24 September 2011

Homily upon St. Michael's and All Angels

You don’t get very far in the Bible before you start bumping into angels of this sort, that sort, and the other.  They come in a bewildering array of varieties, but in two basic flavors:  good or evil.  And since the fall of our race into the power of the evil angels (and the evidence of that is all around you – you don’t need to open your Bible for it.  Just check the latest Drudge Report or read the newspaper or watch CNN or Fox for a bit - or you might even try the gutsy approach and look into your own heart), as I was saying, since the fall of our race, we find the good angels somewhat frightening.  Even holy prophets do.  So when Daniel in his room suddenly feels an angel’s hand touching him, he drops trembling to his hands and knees.  But the angel wasn’t sent to scare him, just to bring him good news.  Hence:  “O Daniel, man greatly loved… fear not!”  The good news the angel brings is more than a tad mysterious.  It’s hard enough to make sense out of human warfare, knowing who to believe and sorting out what really happened and such.  But angelic warfare?  How will we ever get that?

But doesn’t much matter if we get it or not; or if we haven’t a clue how it relates to what’s going on in our world, this much we do know:  God hasn’t left us alone.  Though they scare the daylights out of us because of our sinfulness, the good angels are actually fighting for us!  And that battle has been going on for ages, and will go on until that joyous moment Daniel foretold:  when after the time of trouble, God’s people – all whose names are written in His book – will be delivered.  They’ll waken from the dust.  Multitudes upon multitudes standing alive again upon earth.  And for some it will be the awakening for which they have longed and prayed:  they arise to everlasting life and begin to shine like the bright stars in the sky.  But for others, it will be an awakening to shame and contempt – everlasting contempt.  Till that Day of the great division arrives, we have these angel hosts battling alongside of us, and in fact battling for us at God’s command – battling to have us join them in their choir, singing praises to the Blessed Trinity and finding that to be joy eternal.

There’s Michael again in Revelation – and it is not much clearer all that is happening this time.  But what is clear is this:  Michael shows Satan and his angels the door.  He can no longer pull off what he was doing in Job or in Zechariah – where he stands in the presence of God and accuses God's people of their sin.  Instead, God's saints have conquered the accuser by the blood of the Lamb.  You know, what will be up there in that chalice.  The blood of Jesus that has answered for every single sin that Satan could ever accuse you of.  As you testify to the power of that blood to blot our sin and deliver to you forgiveness, you join in the rejoicing of the heavens – even while you walk on earth, where the old serpent still lays his snares, seeking to pull you into his thankless, bitter, and empty existence, seeking to pull you out of the angel choir and bring you back down into his wrath and fury, inviting you to be like him "an accuser of the brethren."   If you’re angry all the time, it’s a warning sign that the devil’s digging in deep!  That’s not the Lord’s way – His way is the path of joy - singing with the angels.

So in the Gospel there is joy.  The 72 that Jesus sent out to bring the good news of the Kingdom, to heal and forgive, they return to Jesus celebrating that even the demons are subject to them in Jesus’ strong name – that name you utter so lightly and sometimes even as a curse!  God forbid.  Before that holy name the demons cower and do you dare foolishly treat it as a nothing?  Repent!

The disciples have joy – great joy – at the power that’s in the name of Jesus, and Jesus rejoices with them.  Tells them that while they’ve gone forth speaking His Word, driving the evil angels back and out of people’s lives by the power of His name, He’s been watching – and what He saw was nothing less than Satan falling out of heaven like lightning.  Suddenly struck down, unable to stand as the accuser of the brethren anymore.  And He has gift even bigger:  “Behold, I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

What did He mean by that?  Serpents bite with their head; scorpions with their tail.  Over evil from start to finish then, he sets them free.  He doesn’t mean that they’ll not suffer.  You know that they did – almost all of them martyred for Him.  But this was key:  their suffering had no power to pull them into the sphere of the enemy.  They could be beaten, whipped, sawn apart, burned at the stake, or fed to the lions.  None of it could destroy the life that they had in Jesus.  None of it could make them hate those who ill used them.  None of it could draw them back into the life of complaining and anger and frustration.  Rather, they would triumph over every bit of it, singing along with the angels a hymn of heavenly joy.  As St. Paul would later say:  “More than conquerors through Him who loves us.”

And as if that’s not enough – even more!  “Don’t get so worked up about that, though.  I’ve got a bigger gift yet.  You take your joy from this:  that your names are written in heaven.”  This is the point where Janet Engelke likes to remind me that years ago I made the flip statement in Bible Class that people write down things not to remember them, but so they can forget them.  She likes me to remind me that now that I’m 20 years older, I’m writing things down right and left precisely so that I won’t forget them, but remember them.  And this is Jesus’ good news to His disciples:  Your names are written down.  You will not be forgotten.  No, even long after your body has turned to the dust, you will not be forgotten.  Your heavenly Father will remember you, will summon you by name on that joyous last day and call you into His everlasting kingdom – body and soul made new and whole.  THAT’S a cause for joy that’s overwhelmingly huge.  You’re remembered.  That’s what the name business is all about.  He put His name on you in Baptism.  He’ll not be forgetting you.

And while you still sojourn here, today we celebrate that the Lord hauls out His book, points to your name, tells his angels:  See that one right there.  That one is mine.  I love him.  I love her.  Now you go take care of him.  Guard her.  Protect them.  See them safely home till they join full-voiced with their new resurrection bodies in the hymn of praise that does not end.

St. Michael’s and all angels.  More joy than we can imagine as we thank the Lord for his angels and pray that they do their work well, keeping us with them in the Lord’s huge choir, and guarding us from the Accuser and his seductions.  Your name is written.  He won’t forget you. You’ve got a spot.  It’s blood bought and angel guarded, and for that all glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, now and ever.  Amen.


Rev. Allen Yount said...

Thank you, Pr. Weedon. I needed to hear that.

William Weedon said...

You're very welcome, Pr. Yount. I hope all is well with you.