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The celebration of the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels dates back to the 12th Century in the Western Church. In the Eastern Church it goes all the way back to the 4th century. In the 16th century, Luther cleaned out a lot of the ‘saints’ days from the church calendar because they filled with so much superstition. But St. Michael and All Angels remained because it points us so clearly to Christ and because it is good, right and salutary for us to have a good understanding of the doctrine of angels. Philip Melancthon, the author of the Augsburg Confession, even wrote a hymn for the occasion which we just sang.
A. 1st – Daniel
Michael’s name shows up in the Bible in three places. Our Old Testament reading from Daniel is the first. A messenger came to Daniel while Daniel was captivity in Babylon. The messenger reported that he was delayed in coming to comfort Daniel because he was being held by the kings of Persia. “But Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…” (Dan.10:13).
The messenger tells Daniel that things are going to get worse before they get better. But “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Dan.12:1).
In other words, don’t get discouraged Daniel. There are forces at work in the world that you don’t know about and can’t see. God will deliver you.
Michael is an ‘angel prince,’ in fact, “one of the CHIEF princes,” “the GREAT prince,” “who has charge of your people.”
In our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus tell His disciples that there are ‘guardian angels’ which are ‘charged’ with watching over one particular child. One angel to one child of God. One angel, devoted to watching over Frankie Penelope-Joan Ouellette.
But Michael has the charge of watching over a whole nation of people, “Daniel’s people,” the Israelites, the people of God.
B. 2nd – Jude
The next time that Michael’s appears is in the New Testament, in that little book right before the Book of Revelation, the book of Jude. In the 9th verse we read that Michael challenged the devil over false teaching about the body of Moses. “The archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses..” (Jude 9)
Interesting isn’t it that we are called to contend for the truth of God’s word against false teaching and false doctrine that comes from men and women. But who contends directly with the devil himself, whom Jesus calls “the father of lies”? Well, it takes an angel to deal with an angel and Michael the archangel ‘contends with the devil.’
C. 3rd – Revelation
In our 2nd reading this morning from Revelation, the apostle John writes what he sees and he sees war in heaven. It was “Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon.”
This is a spiritual war over the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a war that is fought with the ‘weapons of the Spirit,’ the Word of God. And the weapons of the Spirit overpower the dragon and his angels and they are thrown out of heaven. That’s good news for heaven. But where are they thrown down to? Here. Among us.
We wonder why so many bad things happen in this world, things that are unexplainably painful and evil. Why? Peter writes, “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8).
One of the great hopes that we life for is that in heaven there will be no devil and his bad angels to mess things up. They’ve been thrown out forever.
II. Angels All Around
So, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels reminds us that there is another realm of God’s creation in addition to the material realm that we material beings live in. A realm that is so foreign to our physical senses that the only way that we even know that it exists is because God tells us about it in the bible.
So, in the Nicene Creed, we confess that according to the Word of God, we believe in “God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible.” What we are saying is that we believe that there are two realms to God’s creation, the ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible.’
Sometimes this gets translated as ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ which is not very good. There’s a lot of stuff in the ‘visible’ realm that is or at one time was ‘unseen’ but it’s still a part of the ‘visible’ realm. For a long time, no one was able to see the inside an individual cell or the surface of the moon. But it was still part of the ‘visible’ realm of creation.
Angels belong to the ‘invisible’ realm of creation. On rare occasions, they may actually be ‘seen’ by someone in the ‘visible’ realm. But they’re a part of the ‘invisible’ realm of creation. In other words, angels can pop into the visible realm when they need to. But we cannot pop into the ‘invisible’ realm, no matter how hard we try.
Now, I want you to allow me to stretch your mind a bit this morning. We know that there are these two realms to God’s creation, the ‘visible and invisible.’ And we live only in the ‘visible’ realm as long as we are alive in the body. And for the most part we go about our daily lives with very little thought about the ‘invisible’ realm. We are blind and deaf to it.
But God, of course, is not limited to either one realm or the other. He sees both realms of His creation all the time, the visible and the invisible. Genesis 1:31, “And God saw ALL THAT HE MADE…” Visible and invisible.
Now, here’s where your mind may begin to feel like it’s really being stretched, imagine with me that these two ‘realms’ are not two separate worlds like we tend to think of them, but rather one creation and one world and neither realm is geographically separate from the other, one ‘down here’ and the other ‘up there,’ but both enmeshed together as one.
What that means is that there is an entire dimension of the creation that is going on all around us that we are virtually unaware of except by faith. There are angelic armies led by Michael, fighting against demonic forces, in this world, in our time, in our communities and our homes, while we drive to work and do our job and care for the children and eat our breakfast and do our grocery shopping.
And one day, Jesus is going to come again, surrounded by His angels, and when He does, our eyes will be opened and our ears unstopped and we will see it all, as it is, the ‘visible and the invisible.’ Can you even begin to comprehend and awesome that will be?
In his Revelation, John sees what we will all see. “Many angels numbering myriads upon myriads and thousands upon thousands.’ (Rev.5:11)
So sometimes when think that the situation is really desperate and we can’t see any possible way that it will ever turn out well. And we hear God in His Word say, ‘don’t worry! It’ll all turn out just fine. Trust me. I’m in control.’ And we may have our doubts. But we don’t see what is going on in the ‘invisible’ realm where the angels of God operate against the spiritual forces of evil.
So, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that when God lifts the curtain that separates the two realms, which is what He does through the Bible, just how frequently angels are right present and at work.
I’ve made just a very partial list of the places where angels are present and at work in this ‘visible’ realm, right beside us. It would good to look up these passages this week and think about just how present and active these ‘servants of the Lord’ are in the world and our daily life. They are ‘invisible’ but not distant.
The angels, even Michael the archangel, are a part of God’s creation. They are created beings. And so we do not fall into worshipping the creation, but only the Creator. Only the devil and his angels want the worship and praise of man. The angels of God give all praise and worship to God.
A proper understanding of the doctrine of angels is really important in the life of faith. First, it helps us to maintain a proper perspective of ourselves. It teaches us that we are not the only ones in the choir. There are angels in the choir who sing and worship right along side of us. In the book of Isaiah and Revelation, the curtain is lifted and we see the angels singing before the throne of God, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” They sing the ‘Sanctus’ right out of the Lutheran Service Book and we sing along with them.
We also understand we are not the only ones fighting the good fight of faith in a fallen and sinful world. There are legions upon legions of angels fighting the same battle in the same world right along side us. And they are much stronger than we are.
So, the doctrine of angels should prompt a dose of humility in us. It isn’t all up to us like we think it is. And God isn’t our own private possession like we like to think He is. He’s the God of the angels too.
Which is not to say that God loves the angels more than He loves us or that the angels are more important to God than you are. Our gospel reading for this morning reminds us that God does not choose the biggest and strongest to be the object of His affection and love, but the little and weak. “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.” (Mat.18:10).
Just to be sure we keep things in their proper perspective, it was not for the angels that Jesus left the right hand of God the Father almighty and came into the ‘visible realm.’ And it wasn’t for the angels that Jesus went to the cross with His physical body and was crucified, died and was buried and rose on the 3rd day. He did that for you. And the angels understand this better than we do.
It is the angels who dance and celebrate for Jesus every time one of His lost sheep is returned to the fold, and every time one disobedient and rebellious son of the Father repents and is forgiven and brought into the Father’s house.
And it is not the angels that Jesus gives His body and blood to eat and drink. He does that only for you. And so it is with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven that we join our voice to theirs and laud and magnify His glorious name, now and forever.