Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Then at last Thine angels come...
In the Nicene Creed we confess the God who is Father of all things, visible and invisible. We do not dwell much on the invisible. Perhaps we have enough to concern ourselves with in what we see. Today, however, we acknowledge the invisible messengers whom God created to serve His good will and purpose. We call them angels but the Biblical word means messenger.
We are not alone. Though it sounds like something from a horror or sci fi movie, it is the comforting assurance that God has placed angels with us and around us. They serve us in Christ's name keeping the focus on God and never on them. Today we acknowledge these invisible servants of God who protect and serve us and Michael the Archangel, their prince.
The truth is that spirits are real. Evil spirits who conspire with the enemy of God to undo what His good and gracious will has done and the good spirits who guard, defend, and protect what God has done. Why would anyone pay attention to angels if you do not acknowledge Satan and his evil minions? These angel messengers from God having something more to do that keep us from stubbing our toes. They protect and defend the people of God from their spirit enemies whose goal is not to irritate us but to devour our faith and hope.
There is far too much mythology about angels and the truth is we do not have to make things up. The reality is better than they myth. Scripture is filled with the stories of the powerful angels who fight for us. According to Scripture, when Lucifer and those allied with him rebelled against the Triune God, it was Michael who marshaled the spirits to fight and win this primal battle for heaven and for us. These angels are no pushovers. They cleansed heaven in preparation for Jesus Christ to come and crush them on earth by His death and resurrection.
These spirits served Jesus at several points. In His weakness after the temptation they came to Jesus to minister to Him. They serve us in the very same way. The promise of the Psalm is that God will command His angels to guard us in all our ways. This is no fanciful story or cutsie anecdote. Christ has won the battle once for all but the devil and his evil ones still chaff under Christ's victory and work to steal from Him those whom he can overcome with doubt and fear.
We are in real danger but we are not without real power. As we sing in "A Mighty Fortress" – one little word can fell the devil and all his ways. Christ is with us and with Christ the legion of His messenger servants to guard God's most precious possession – you and me.
We are kept by God for God through the means of grace that impart Christ to us and with Christ the full measure of His grace, mercy, and blessings. The cross is no mere fact of the past but the source of life and hope for those upon whom God has marked the cross in baptism, renewed that cross through confession and repentance, and refreshed that cross through the blessed food of Christ's body and blood.
And with that cross comes the angels. Michael literally means like God. Without flesh and blood to consume their attention, they fully focus upon us, serving us in Christ's name and with His power to guard and protect the treasure we are to the Lord.
The world seeks to undo us with temptation to sin, the devil by turning our focus from Christ to our guilt and selfish desires, but the angels work to keep us from being undone by our fears. The whole point of knowing that the angels fight for us is to relieve us of the fears that we are alone or powerless before evil. Fears which too easily steal our joy and create the cracks of doubt in the strong arm of God's grace which is all around us.
The world is a fearful place. Do not lie to yourselves or to your children. But neither should you despair. We do not live without hope and we do not grieve without hope and we do not die without hope. Christ is with us. Those for whom He lived and died, Christ will not quickly or easily surrender to his enemy. His eternal victory is ours but His presence sustains by the means of grace. The blessed Word that does what it promises, the water that kills to give new and eternal life, and the bread and wine that feeds us immortality. These are all ours and they are accompanied by the protection and bidding of the angels.
What the angels do for the Lord and for us is great but the most blessed duty of the angels is to deliver us from this veil of tears to the greater glory of heaven. There is no more blessed duty of the angels than to take us from our ills, from our sorrows, and from the shadow of death into the light of eternal life where nothing can touch us anymore. As the angels sang at Christ's birth and pointed to His resurrection at the grave, so do they work for us from the beginning of our mortal lives until we are delivered to our eternal home in heaven.
On Thursday, Pastor Childress, our Pastoral Assistant, received the ministration of the angels, the last and final duty of the angels which carried him home into the arms of our Savior forevermore. As he breathed his last, I spoke these words into his ears:
Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram's bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my Fount of grace,
Lord Jesus Christ,
My prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.
Of all the praises we could sing to God for the service of angels, none is more precious than when they take us to be where Christ is, in the place prepared for us when we were received into God’s Kingdom in our baptism, a journey complete when we close our eyes in death to awaken in His glorious presence forevermore. Amen and Amen.