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We Still Believe in Angels

9/26/04

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It's that time of the year when those signs show up at baseball parks of Cinderella teams saying, "We Believe." When the long shot gets even longer, then the signs come out saying, "We Still Believe." Well, in this world that only believes in some of what it sees and none of what it cannot see, We Still Believe in Angels.

Lutherans are big on angels. Our morning and evening prayers have the petition, "Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me." In our regular liturgy we sing the song of the Christmas angels, "Peace on earth, good will toward men." In our Communion liturgy we praise the "Lord God of Sabaoth," that is Lord God of angelic armies. And in the Proper Preface we praise God "with angels and archangels." Lutherans even keep St. Michael and All Angels Day in our Church Year which has been celebrated in the Church since the 400s. We still celebrate it so people may be taught what Scripture has to say about angels.

That's the issue for Lutherans. Not just believing in angels, but believing what Scripture says about them. We believe what Daniel was shown still goes on today. Daniel was shown that behind visible political affairs an evil angel fought against a good angel for 21 days until the chief angel of God's people came to the rescue. We still believe that behind the conflicts of men the angels and demons are at war. As Ephesians 6 says, "Our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of wickedness." Angels and demons wage war through men. That's why Scripture calls on us to pray for our leaders. They need are prayers because they are the subject and object of intense angelic warfare.

We still believe with Luther that "good angels do battle with evil angels in defense of men;" that "Whatever evil happens comes to a far greater extent from them [evil angels] than from those we can see;"that "If anything good happens, it is brought about entirely through the good angels." We still believe with Luther that it is the heathen who don't recognize evil as coming from evil angels or protection as coming from the good angels. It is heathens not Christians who speak of luck rather than of the ministry of angels.

So are you really a heathen? How many times this past weak did you speak of "luck," "luckily," or "lucky"for you? Do you still believe in good and bad angels? Then what does luck, chance, or fate have to do with what is happening to you? Do you still believe that good and bad angels are behind the great geopolitical conflicts that rage in the world today? Then why do you think the outcome is in the hands of men? If you still believe in angels, do you not still believe in God and His Christ upon whom the good angels ascend and descend to minister on earth and before whom the evil angels must prostrate themselves in obedience? Since angels, both good and evil, must serve the Christ who suffered, bled, and died to save you, you can still believe they serve your good.

We Lutherans still believe in angels, both good and evil. Though there are very many evil angels and though they have tremendous power, we still believe that Christ has cast Satan and his angels out of heaven because that's what the Bible says. But the Bible doesn't teach that this happened at the fall. It's true; Satan did slither into Paradise soon after he rebelled against God, but he was still free to come and go from heaven. We find him in the heavenly council among the angels of God in Job. We find him in Zechariah 3 standing right by the Angel of the Lord. And in both Job and Zechariah what is this demonic being doing? He's doing what Revelation 12 says. He's accusing the saints day and night before God.

So when does the war in heaven take place where Michael and his angels throw out the devil and his angels? Just 3 days before Good Friday Jesus proclaims, "Now the ruler of this world shall be cast out." And Jesus goes on to say that takes place when He is on the cross. What casts Satan out of heaven is Jesus living a perfect life keeping all the laws of God in our place and Jesus dying as a damned sinner in our place. If all the Laws of God have been kept, what can Satan accuse you of? If all sins against the law have been paid for, what can Satan say you owe for them?

This Gospel is what throws Satan out of heaven. Notice in our Gospel reading Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." When lightening falls it doesn't go back up to heaven. It's out for good. Jesus sees Satan's fall as a result of the ministry of the first pastors proclaiming the Gospel. This happens here and everywhere the real Gospel is proclaimed. Satan can't bear to hear that Jesus kept the law for sinners. Satan can't bear to hear that Jesus became a curse for sinners so that sinners don't have to be cursed to hell by God. The Gospel takes away the 2 weapons of Satan, God's holy Law and our many sins, so he has no standing before God.

