Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
To download the mp3 file, right click the image below and “save as.”
If you are one of those people for whom “seeing is believing,” you’re going to miss out on a lot. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that doesn’t exist. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that ‘it’ doesn’t see you.
In fact, isn’t “BELIEVING WHAT IS UNSEEN” what the life of faith is all about? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In fact, isn’t it precisely the things that are “not seen” the very things that the Christian puts his hope in? “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). In fact, isn’t Jesus Christ the One whom you confess to be your Lord and Savior and the only hope for all mankind, and Him you have never seen? “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1Peter 1:9).
Like I said, if you are one of those people for whom “seeing is believing,” you’re going to miss out on a lot. “Vision” is not all that its cracked up to be. We may think that couldn’t live without our sense of sight. But real living begins when you shut your eyes and learn to trust in what you hear.
The opening chapter of the bible describes the creation of the world in six days and concludes with these words, “and God SAW all that He made, and behold it was very good.” (Gen.1:31). God SAW all that He made. He SEES all that He made. And He always WILL SEE all that He made. “As He was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.”
But we do not see “all that He made.” Only a portion of the Creation is ‘visible’ to us. There is a good portion that God created that is ‘invisible’ to us. We are ‘blind’ to it. But along with the Christian Church through the centuries, we believe that it ‘exists’ nonetheless. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and OF ALL THINGS, VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE.” (Nicene Creed).
ANGELS are a part of that INVISIBLE part of the Creation. We’re not told when it was or how God created the angels, but it must have been somewhere within those six day in the beginning because by the time we get to the seventh day, we read, “God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Gen. 2:1)
“Finished” is a big word in the Scriptures. When God says, “It is finished,” He means, ‘it’s ALL there.’ There’s nothing more to do. It’s complete. The Creation is complete and there’s nothing more to add to it. The Redemption of the Creation is complete and there’s nothing more to add – “it is finished,” complete.
ANGELS are an important part of the creation and they deserve our attention and that’s why the Church has put St. Michael’s and All Angels day into its calendar. At least once a year we are reminded to remember that there is much, much more going on in this world, in which we live and move and have our being, than meets the eye.
With just the briefest survey of the Old and New Testaments, it’s virtually impossible not to be struck by the frequency of angels among us. We may expect to find lots of angels in heaven. And there certainly are. But what may surprise us is just how present and active the holy angels are among us.
Angels are in the Garden of Eden with flaming swords; they’re visiting Abraham and Sarah with the news that Sarah is going to have a baby. An angel tells Abraham to put down the knife raised over the child born to Sarah. There are angels moving along with Israel as they make their exodus from Egypt and journey through the desert. Angels bring important messages from God to prophets and kings and even in one place, to a donkey. There are angels of life who announce the life that God is giving and there are angels of death who announce the life that God is taking.
And the same is true in the New Testament. An angel appears to Zechariah to tell him that Elizabeth is going to have a son whom he is to name ‘John.’ The angel Gabriel visits Mary and Joseph to tell them that Mary will conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son whom they are to name ‘Jesus,’ “for he will save His people from their sins.” Angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Angels are present at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. They attend to Him after His temptation in the desert. Angels are the ones who do all the explaining to the women at the Tomb as to why they cannot find the body of Jesus. They explain to the disciples the meaning of Jesus’ ascension.
After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, an angel leads Philip to an Ethiopian eunuch who is searching the Scriptures. An angel strikes down wicked King Herod, tells Cornelius to fetch Peter from his house, frees Peter from prison, tells the Paul where to go and where not to go in planting new churches.
In summary, ANGELS are all over the place right here among us. In our Gospel this morning, we hear Jesus tell us that there is a guardian angel assigned to each and every little child of God. “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.” (Matthew 18:10).
Jesus is simply reminding His disciples that the promise that was made through the Psalmist to the Old Testament Church is still being carried out for the New Testament Church. “For [the Lord] will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Ps.91:11-12).
And just who are these “little ones” that Jesus refers to here? Is there a certain ‘cut off’ age when your ‘guardian angel’ is released from watching over you and is reassigned to another child?
No. Our ‘chronological age’ has little to do with being a “little child” in the Kingdom of God. A ‘child’ is anyone of any age who knows just how helpless they are to defend and take care of themselves in this world, and how totally dependant they are upon the care and safe keeping that God our Father gives to His children.
So sometimes we think that the situation is really desperate, because we forget that an angel is watching over us even while he sees the face of God, taking his command and direction from the Lord.
Sometimes we are afraid, because we forget that an angel is protecting us, God’s agent, assigned to “bear you up.”
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us to be aware of what we too easily forget. We are surrounded by angels, and “are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb.1:14).
All of this that is “invisible” for us for now anyway, is a part of God’s creation. But the Scriptures also make it very clear that there is a day that is coming when God will bring His creation as we know it to an end.
The same Lord Jesus, by whom all things were made and apart from whom, nothing was made that has been made, is going to come again and unveil the “new heaven and the new earth.” And when He comes again, He will be surrounded by His angels. And on that day, our eyes will be opened and we will see, like we’ve never ‘seen.’ We will see like God sees, “all that He made,” the ‘visible and the invisible.’
We will see what St. John saw in His Revelation. “Many angels numbering myriads upon myriads and thousands upon thousands.” (Rev.5:11) Can we even begin to imagine or comprehend what that will be like? Can we even begin to imagine the amazement that we will experience when we SEE that all along, we were living right in the midst of this “myriad upon myriad and thousands upon thousands” of guardian angels?
And yet as amazing as this will most certainly be, what should be even more amazing, what should bring us to our knees in awe, what should most certainly humble us and make little children out of us, is the knowledge that Jesus Christ suffered death on the cross and rose from the dead on the 3rd day, not for His angels. He did this for you. Jesus came into this world, this fallen and sinful world, not as an angel but as a man, to do what no angels could do. And the angels understand this better than we do.
It is the angels who celebrate for the sake of 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.
It’s not to the angels that Jesus gives His body and blood to eat and drink. He does that only for you. And so it is only good, right and salutary that we join with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven to laud and magnify His glorious name, now and forever.