I am going to try to post the texts of my sermon, I hope this is helpful, and any comments, good, bad or indifferent are always welcome on any of my posts. Thanks and I pray that the Holy Spirit helps you to find this enriching:
Spiritual Warfare, Michael, Satan
First St Johns September 29, 2013
You are the all powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe Lord God, You are our protection, our defense against all the evil in the world. We thank You that You are always with us, always there to protect us, to guide us. We thank You for your powerful angels that protect us, they watch over us as You direct them Father, for those who are in Jesus, Your angels keep us safe from the evil that lurks all around us. Keep us from the battles that go on around us, I have no doubt if we saw what happens in the spiritual realm we would be terrified, even knowing that while it goes on You protect us. Help us Lord to grow strong, so that we can be used by You to fight the spiritual war, so that we are able to defend our family, our neighbors, our church against the attack from the enemy. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and… and all those who are ready to fight the spiritual war around us said … AMEN.
Today we observe Michael and all Angels day. Michael is an Archangel. There are millions of angels and the counterparts of angel, which are … demons. As you can see from our reading today, all of these beings were together in heaven. Lucifer, Son of the Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), decided that he should have a better gig, decided to push back against God (for a being who was created to be the most brilliant of all angels, I still can’t understand why he would make such a dumb move) but being brilliant can be an idol, lots of people worship brilliance today, it does is cloud your knowledge and judgment. Apparently Lucifer thought he was so brilliant that he was bullet-proof, he learned the hard way that he isn’t .
There’s kind of a fourth archangel, named Raphael, who is mentioned in some of the Apocryphal books, Apocryphal means of “doubtful origin, unknown origin”, we just don’t know who wrote them and so can’t make a judgment on whether they are inspired or not as the 66 books of the Bible are.
It is said that each angel has their own sphere of influence. Some would say down to an individual, in our Gospel passage today Jesus says: “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.” That passage is ambiguous, you could make the case, I wouldn’t bet the mortgage money on it. The more senior angels, as it were, these are the ones who are in the immediate presence of God the Father as Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation, these angels are said to have more general/broader responsibilities. According to legend, tradition; “Michael is in charge of spiritual warfare. Gabriel is in charge of messages and announcements. The domain of Lucifer was knowledge.” We can certainly understand why we would think of Gabriel being the Herald of God, Wikipedia defines herald as: more correctly, a herald of arms, is an officer of arms… Heralds were originally messengers sent by monarchs or noblemen to convey messages or proclamations—in this sense being the predecessors of the modern diplomats.” When you show up to tell people what God is about to do, that’s an important guy. Interesting Lucifer was in charge of knowledge, when man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge the mixing of good and evil together. Much could be said that man in innocence would have had a life of peace and joy. Lucifer decided that we should be smart, because of that, we’ve decided we are smarter than God, so it stands to reason that Lucifer who’s a whole lot smarter than us, should think he’s smarter than God.
The one that we focus on today the leader of the angels, after Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Michael, is also the archangel in charge of “spiritual warfare”, so I am also going to make a shameless plug for our small group that is coming up that is on “spiritual warfare”, that will start on October 10, 7pm. Clearly it is not tradition or legend that supports this idea of Michael being the leader of the heavenly host, and that is what host means, the army of heaven. John tells us specifically in Revelation that Michael and his angels are fighting Satan. The angels are certainly God’s, but this is written in the same sense that a military commander would refer to his men, those he is directly in charge of and responsible for. Michael is the patron saint of the military, police and fire fighters. Do not pray to Michael if you are in the military or public safety, we always pray to the Father in the Name of the Son, but Michael is a sort of icon of the Father’s protection, one of the ways that the Father will send in order to help you or defend you.
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are all considered “saints” since it seems that the angel who is highlighted is Michael, we might assume, that “spiritual warfare” is recognized as the priority. Our epistle lesson and Old Testament lesson, both discuss Michael. The angel tells Daniel that he was held up by a demon and that Michael had to come to help him in order for him to deliver his message to Daniel. In Revelation John tells us how Michael and his angels drove Satan out of heaven. Now, this is the most lopsided “war” that can be imagined, the problem is that you and I are in the middle of that war. But it’s certainly lopsided since the outcome has been determined, the Book of Revelation tells us of the ultimate fate of Satan and his demons. But for now, the world is clearly in Satan’s grasp. Sin abounds in the world, and it seems humanity likes it that way. And let’s face it, we like it, sin is attractive, if it’s prettied up, “hey what’s the harm, right? “John Warwick Montgomery observes: “…the devil’s main act of hatred is not to destroy people (at least not at first), but to get them by masquerading as angels of light. The devil’s best disguise is piety. From the beginning, he’s cloaked damnable wiliness beneath a robe of theological inquiry – ‘Did God really say?’” So yea, go ahead, take a bite, doesn’t matter of what, so long as it separates you from your Savior Jesus, and it must be OK, because it’s so purty, nice, I like it. And that’s how we make decisions today and Satan helps us moves there.
Many people have this odd idea that because sin is so prevalent that God can’t or won’t do anything about it, but Dr Montgomery goes on to say: “…God has even anticipated the demonic opposition of the adversary and the determined seductiveness of the tempter and has systematically integrated it into his own world order (Rev 2:10; 13:5 ff). So really the devil is the power in God’s world who always wills evil and yet always effects good. Satan does not escape from God’s ‘ordo’, but remains co-ordinated in it,” It’s not an issue of whether God is in control, He certainly is, we see that in the life of Jesus and we read about it in the Book of Revelation. What Satan does, God permits. Satan is a completely, evil, depraved and vicious being, have no doubt, if Satan were left to his own devices, this world would be an unbearable hell. To paraphrase what Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt, what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good.
Historically we like to think warfare is cut and dry, there’s the enemy, we protect ourselves from him and trust that God will save us. As Dr Montgomery observed, it’s just not that cut and dry, the devil presents himself as an angel of light, he can do it because he was an angel of light. He can be as pious as anyone, it’s not really hard to do, at least for what he needs. We have to be vigilant, we have to be discerning, to be faithful in prayer and ready to follow God’s leading, we may think we know what we’re doing, that whatever it is must be OK, but the whole point of warfare, spiritual or worldly, is to undermine the enemy. To Satan, we as a Christian, baptized, strengthened by the Body and Blood of Jesus, faithful in attendance and hearing the preached Word, we are the enemy. It’s not hard for Satan to create all kinds of dislike, confusion and outright hostility. We have to be constantly on guard as to what the forces of evil do to Christians individually and as a group. We rely on the promise of God in Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you,…” We only do that trusting in Him, in the pastor He has sent to lead and in our fellow Christians. I’m certainly not saying that this is a formula for perfect peace and harmony, the demonic works hard and constantly, hey they’ve been doing this for thousands of years, it’s not hard to find some sort of weak point. It’s up to us to be vigilant, to test the spirits as we are told, to rely on our Savior. Christ crucified has defeated the demonic, the evil in the world, that does not mean it’s dead, we’ve seen terrorist acts in the world, Satan is more than capable of spiritual terrorist attacks. Through Christ’s life and death we are equipped through baptism, His Body and Blood, the Word, all the armor we need to defeat the enemy. As Paul tells us in Romans in all these things we are more then conquerors through Christ who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.