Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The watchers. . .

Sermon for St. Michael and All Angels preached on Sunday, September 29, 2019.

    Have you ever sat somewhere and watched the world go by?  Have you ever occupied yourself by watching people, in all their strangeness and ordinariness?  Some times I rather enjoy sitting on the bench in the mall or sitting on my front porch – content to watch.  But we are not the only ones who watch.  Angels do many things on behalf of our gracious God but among the most important things they do is to watch.  They watch the world.  They watch the people in it.  They watch the people of God in particular.  They watch the weak, the vulnerable, and those in danger.  They watch the children.  They watch the aged.  They watch you. 

    God has appointed them His watchers.  And they do not miss anything.  When even one sinner repents, their watching is rewarded with great rejoicing.  When even one child is brought to baptismal water, their watching is rewarded with great joy.  When any one of God’s own is in danger, their watching moves them to action.  Ye watchers and ye holy ones, we sing.  These watchers are the Holy Angels, those whom Michael and Gabriel marshal for God’s saving purpose and will.

    God has given His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.  They watch you – not for the occasional odd giggle or sigh or jaw drop the way we watch people but as those who have been given charge to protect and defend what belongs to the Lord.  So in those moments when you find yourself strong in the face of temptation or encouraged despite terrible circumstance or protected against unseen and unknown danger, or led through dark and uncertain path, the Holy Angels were by your side by God’s own appointing.  They watch you because God has commanded the angels concerning you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  The Holy Angels work at God’s command for you and for me.

    The Holy Angels love our Lord Jesus.  Just as they once joyfully proclaimed to shocked shepherds in Bethlehem, so do they rejoice in and work for the holy and saving truth of God in you and for you.  They are with us in the Divine Service to rejoice over the Word of God proclaimed and the Gospel made known and the Absolution spoken and the Table set where the faithful receive the flesh and blood of Christ.  They love to watch you sing the hymns, and chants with high thanksgiving.  They love to see you wrestle with the Word of God in study and in prayer.  Even when you may not want to come to church, they do and more than this, they want you to be here, in the House of the Lord where the Word and Table of the Lord are gift and blessing.  They add their own voices to us in the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and we are made one blessed chorus with the saints above when we joyfully sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
    But they are not above you as some kind of semi-gods, not some grander humanity that links God to us and us to God.  Though we are jealous of them, they wish they were us.  They wish to be the recipients of such love as the Father has lavished upon you and me – that we should be called the children of God.  They would delight in having agents of His grace whose only duty is to watch, guard, protect, and defend – but this is not done to them or for them.  This is what they do for us.  They would delight in knowing the love willing to die to redeem the sinner from his sins, but this delight is reserved not for angels but for you and me.  This too they watch with a hint of envy.

    God has emptied His one and only Son into death to love us, a people who were created in His image to know Him face to face and rejected it all to pursue an empty dream of self-glory.  What God has done for no angel, He did for you and me.  Where demons still lurk in the shadows, the angels are there to shine the Light of Christ upon them, that these wicked ones may have no power over us except the power we willingly surrender to them.  We rightfully fear the demons for they seek our over throw but we forget the comfort of angels whom the Father has given charge over us to watch us in all our ways and to answer their darkness with Christ’s mighty light.

    We love the sentimental picture of guardian angels for children but this is no mere sentiment or picture language.  We are the children of God who fear darkness and demons, who walk in danger all the day, who cover our heads because we are afraid of real things and the ideas of things that go bump in the night.  The Holy Angels are not pictures of God’s love but the real agents whom the Lord has given charge of His most precious possessions.  Though our fears are real, our enemies cannot take from God what Christ died to make His own.  No one can snatch us from God’s hand.  You are not alone nor are you on your own.  God is with us with all the forces at His disposal to guard those whom He has made His own through baptism and faith.

    The Holy Angels are far more aware of us than we are of them.  Perhaps that is not surprising.  They know who we are even when we forget that we are God’s own people, washed clean in baptism and raised to newness of life.  They know God’s power when we cower in fear as if the God who could stand in the cross hairs of our death was some how powerless to deliver us from earthly needs and enemies.  They know God’s purpose when we confuse ourselves with second thoughts and doubts about His once for all Word and the unmistakable purpose of His grace in Christ our Savior.  They see the future when we see only today or see only yesterday and are too willing to believe the best has come and gone or the best will be experienced in this moment.  They are at peace when our hearts and minds are at war with us and with God’s purpose and gracious will.  So we pray that might do on earth the will of God as they do in heaven.

    The Holy Angels did not weep when the nails were being pounded or cry out when our Lord took His last breath in suffering.  They knew what was to come.  They knelt in awe before such love the Father has for you and me that He would send His one and only Son to suffer so, to die, and on the third day rise.  They do not doubt the will of God nor fight against it.  They kneel in homage to the Christ who died for unworthy and who rose to bestow new and everlasting life on those who do not deserve it.  They rejoice to know such love as this that Christ would die not for the good or the wise or the faithful or those worth redeeming but for rebellious sinners who mock the death because they do not believe they need redeeming.  You get to see and hear and experience the great mystery of God’s saving love every week and all they get to do is watch – for Christ did not die for them.  Only for you and for me.

    So give up the silly idea that you want to be or could be an angel.  Would you give up eating to watch others eat?  For the heavenly banquet and marriage feast of the Lamb without end is set not for angels but for you and me.  Do not trade in what Christ died to give you for some shallow sentiment about angels and wings.  You are the beloved of the Father, for whom Christ died and now lives, and to whom He has appointed His angels to watch over, guard, protect, and defend.  It simply does not get any better than this.

    And when the day comes and the hidden angels are revealed.  When the great divide between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven is united forevermore.  When those who wear their white robes will be reunited with the saints on death and all will stand together before the Lamb.  When choirs of angels will teach us to sing the eternal song of praise.  When the future prepared for us is known face to face, then we will know without doubt the love the Father has lavished upon us and our hearts and lips will swell with the angels’ song of joy.  Until that day when the eternal is fully revealed, God calls you to live by faith and rejoice that the angels watch you on God’s behalf.  You are not alone.  Christ is with you and with Him the mighty and Holy Angels of old, with Michael at the head, working for you on behalf of God.  Amen.

No comments: