Oct 10, 2013

Reaffirmation on St. Michael and All Angels Day

Angi Sarai Santana de Garrido and family
Angi Sarai Santana de Garrido with her husband, José, and children, Edwar, Ignacio and Anyi.

On Sunday, September 29, 2013, we observed St. Michael and All Angels Day, a “minor” festival of the church year that offers the opportunity to teach the correct doctrine regarding these beings. We also received as a communicant member by reaffirmation of faith, Luz Maria's daughter, Angi Sarai Santana de Garrido.

She was baptized and confirmed at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas, but has not attended services there for some time. Now, after a period of regularly attending our Sunday service, we have formally received her into membership.
St. Michael's Lutheran Church
St. Michael's Lutheran Church (Photo credit: dernst)
St. Michael's Lutheran Church monument
St. Michael's Lutheran Church monument (Photo credit: dernst)
Known among Anglicans as “Michaelmas”, St. Michaels and All Angels Day has been celebrated In the Western church since the 12th century, although Christian churches have been named in honor of the Archangel Michael since as early as the fifth century after Christ. While living in Minnesota, I was a member of St. Michael's Lutheran Church of Bloomington, and while living in Dodge City, Kansas, I heard stories from former members of a St. Michael's Lutheran Church that once flourished in rural Hodgeman County.

The Lutheran Reformers retained St. Michael and All Angels Day on the church calendar and Philip Melanchthon even wrote a hymn specifically for the festival, “Lord God, To Thee We Give All Praise”.

I found it difficult to choose a sermon text from among the appointed lessons, because they all are so rich in meaning. Psalm 91 contains the well-known text, “For he 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.”

In the Old Testament reading, 2 Kings 6:8-17, the prophet Elisha's servant sees the angels surrounding his master as “horses and chariots of fire” arrayed against the Syrian army. The Gospel reading, Matthew 18:1-10, Jesus says that the angels who have been charged with protecting little children see God the Father's face in each one.

Archangel Michael
A popular image of St. Michael.
But I chose Revelation 12:7-12: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. and I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now, the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Here is the English version of my sermon (it also may be found here). I mention that only three angels are given names in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel and Satan. Some might quibble and say that “the angel of the bottomless pit” in Revelation 9:11 is named “Abaddon” or “Apollyon”. But it is not clear from this single verse whether the angel of the bottomless pit is an image of Satan, the Antichrist or some third entity. “Abaddon” is used as a place-name in the Old Testament. In Hebrew it means “place of destruction” and refers to the realm of the dead. Apollyon is derived from a Greek verb meaning “to destroy” and may be literally translated as “The Destroyer”. An angle named Raphael appears only in the apocryphal or deuterocanonical book of Tobit, but not in any books of the original Hebrew canon.

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are people who think in their curiosity about the possibility of a species with intelligence equal to or greater than human beings. Perhaps these beings are not limited to one planet. Some of these people have sent signals to the stars, in the hope of an answer. Their motto is we're not alone.

The Scriptures say if there are beings more intelligent than humans and who are not limited to the earth or another planet. We may describe them as extraterrestrials. But contact with them is problematic, as I will explain.

Other people think that around our visible, material world is an invisible and intangible plane, where there are spirits that can influence events in our world. The Scriptures say if this spiritual world exists. But it is best not to try to communicate with these spirits.

We find in Spanish and English, the word "angel", derived from the Greek word αγγελος which means "messenger." This Greek word is used in the New Testament, which was written in Greek. In the Old Testament, there is a Hebrew word for "angel", מַלְאַך. It also means "messenger."

Sometimes the words translated as angel mean humans. For example, in the Apocalypse of St. John, the Lord commanded the apostle to write letters to the angels of seven churches in Asia Minor. In this case, angel means the pastor of the church, because he who publicly preaches the Word of God is the messenger of God to the church. On the other hand, sometimes in the Old Testament, the angel, or messenger of God is obviously God Himself, as in the story of the patriarch Jacob at Bethel. Many Bible scholars think that in these cases, the Angel of the Lord is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God appearing before His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth.

