Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sermon for St. Michael's and All Angels

29 September 2009 – Holy Mass 7pm – Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Fr. Gary W. Schultz

Only do not Thou forsake me, for if I am left to myself, I will surely bring it all to destruction.
In the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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.
      We confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.  In the Church, we recognize many days throughout the year for the work of the saints.  Not all saints are human.  We are surrounded by a great invisible host of Our Lord’s creation in the order of angels, His holy messengers.  This day is set aside in the church to commemorate the work of angels and especially of St. Michael the Archangel.
      There are lots of false teachings concerning angels.  Some are so obsessed with angels that they make them into something that they’re not.  You don’t become an angel in heaven, nor are our loved ones departed in the Faith floating around as angels.  Angels are not bare-bottomed babies or feminine fairies.  Angels are described as mighty warriors who serve Our Lord and protect and defend His church.
      There is also the tendency to dismiss the work of angels altogether, to think that educated and sophisticated people in the twenty-first century are above such silly myths.
      Angels, however, are throughout the Scriptures and are present throughout the events of Christ’s life.  It was the Angel Gabriel who brought the message of the Holy Ghost to the Blessed Virgin Mary that conceived Our Lord in her womb.  The host of angels sang praises at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem: Glory be to God on high, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.  Angels attended Our Lord after His temptation in the wilderness.  At the resurrection, angels were present at the tomb.
      Today’s Gospel tells us of our need for the ministry of angels.  Jesus said, 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.”  Angels defend God’s “little ones,” His Christians, like you.
      The Christian Faith is a child-like trust in Jesus and His work.  It is not naive or uninformed.  But it is a Faith that believes because Jesus says so.  It is faith that forgets human reason, our desire for control and power, and forgets about how things “seem” in the world.
      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.  We are the little ones, who are protected by Our Lord’s angels.
      The Christian life is not easy.  The devil, the world, and our own flesh promise to make it difficult.  Life for a Christian in this world is a battlefield.  Satan and his demons work with all their might to attack Christians, to drive them away from the Faith.  It always is his aim and pride, Thy Christian people to divide.  Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour.  He seeks to destroy your Faith, the Holy Christian Church, and this parish.
      The reality of the battle is taught by Luther.  In the catechism, the core of the Christian Faith, he teaches that we are to pray each morning and each evening: Let Thy holy angels be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me.  Or as the Church prays at bedtime prayer: Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this habitation, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy.  Let Thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve it in peace and let Thy blessing be always upon us.
      But watchful is the angel band / That follows Christ on every hand / To guard His people where they go / And break the council of the foe. (TLH 254:7)
      What are the weapons in this battle? Satan and his demons fight with words – lies, half-truths, and deception.  They speak words of accusation: “How could you be forgiven after what you’ve done?  Do you think God could forgive you?”  Or words of temptation: “Did God really say, You may not eat from any tree in the garden.  You will not surely die.  Doesn’t God want you to be happy?  Why don’t you just do whatever would give you pleasure, and get whatever your flesh desires, and put yourself ahead for once.”
      What do the angels fight with?  As we sang in the Introit: Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength: that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word.  They fight with the Word of truth – not just any true statements, but with Jesus Himself – the Word of God in the flesh, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  They fight with the Word of God, who created them.  The Word knit together in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Word who was tempted by Satan for us, the Word who touched death to defeat it, the Word who went to the cross for the payment for sin, the Word who rose from the tomb to crush the ancient serpent’s head.
      They fight with the Word, who comes to us this day in His Holy Body and Blood.  We join in this saving meal with the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, singingHoly, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, that is, Lord God of angel armies!

      Dear Christian, God hath given His angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways 
      For this, now and in days to be, / Our praise shall rise, O Lord, to Thee, / Whom all the angel hosts adore, / With grateful songs forevermore. (TLH 254:8)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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