St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2019
“Force Against Force”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
How often do you think about them? Angels, that is. Today is the day to think about them. Every six or seven years St. Michael and All Angels Day, September 29, lands on a Sunday, and we recognize the place of God’s angels in the life of Jesus, and in our lives.
Do you ever think about them? They are all over the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. All the big stories in the life of Jesus have angels flying around – Christmas, Easter, the Ascension. When Larry Boeding was putting together the music for the late service today and he asked me what I was preaching about – angels – he said that we would just be singing Christmas carols for the service. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” “Angels We Have Heard On High.”
Maybe you do think about angels. You have made Martin Luther’s morning or evening prayer your prayer. “For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen”
Angels served Jesus and they serve us. They are part of our everyday life. They show us how much God cares for us day by day. Do you know Hebrews 1:14? “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit eternal life?”
I don’t want you to underestimate the power of angels, both the power of angels who are evil and the power of angels who are good. To speak of both the good and the evil ones, I have titled the message, “Force Against Force.” This reading from Revelation begins with the words, “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back.” (Revelation 12:7)
Somewhere in the very beginning of creation the devil, created to be a good angel, let pride consume him. He rebelled against God and went from good to evil. And I guess his revolt took along with him a number of other angels. Jesus, in John 8:44, tells us of the character of the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Immediately after His Baptism Jesus was tempted for 40 days while He was out in the desert. He was tempted by the father of lies repeatedly, even after He didn’t fall to his temptations, but the devil didn’t stop his wickedness. Remember? “When the devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) The devil was not done tempting and lying and deceiving. He doesn’t give up that easy.
Don’t underestimate the continued harassment toward evil that the devil and his angels will bring into your life. Over the last four Thursdays I have been attending the Citizen’s Academy with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Along with 17 others I applied and was accepted into this Academy which teaches us what happens every day in the work of the DEA against illegal drugs in our region. A few weeks ago they went through the several year process of bringing to justice a drug cartel that was shipping tons of drugs to the United States. They showed faces of the heads of the cartel, his family and their complex operation. Hundreds of folks were identified. They were finally caught, some of their money was taken and large amounts of drugs were confiscated. But what they didn’t show was faces of all the people they had destroyed by their sale of drugs.
But a number of years ago I saw the face of one of their victims. I received a phone call that one of my members had died of a drug overdose – heroin. I was the one to tell his mom about it. And after visiting with her we all walked into the Emergency Room where he had been brought. The wailing for a husband, father, brother, son was awful. Who brought that evil? The devil did. His lies did. The false promise that that drug would bring joy and happiness and excitement did.
Don’t underestimate the evil that the devil and his angels can bring into life, into our lives.
But don’t underestimate the strength of God to fight the devil, and win. Listen to this word, “But he (the devil) was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9)
Do you know how it was done? It was done when Christ came and defeated him on the cross and when He rose in triumph from the grave and when He ascended in majesty at the Ascension. In this same chapter it says, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:10-11a)
It was force against force. It was not an easy, or short, battle. It had been planned by God the Father since the curse of sin came. In April of the year 30 the battle between the devil and Jesus happened. The Garden where sweat became blood, the cross where the victory cry, “It is Finished “ was hollered, the resurrection from death on Easter was the day when the devil was cast out of heaven. In April of the year 30, Michael and all the angels were there to witness and to encourage and to participate in this great event. Jesus fought against the devil and won.
You see angels served Jesus and they also serve us. Two Mondays ago I was invited to listen to Lee Strobel at Colorado Christian University. Strobel wrote, “A Case for Christ” and quite a few others – he has sold 15 million copies of his books!! Before he spoke to the 800 folks at this gathering we sang the song, “In Christ Alone”. We’ve sung it here. It is a great song. I loved how they sang it that evening. Verse 3, “There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain; Then, bursting forth in glorious Day, up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me, For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.” You know how they sang it? Loud!! With clapping!! With excitement!! When they sang, “Then, bursting forth in glorious Day, up from the grave He rose again!” I heard their smile and joy and faith. St. Michael and all the angels must have been singing with us too!!
When there is force against force sometimes the fight ends in a draw. But not here. In this battle between Jesus and the devil, and all his evil minions, the battle isn’t fair. John in his Revelation tells us, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
But I have some bad news here. “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12b-c) The war is over, but the battles are still being fought. Jesus won, but the challenge in our life to keep the faith and to live in faithfulness to God and to others is difficult. The devil and his angels, his demons, are relentless.
But the good news? The battle isn’t even fair. Jesus is greater and stronger. Remember? “For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.”
The angels in the life of Christ served Jesus. He used them to bless many people in their faith and in their life. Angels today do the same. They serve us. They bless us. We participate with them in the very praise and glory that Christ alone deserves.
In this life there is a battle between force and force. Your God is bigger and stronger and greater. Live your faith and your life in that truth. Amen!!