“Talking To The Angels” – 09-29-13 – St. Michael and All Angels – Cycle C

Listen to the sermon here:

Scripture: Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22; Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20

Are angels a part of your life? Angels are very popular. The belief in angels bring many people closer to God. If you are an “angel” person, is your faith in the angels or is your faith in God? You may answer that your faith in God is enhanced by your belief that angels serve God and are part of a valid theology, or interpretation, of the Bible passages which are devoted to talk of angels.

Today in the drama of our scripture passages, the secondary main character is Satan, also called the Devil. The main character is Michael, the archangel or the head angel whichever name you prefer. We hear about Michael in our Daniel passage from parts of chapters 10 and 12.

An angel appeared to Daniel with a message but his trip to get to Daniel was not an easy passage. The prince of the kingdom of Persia gave this angel some trouble. But, Michael, the strong angel, appeared to handle the prince of Persia so that this angel could come to Daniel. What was the important message that qualified for assistance from Michael?

The important message is about the end of time. Some will be saved and some will perish. The important point is that Daniel’s people whose names are written in the book of life will be saved. Just before this end of time, there will be severe anguish but then will come the reward for the righteous people – the people who tried to live as God commanded. The reward is this: “Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars.” Daniel was promised this reward but first Daniel must be faithful to the end of his life.

I wonder what “wise” means. Does it mean being shrewd as in our lesson last week? I personally think that it means being open to God’s will, always being alert for word from God on how to live our lives. “Help us to know your will and live it,” I pray daily. But, am I constantly alert to God’s reply or replies? And according to this passage, we are to bring other people into this state of being. We are to be inviting and sharing our experiences of being in relationship with God with everyone around us – family, other relatives, co-workers, other students, the stranger waiting in line with us, our Sunday School class.

But aren’t we terrified that we won’t be judged to be “wise” at the end? We could be terrified if we wish, if we have the attitude of thinking the worst, worrying about the worst possibilities. But that is carrying extra baggage. We don’t need to do that. Jesus will carry our baggage or he will discard our baggage. Maybe we don’t really need to be anxious and tense. Maybe we could try being free of baggage – no pressure on the shoulders and the back, no sleepless nights, no stomach problems.

What does this being wise have to do with Michael and All Angels? Do angels just appear to people who need encouragement or do angels appear to non-believers and failing believers? Think about the New Testament. Did Jesus stand with wealthy or learned people or did Jesus stand with poor, sick, and noticeable sinners? The answer is the poor, sick, and noticeable sinners. Surprise, surprise at whom we find in the ancestors of Jesus. Sinners! Of course the word “sinners” may be old-fashioned these days. We could use the term “ill-repute.” Examine that list. Read their stories.

I trust it is no surprise to you that we are sinners and therefore, are we not eligible for the promise to be stars forever and ever? Can the words “sinners” and “wise” sit side by side on the rocket ship ready to zoom into forever? Yes, because the possibility of transformation exists – even to the last minute. There is Michael, this great angel, who took, and takes, care of other angels and regular people. But, the ultimately greatest transformer is our Savior, Jesus Christ by name. It is the blood of Jesus which saves us from Michael’s greatest enemy. Michael has enemies! Yes, the Bible’s message is that Michael overcame Satan or the Devil and annihilated Satan from the heavenly kingdom. Guess where Satan landed when ousted from heaven? Yes, Satan landed on earth. So if you thought you were resisting a force or that you gave into a powerful force it was not your imagination. Satan is real. He has not yet been banished from the earth.

The question I have is why has God not chosen to end this battle already? Why are we waiting in this tunnel with the mixture of good and evil? “Good” being God in our lives. “Evil” being Satan in our lives. Remember, God is always stronger and will win ultimately. But, why this tug-of-war? Why this constant thinking and talking to God and waiting for an answer and for strength to follow God’s suggestions for resistance to evil? I say suggestions because I do believe that we have free will. I picture ourselves being on a long leash – long enough to get into trouble but never unattached from God. God can tug that leash whenever and however God wishes. But why are we waiting for the time when a leash will not be necessary, for the time when we will be in heaven where no temptation exists or so I believe.

We heard Daniel’s story about the angel’s visitation after Michael rescued the angel. Is Michael mentioned elsewhere in scripture? It is in Revelation where we have the story of Michael finally winning over Satan and Satan’s angels. They were plummeted out of heaven. Whom is Michael serving? From where does his strength come? Michael’s strength comes from Jesus, the blood of Jesus. This strength or power is made even more powerful because of the witnesses on earth. That is us! It is rescued sinners telling the story. This is called testimony, bearing witness. It is what we are called to do but it should be spontaneous. It is like the joy of the angels in heaven over one lost sinner who repents. It is like streams or brooks in the spring when water is moving joyfully over the stones so that there is a babbling sound. The water is joyful. It cannot be silent. It is a witness, a testimony to the joy that exists around us if we just notice and let it dwell in us.

Anyway, is your name written in the book of life in heaven? Are you lugging fear in your backpack? Let it go! We could be bursting with joy instead of carrying the infection of fear. Listen to Psalm 103. This is joy pouring forth. This Psalmist even addresses the angels. Let us rejoice with the Psalmist. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy; who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. Bless the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who do God’s bidding, who obey the voice of God’s word. Bless the Lord, all you hosts of God, you servants who do God’s will. Bless the Lord, all you works of God, in all places where God rules; bless the Lord, O my soul.”

Remember, Michael could do this by the strength that came from the blood of the lamb who is Jesus, our Savior. It is our Savior, Jesus Christ who has the strength and shares his strength and power with Michael and with us. Specifically, it is Jesus as Lord and Savior who empowered the seventy missionaries to become the church – the church that exists today.

So Christ’s power does not only apply to our enemies but to the growth of the church. Imagine this church which started when Jesus still walked the earth and is now still going strong. Don’t be troubled by churches which are dying. Look to the churches which are alive and joyful. The original seventy-two missionaries returned with joy, praising God and reveling in their new-found power, the power that comes by claiming the name of Jesus. However, Jesus declared that the power was not going to save them personally. The power may start the church in a solid way but what counts for personal salvation is our name being written in heaven.

Did we hear names written somewhere else? Aha, you heard. It is in Daniel. The people who are wise will have their names written in the book of life.

Doris is sure of her name being written in the book of life in heaven. It fills her with joy. She tells her story with certainty and pride. Wow!

George is sure his name is not written in the book of life in heaven. He has never felt worthy in any way. Any kindness or hope which comes his way is received with gratitude but he harbors humility extreme. George has trained himself not to have any hope about finding himself in heaven. It will be a kind of nothingness when his earthly life is ended.

Alice hopes her name is written in the heavenly book of life but she does not spend time worrying about it either. Alice is so busy being cheerful and telling everything – big and little – what God does for her daily that she does not have time to focus on the eternal life. She is too busy bringing the kingdom of God to earth now.

Which one are you? I do hope that you are not Butch who has been in the company of Satan and Satan’s angels. Butch is the enemy of the town, even this whole area of the state. Butch knows he is headed to hell. Butch, wait! You were created by God. God has plans waiting for you. Plans that were individualized directly for you! Wait, Butch! A rescue is possible. God has angels standing ready to help you. Jesus gravitated to sinners. Look out, Butch. Don’t step on Jesus’ toes. You are so close, watch. Watch while Jesus opens his arms and takes you into his embrace. Wow! Butch, do you hear those angels singing? It is for you! The transformation has happened! You have no idea how many people were, and are, praying for you. Butch, bless the Lord, O your soul, and forget not all God’s benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. Amen.