There is a lot of substance in this entire passage. In verses 8-9 we find these well-known words: "And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire." That is enough material for a sermon right there.
There also is the profound truth in verse 11; "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
But I used the first six verses for our opening devotion: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
I explained that little children are not capable of providing for their own needs, or even understanding their needs, but must depend entirely on their parents for everything. "To enter the kingdom of heaven as a little child" means to realize that we are incapable of saving ourselves from our sin and must trust completely in God for our redemption and not our own good works. The passage also emphasizes the importance of small children to the Lord, and the great responsibility and opportunity we have as parents and teachers in the formation of faith and morals in our young ones.
This was the springboard for Luz Mariá's PowerPoint presentation about the Scriptures as the source of our values. We have the moral law written in our minds and hearts, but because of our sinful nature, we have the perfect knowledge of God's will, we are also rebel against their will because of our pride and selfishness. However, Scripture is the revelation of the moral law in its fullness, also the good news of Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins on the cross and therefore we restored to a right relationship with God.
We had no special weekday service, but on Wednesday I talked with the preschool children about verse 10 of Matthew 18, which ties in with the Day of St. Michael and All Angels: “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."
|There still are churches dedicated to St. Michael.|
Sometimes called "Michaelmas", the observance of this day on the church calendar dates back to the fifth century A.D. with the dedication of a church outside of Rome to the Archangel Michael. The Lutheran Reformers removed from the church calendar many saints' days that had no basis in the Holy Scriptures. But they retained the Day of St. Michael and All Angels because, of course, angels are mentioned in the Bible. Michael is one of the holy angels given names (the other is Gabriel) and he is presented as the defender of God's people in times of trial. He appears in both the Old and New Testament in visions of the end times.
“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. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:1-2
And in Revelation 12:7-12, Michael and his army of angels are associated both with Christ's victory over the devil on the cross and with the Final Judgment.
"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 brothers has been thrown down, who accuses 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!”
|Images like these often are the object of |
idolatrous worship in Venezuela.
In our confirmation classes, when we discuss the Apostle's Creed, we speak of the angels as God's (normally) invisible creations, who have power and knowledge beyond what we have. But there are only two classes of angels: The holy angels who exist solely to do God's will and are therefore not to be prayed to or worshiped; and the devil and his angels, who are the adversaries of God and humanity, and are therefore not to be prayed to or worshiped. In Venezuela, many people use images of the Archangel Michael for idolatrous purposes. For example, they carry pictures of Michael in their wallets for good luck.
With the preschool children, I spoke of all the times that angels appeared to people in the Bible, starting with the angel with the flaming sword barring Adam and Eve from returning to the Garden of Eden, and emphasizing the appearance of Gabriel to Mary, the chorus of angels that announced the birth of Jesus, and the angels who told the women at Christ's tomb of His resurrection. And, although we cannot see them now, there are angels all around us today, watching over us. As Psalm 91:11 says, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."