Angels Watchin' Over Me
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 10:17–10:20
St. Michael and All Angels
September 28-29, 2013
“Angels Watchin’ Over Me”
As we step into the autumn season, when we start thinking about raking leaves, I stand before you with this snow shovel in hand – just a friendly reminder of what’s to come. Actually, if the meteorologists are on target the winter ahead is forecast to be colder and snowier this year. Just how cold and snowy remains to be seen. We think back to three years ago and “snowmageddon” with the record-breaking snowfall we received just before Christmas in 2009, and the huge back-to-back snowstorms in February 2010. I was reminded of this recently when I visited a retired couple in our congregation, and our conversation got on the subject of that very memorable winter. Their particular street is a major thoroughfare and when the snowplow goes by all of that heavy, slushy snow that’s underneath gets thrown up in their driveway, creating a sizable wall. And we all know how heavy that stuff is! As I mentioned, they are both retired with some health issues, and as they were working on digging out, this stranger comes up, snow shovel in hand, and asks if they’d like some help. Of course! The stranger was a man with a strong back and arms, and he helped for several hours. He refused any offer of money for his time and effort, and wouldn’t provide his name. He was not familiar to them at all, though they knew most who lived in their neighborhood. The mysterious snow shoveler disappeared when the work was done. In reflecting back on this, the couple wondered if this person may have been an angel sent to help them. This side of heaven we will never know, but we do know this: God’s angels do indeed help and protect his people in time of need. Like the children’s song puts it: “Angels Watchin Over Me.” That is the theme for the message on this Festival of St. Michael and All Angels. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
On the church’s calendar, September 29 is a day set aside to commemorate St. Michael and All Angels. It’s not like Christmas or Easter or Pentecost – one of the big days of the year. This is one of those lesser festivals that sometimes – maybe oftentimes – get overlooked in our life together. Today’s Scripture readings speak of Michael and the ministry of God’s angels. Following in the footsteps of Judaism, Christianity “speaks of an order of heavenly messengers, the angels, created by God to do his bidding and differing from humans by having a fully spiritual nature and no physical body. They are mentioned by Jesus as watching over children (Matthew 18:10) and rejoicing over penitent sinners (Luke 15:10), and there are numerous references to them in the Scriptures. Michael the archangel is mentioned in the books of Daniel (10:13ff; 12:1), Jude (9), and Revelation (12:7-9)… At the time of the Reformation the Lutherans and Anglicans retained the feast then called the Dedication of St. Michael, and expanded the commemoration to include not only Michael the Archangel but all the angels… Michael, whose name is popularly thought to mean “who is like God?”, is usually shown in art as youthful, strong, and clad in armor. He has been regarded as the helper of Christian armies and the protector of individual Christians against the devil, especially in the hour of death” (p. 368, Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship, by Philip H. Pfatteicher. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980).
That’s the history and background, but why is this important. What’s the big deal about angels? We live in a world where evil abounds, and at times seems to triumph over good. The shootings at the Washington Navy Yard here at home, the shooting in a Chicago park, the Westgate Mall shootings in Nairobi, Kenya – these are only the most recent examples of evil that is all around us. Where does it end? Will it end? Make no mistake about it: there is most assuredly a spiritual dimension to all of us, and behind it all is the deceiver of the whole world, that ancient serpent, who is Satan. Satan is himself a fallen angel, and his mission is to deceive and destroy God’s creation, to subvert and undermine God’s gracious will and plan at every step. As C.S. Lewis has written: “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan” (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/there_is_no_neutral_ground_in_the_universe-every/179250.html). We may or may not be aware of the battle against sin and evil in the world around us, or even within our own heart. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel lesson are these: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Satan has fallen like a flash of lightning. He has been thrown down and the victory has been won, even when it seems otherwise. Just before his death on the cross, Jesus cried out: “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and it was – Satan’s power was crushed, sin and death were defeated. It really was – and is – finished! For now, until Jesus comes again on that great and final day to make all things new, we walk by faith through the battle ground of this world. And as we walk by faith, we draw strength, encouragement and hope from one another, and especially him who loves us and gave himself for us. We are sustained by the power of the One who has defeated the devil.
But where do we go to tap into that power? Where do we find it? It comes from the life-giving Word of God as we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this. It comes from reclaiming day-by-day our identity, purpose and meaning in life as God’s beloved children in the cleansing waters of holy Baptism. It comes from receiving Christ’s true Body and Blood in his blessed Supper. Perhaps it is here in the Lord’s Supper that we are especially connected with God’s special messengers, the angels. In the Sacrament of the Altar, the veil is parted and we are mysteriously linked with that other realm that we can now only imagine, and into which we now can see only dimly. The ancient words of the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, remind us how intimate this connection is: “Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn…” Perhaps we were created for this: to sing with all creation, with all the universe, with St. Michael and all the angels, songs of praise that will never end. Amen.