In other instances, however, angel means one who is not God, but not a human being, either. We confess in the Nicene Creed that God is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible. We believe that angels, in this sense, are the primary creatures of the invisible world. They are spiritual beings, who normally have no physical forms, but sometimes can take a physical form for a while. They have not existed from eternity, like God, but are immortal. They never die, nor sleep, nor need food or drink. They do not have power or intelligence equal to God, but have power and intelligence beyond any human. Angels have the power to influence events in our world. The Apocalypse of St. John says there are angels who have the power to destroy the earth if God would permit it, but God did not allow it.

There are many questions about these spiritual beings to which we do not have the answers. When did God create the angels? He created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, but the book of Genesis does not say on what day He created angels. If we are surrounded by these powerful spirits, why does the Bible forbid direct communication with them? God, in His Word, forbids all manner of spiritism or witchcraft. So why speak of spiritual beings?

There are many false teachings about angels in Venezuela.

Moreover, according to the Bible there are many angels and archangels, but only three are named in the inspired Scriptures. We find one in our text for today. San Miguel, one of the chief angels, that is, an archangel, is mentioned for the first time in the Old Testament book of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 10:13-21, 12:1) and in the New Testament in Jude 1:9 and in our text for today. Another angel named in the Bible is Gabriel, best known for his announcement to the Virgin Mary, Blessed are you among women, because you will be the mother of the Savior, Jesus.

Who is the third angel named in the Bible? Our text reads: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. Thrown down was the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Satan, or the devil, is the rebellious archangel and the head of the rebel angels. Nor does the Bible say when this rebellion against God happened, but it was at the beginning of the world, because it was Satan who deceived Adam and Eve in the garden. Satan and the rebel angels are evil angels, enemies of God and man, who strive to destroy the works of God.

The angels who remained loyal to God are holy and powerful beings, and as confirmed in bliss, praising God around His heavenly throne, and executing the commands of God and serving men on earth.

The Lord has revealed something about the angels to show three points:

1. Satan is not equal to God. He and his angels are creatures of God and under God's control.

2. At the same time, Satan and his angels are more intelligent and powerful than any human being, so no one can resist them by their own forces.
3. We are not alone in the fight against the devil, because God has commissioned the good angels with our protection, even children as says the gospel for today (Matthew 18:1-10).

Now, mind you, the good angels only execute the will of God and bear God's messages. As the pastor of the church can not proclaim anything more than the written Word of God, the good angels have no new revelations for us. They do nothing that God has not commanded. Therefore, it is useless to attempt to communicate with them, much less pray to them. There is only one mediator between God and us, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If it seems someone is in contact with a supernatural entity, who has knowledge that no human being can have, the entity has to be an evil angel, a devil, bent on deceiving us. That is why Scripture says, we just have to trust God and bring our supplications to Him, and avoid spiritism and witchcraft.

Because the war in heaven that our text describes was not the original rebellion of the devil and his angels. John writes, "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. "

This passage describes the victory of Christ from the heavenly perspective. On earth people saw a man dying on the cross. But by the suffering and death of this man, the devil was cast out of the presence of God forever. He could stand before the throne of God only to accuse us of our sins and claim our souls for damnation. The devil and his angels attacked believers, that is, accused them before God day and night, carefully maintaining an account of every failure and every transgression that may have been charged to their account, and then shouted it in the ears of the Lord continuously.

But the hymn of victory is presented, giving all honor to God the Father, the Author of our salvation, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who wrought out full salvation for us. His kingdom is established forever, and all subjects of this kingdom, all true believers are secure in its power. All the accusations of the devil, true and serious as they would be in themselves have lost their force in view of the fact that the atonement of Christ has covered all these sins and guilt, that in the redemption He has carried out for us a complete reconciliation with God. The inhabitants of heaven were also called to rejoice in the victory of Christ, even the good angels took part in the victory over the powers of darkness.

The angels rejoice with us in our salvation and defend us from all evil, as the Lord has sent.

O God, heavenly Father, you have given all creatures, those which are seen and which are not, the opportunity to serve You. You have created the holy angels to serve You in all things. On this day of St. Michael and All Angels, we praise you for all the holy angels and the work they do in response to Your holy will. May they continue protecting and keeping Your people safe from all evil that threatens them. Allow your angels to do Your will and guard us in all our actions, whether awake or asleep, so that when our journey here is over, we can join the hosts of heaven in praise to you forever. Amen.

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