered by the times that His warriors stand ready at arms and defend and keep us and the world on our way.
God lets lightning strike for our repentance to teach us to look to Him and rely on Him, to draw us close and keep us near to Him and to keep us praying and giving thanks for the protective care of His holy angels. There’s no question that they are here and hard at work for us this morning, beloved. It’s the only way that I could be here to forgive your sins, proclaim this Word and give you the precious gifts of Christ’s body and blood, as it is the only way that you could be here to receive it. Cohorts of angels guarded and preserved us all as they are standing guard around us even now, that I might not be silenced and you might hear … that I might not be prevented from giving and you receiving.
At your Father’s command Michael and his legions are hard at work for you, beloved, so that through Jesus and all that He has done for you when He went without their help on Calvary, your names can be written in heaven and you might conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb. Lightning, yes, it’s powerfully scary, but see here on the altar, how much mightier the Son is who has risen to shine on you, and be comforted with the truth, that the angels that He has given charge over you are armed with His name, His glory and His might that the evil foe may have no power over you. Amen.