Do you see Satan fleeing from here? Can you hear him shrieking as he goes? Can you see him trying to cover his ears, so he doesn't have to hear that Jesus has defeated him? Do you still believe the Gospel that Jesus has cast out Satan and his angels from heaven? Then why won't you stand in the peace and joy of a clean, forgiven conscience here on earth? This is difficult because the Bible says Satan and his angels have been hurled to earth. So they continue doing on earth what they did in heaven: day and night they accuse you of not keeping the law even though Jesus did; day and night they dirty your conscience with sins that have long ago been forgiven.

But why do you listen if you still believe that Jesus has defeated Satan? And why don't you come here every Sunday to have that faith put back into your heart? Why do you think you can do battle with Satan and his demons by yourself without the Gospel ringing in your ears, without your head regularly being plunged back into Baptism, without the Body and Blood of Christ in your body strengthening and preserving you in the true faith that Satan has been defeated? You think that as long as you have the knowledge that Jesus cast out Satan in your mind, you still believe. You're dead wrong and might end up damned wrong. Lots of people go to hell knowing Jesus. Nobody goes to hell believing Jesus, but the grace of believing is not, cannot be preserved by you, but only by the Means of Grace that are proclaimed, celebrated, and used right here, with our without you.

We Lutherans still believe in angels, good and bad, and that Christ has defeated the bad ones on the cross and gives us His victory over them in Water, Words, Bread and Wine. Furthermore, though the demons can do much harm, we still believe they must submit to us in Jesus' name. In Luke 10 Jesus specifically gives to 72 pastors the authority "to overcome all the power of the enemy." But St. John promises us all, "Greater is the Christ in us than the devil in the world." And St. James promises us all, "Resist the devil and he will (not may or might but will) flee from you!"

Ah but I want angels. I want to see those good angels fluttering here and there. I want to see them by my side with their huge swords and glowing faces. Don't we all. Luther was once asked why angels aren't seen as much now in the N.T. era as there were in the O.T.? "My answer," said Luther, "is that this happened because the Son, the Heir of all things, has appeared. When He Himself is present, there is no need of ministers."

Ladies and gentlemen: Jesus is present now. Luke 10:16 promises that when you hear faithful pastors speak you really hear Jesus speaking. Ephesians 3 promises that as many of you who have been baptized, you have been clothed with Jesus. In I Corinthians 11 we are told that in Communion Jesus comes to earth again. When Jesus is present the demons must cower. See how with just a Word Jesus cast them out. You have that same Word. See how they can't bear His presence. In you Baptism, the presence of Jesus covers you; the demons want no part of that. See how demons fell down in submission before the Body and Blood of Jesus when He walked this earth visibly. Do you think they do any less now when He comes in Communion?

The demonic angels must submit to Jesus and to those in Jesus, that is, to those who hear His Words, rely on His Baptism, eat and drink His Body and Blood. Do you still believe that? Than why do you submit to the demons? You submit to their lies when you worry; you submit to their threats when you fear; you submit to their view of things when you despair. You submit to demons when you use money, sex, alcohol, or drugs sinfully. And by doing so you form thick, heavy chains for yourself as surely as Jacob Marley did in Scrooge, and these only weigh you more and more to the ground.

Try as you may, will as you might you can't break the chains of demons by not worrying, fearing, or despairing. You can't break the chains of demons by laws about not touching, tasting, or using money, sex, booze or dope. In fact, those laws will only forge thicker and heavier chains. No, the only way there is victory for you over demons is Jesus. They shout worries, fears, and despair into your ears; the proclaimed Words of Jesus drive them out. They point out how filthy you've become with your sins of money, sex, dope, and alcohol; you jump back into the cleansing waters of your baptism. The demons try to swallow you with constant: worry, fear, despair, and guilt, you swallow the Body and Blood of Jesus knowing that greater is He that is in you than all the devils that are in the world.

We still believe in angels and the God and Ruler of all angels Jesus. The demons also believe, we're told by James, but all their believing brings them is shuddering, he says. Our believing brings us peace in unstable political times; a Satan forever cast out of heaven; and demons submitting to us in Jesus' name, which is ours: under His Water, by His Words, through His Bread and His Wine. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

St. Michael and All Angels Sunday (September 26, 2004), Daniel 10:10-14; 12: 1-3; Revelation 12: 7-12; Luke 10: 17-20