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St. Michael and All Angels (St. Matthew 18.1-11)

St. Michael and All Angels

“St. Michael and All Angels”
Seminarian Paul Norris, Vicar

St. Matthew 18.1-11

29 September 2021

 

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tonight as we honor St. Michael and All Angels, we are reminded of the loving care of God to us, especially to children. The subject of angels is filled with mystery. The bible tells us about angels, but there is a lot we don’t know about angels because it’s not explained to us in great detail as we would like. Like many here, I remember as a child praying the evening prayer before my mother tucked me into bed. …” Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” As children, we are filled with fascination and wonder about who or what angels are.

The first mention of angels in scripture is of one who is wielding a flaming sword as Adam and Eve are evicted from the garden. (Genesis 3:24) We read of two terrifying gold Cherubim stationed atop the Ark of The Covenant with their wings overshadowing the mercy seat. (Exodus 25:10-22) The Seraphim who Isaiah described as having six wings and continually worshiping God saying “Holy, Holy, Holy.”( Isaiah 6:1-3) We heard of the mighty warriors like the Daniel text mentions, (Daniel 12:1-3) or the mighty heavenly army God revealed to the servant of Elisha. (2 Kings 2:16) In the New Testament, God’s messengers announced the arrival of Jesus and delivered holy messages to people like Mary, the shepherds, and the women at the tomb. Angels even ministered to Jesus as he prayed and after he was tempted in the wilderness. (Luke 22:42-43) They rejoice at our repentance (Luke 15:7) and they will carry us to heaven when we die. (Luke 16:22)

Our reading from Revelation tells us about the great warrior angel Michael, and his defeat of Satan and his foul army of fallen angels. (Rev 12:7-12) St. Michael is the servant of God, the guardian archangel and defender of God’s people. Scripture shows us how God intervened throughout salvation history, even with his angels, to ensure Jesus would bring salvation to us. Jesus is the head of the church and is also the head of the angels. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”(Mt 28:18) and he assured his disciples he has more than 12 legions of angels at his disposal. (Mt 26:53)

Perhaps some words should be spoken on what angels are not. Sometimes people like to say nice things when a loved one dies like, “Heaven gained an angel today.” This is false. Angels are created beings different from mankind. As Christians, we confess the resurrection of our bodies in Christ on the last day. Some people view angels as beautiful females, prompting young boys to say things like “she must have fallen from heaven, she’s an angel”. The only two named angels in the Bible are Michael and Gabriel, male names. Whenever angels are mentioned in scripture they are never referred to as “she” or “it”. Angels are not chubby little babies playing harps, or on valentine’s day cards shooting arrows at people to make them fall in love. Cupid is the pagan Greek god Eros. Angels are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. They are God’s servants and messengers doing his will. They are not to be worshiped.

Our Gospel reading starts in an interesting way eventually leading to Jesus speaking about angels. It starts with the disciples trying to determine who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom. Sound familiar? It reflects what we see in the sinful world as people fight for power, credit, and glory. Who comes first? Who is the greatest? Who is the best? Who has more power? Who is the favorite child? We feel these power struggles in the world, our own homes, and yes, even in the congregation. It echoes the prideful fall of Satan from heaven.  (Isaiah 14:4-17)

Jesus instructs the disciples with an object lesson by holding a child in front of them.  He tells them they need to be like this child to enter the kingdom of heaven. But what does this mean to be like a child? A child’s life is constantly under the control and protection of another. Parents and legal guardians are the primary source of a child’s control, discipline, guidance, and provision. Likewise, a child must trust his parents to guide, correct, protect and provide for him.

This is a great reversal. It is contrary to what the world would tell us about greatness. Greatness in the reign of heaven consists of humbly serving others. Instead of looking down upon others in their greatness, the disciples instead see how little they must become. The power, might, and glory does not belong to them, it belongs to God alone. Even Jesus himself became like a child as he humbled himself to death upon the cross and did his Father’s will so we might be saved. Jesus fully submitted himself to the Father’s will, protection, and providence.

Dr. Luther rightly preached on this text as an instruction to parents to raise children to fear and love God. He asserted “since angels especially care for young people, God also wants us to raise children with great care.” Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 18:10) Jesus is entrusting the care of the little children to us. We are not to provoke them or despise them, but raise them well. God is so concerned about the little ones he has even given each child an angel to watch over them. These angels “always see the face” of the Father. This means they “report” to the Father about His children, much like a sailor might report to the Captain of the ship. They are in constant direct face to face communication with the Father.

Jesus warns against those who would threaten or put a stumbling block in front of his little ones and lead them away from him. The temptations of sin jeopardize our eternal life. Jesus gives a terrifying description of execution by drowning for those who would lead a little one astray. Sin and temptation will come to us in this life. Jesus uses hyperbolic language of self-amputation to emphasize the urgency of being on guard about what we say and do concerning his children. God will not take it lightly when his little ones are caused to stumble.

Therefore, we should not be deceived by the littleness of the little ones. These little ones have mighty angels attending them, angels who come from the very presence of God. Jesus is not only speaking about children, he is speaking about His children. We are all God’s children as we remain “little ones” in our baptism. Throughout our lifetime we look up and trust God the Father to guide, protect and sustain us. He has accomplished this through his Son on the cross who won for us life and salvation, aided by his warriors and servants the angels. And so, on this Festival of St. Michael and All Angels, we rejoice in the invisible world of St. Michael, Gabriel, and the entire army of heaven which is beyond our present sight.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word!

Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

(Psalm 103:20-22)

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

       

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