Michaelmas – St. Michael, Archangel
“A Children’s Crusade”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. Matthew 18:1-11; Daniel 10:10-14; Revelations 12:7-12
29 September 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
You can’t see it, but there’s a battle happening right before your eyes. Turns out there’s some truth to all those cartoons and movies, all those scenes where a character is debating his next move, trying to decide whether to do the right thing or the wrong thing, and the right choice is represented by an angel on his right shoulder, and the wrong by a devil on his left. The stories behind these characters might be just fantasies, but what you may find surprising is that the angels and devils, they’re not just inside your head. This fairy tale is very, very real, and the outcome of this conflict can mean eternal life or eternal death for you. And yet, despite the gravity of it all, if you tell anyone, no one will believe you. Even if you bust out the latest and greatest ghost detecting equipment, the electromagnetic field sensors and the night vision goggles, nothing can provide you with any edge, any advantage, any way to witness what’s going on. Even though we can break the stratosphere and land on the moon, we cannot pierce the plane which lies just before our eyes, just under our noses. There is no way to see these creatures who swarm around you, who crowd each and every room you’re in, who will follow you even to the bottom of the ocean and into the depths of space, there’s no way to see any of this except by faith.
All of this is true because angels, unlike human beings, were never created with fleshly bodies. Angels do not have physical shape, form, or mass, but are purely spiritual, invisible beings. They can take many very visible forms however, and we see throughout the Bible that they appear in human vesture, such as when Abraham receives the three visitors, or they can take truly terrifying and incomprehensible forms, such as they do in Ezekiel. The word angel itself in Greek simply means “messenger,” and so it can be used to refer to anyone who serves as a messenger. In the Old Testament, we even sometimes hear of the title, the “Angel of the Lord,” and this is a title given to the pre-incarnate Christ, a description of Jesus before he took His name and took human flesh, but “angels” as we typically think of them are called such because they are messengers of the Lord. Angels deliver the prayers of God’s people, they deliver the prayers of the saints to heaven so that they may be heard in the holy court before God. He also sends angels back down to deliver His Word, His judgments, to mankind, such as when Gabriel brings the prophecy to Daniel in our Old Testament this evening, or when he announces the conception of Christ to Mary, or when Raphael accompanies the prophet Tobias in the Book of Tobit.
But, among the angels, there are none as important as Saint Michael. Michael is the warrior, the defender of God’s people, who has the power to battle Satan, the dragon, himself. Because of his special role in defeating the devil, there are many, such as Martin Luther, who identify the archangel Michael as simply being a title for Christ Himself, that he is an allegory for our Lord’s victory over Satan on the Cross. Whether Michael is simply Jesus or not, the Scripture doesn’t tell us for certain, so we can’t be sure. But what is certainly true is that Saint Michael is our defender, a great ally in our war against the devil, and he points us to the Son of God, serving as a constant reminder of Christ’s victory and an eternal champion of His Word. Even though angels may be mysterious beyond our understanding to the point where we don’t even know exactly what they are, even this seemingly small doctrine of their work and existence is a great comfort to the Christian, because it tells us of God’s great love for us. The Almighty has found it fit to create great warriors like Michael to defend us, to keep the devil at bay and drive his demons away. He has even found it fit to assign particular angels to us, so that each and every last Christian has a guardian angel to call upon, hence we daily pray, “let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”
These angels do all these great things for us, and yet we can’t even see them yet alone begin to comprehend them or understand them. This is why Jesus tells us in our Gospel for today, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” In order to see angels, just as in order to see and believe in the crucified and risen Christ, we must become His children through faith. You see, God’s army is not just made up of all these angels, but it is also made up of you. This is a children’s crusade, a legion made up of those who forsake the world and all its reason with the trust of a child, believing what they cannot see just as easily as a child accepts Santa Claus. And so Christ is our captain, our Peter Pan, but He is no fairy tale. He is the Lord God of Sabaoth, and He leads the angels and the archangels and all the company of heaven into battle against the serpent, the dragon and all his brood, in a fight for us that is waged every single day, and He calls His Christian children to fight by His side.
And so, you children of God, are not bystanders. You are not merely civilians, but you are soldiers in God’s army. In your Baptism, you have been initiated into the Order of the Blood of the Lamb, into the Order of the Cross and the Order of Saint Michael. Your sins have been removed and you have been clothed in the white robes of His Blood. Your foreheads are marked with His blood like the doors in Egypt, and now the Angel of Death is your ally. Now you fight alongside Christ, your commander in chief, and you fight alongside Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael and all the angels of heaven, and you fight alongside your brothers and sisters in arms in the Church. You are crusaders who believe in a war that the rest of the world thinks is only fairy tale. If you simply believe, if you submit to the Lord’s Word even though He says such bizarre things, you can see the invisible enemy slithering among friends and family and foes alike, prowling about to snatch his prey. The serpent convinces the world that you are crazy, that you’re a fool to believe in such childish things, and that there really is no enemy at all but your intolerance. But the dragon does this out of desperation, this is his last ditch attempt to turn you away from the Lord, because he is weak. When you are found in the castle of the Church, when you are found safe in the ranks of God’s sanctuary, Satan looks jealously into the windows from the outside. When you confess your sins to God and His servants and believe that their forgiveness is His forgiveness, you drive a hundred thousand demon hosts away shrieking in fear. When you delight to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, the devils put their hands to their ears and scream in pain. And when you come to the Lord’s altar, when you drink His Holy Precious Blood and are joined to Him for the forgiveness of your sins, the dragon turns tail and runs away as far as he can, for he knows he’s powerless to stop you. When you partake in the Church, when you love God by trusting His Word and receiving His Sacraments, and when you love your neighbor and do service for him and pray for the angels to watch over him, you drive the spear into Satan’s side. For your love is the love of Christ, and by it Saint Michael stamps down on the dragon’s neck, and Jesus crushes the serpent’s head with his piercèd heel. With His precious death on the Cross for your sins, He vanquishes all your foes, and your accuser is truly silenced.
And so, you soldiers of the Lamb, stay vigilant. Come to the Church and take up your arms for this heavenly warfare. Remember your Baptism, remember the mark on your forehead, for you belong to the Lamb who has been slain. You are a child in the service of the Lord God of Sabaoth, and through Him, through His precious death and resurrection, you can fight for your brothers and sisters, for your friends and your enemies. Pray for those who are in danger, who are in trouble and need of body and soul, and although the serpent may be contentedly coiling about them, your heavenly Father will send Michael down with his holy lance, He will deliver them from evil, and He will have gained for you a brother in arms. In Christ’s death, the victory is won, and every time you are here, you are joined to that death, your battle is won, and you trample the dragon underfoot. And so, in this way, keep watch, brothers, and fight the good fight. In Jesus’ ☩ Name; Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.