Concerning Michael & the Angels

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God’s answer to “The Accuser” is unexpected.  His answer is the blood of the Lamb.  Rather than destroy the accused, God takes on human flesh and stands in place of the accused.  In Christ on the cross, God becomes the accused.  The work and weight of evil fall on him.  On the cross, God draws all the weak and shamed and grieving people into his loving embrace.  And there he grants them forgiveness, mercy and eternal life instead of judgment.  In that way… through the blood of the Lamb, the power of the Accuser is shattered and cast away.Michael and All Angels
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3, Revelation 12:7-12, Luke 10:17-20

September 29th, 2013

Peder Stenslie

Today, I’m going to talk about a specific branch of applied physics.  I’m going to explain all about high intensity hadron particle accelerators and how they hurl beams of protons and ions at each other at nearly the speed of light, and how the resulting impact of these particles will teach us things like how the universe began and what it’s made out of it, and what dark matter is and how it holds the whole universe together.

No….  I’m not.  I’m not going to talk about these things because I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.  I don’t understand these things. I’ve read a couple articles about this that I found interesting, but truth is… conversation about them is beyond me. I would be faking it if I pretended to understand these things.  And I certainly have no business trying to explain them to others.

That’s kind of how I feel about today’s general theme.  On this Sunday we celebrate glorious celestial beings,specifically Michael and all angels. All of today’s lessons speak of such beings: Michael and the angels, the devil and demons.  We read about the conflict that rages between them. And I really don’t know what to say about these things.  These mysterious beings and events simply lie beyond the grasp of my intellect.  For me to try to explain angels,archangels, demons, and so on… it’s just out of my league… above my pay-grade…or however you want to say it.

On the other hand, I do feel comfortable talking about what angels have meant to people over the centuries.  That’s something I think I can understand.

Angels have been and are important to people because they represent God’s help, God’s rescue,God’s strength given to us as we face impossible foes and hardships.  They personify Gods healing and protective power that renews our life and brings us safely through evil, sin and death… home to God.

Consider the words of the old Gospel hymn sung by the boys earlier:

Oh come angel band, Come and around me stand

Bear me away on your snow white wings, To my immortal home

 Oh bear my longing soul to him, Who bled and died for me

Whose blood now cleanses from all sins, And brings me victory.

In this and other songs, we hear of angels bringing comfort and peace, carrying out and fulfilling the work and will of God.  These are beautiful and powerful images.

The African American Spiritual sung at the beginning of worship today features Michael (Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore).  That’s the angel who gives his name to the special feast day we observe today.  That’s Michael of today’s Old Testament and New Testament readings.

Michael is mentioned only 5 times in scripture… three times in the book of Daniel, once in the New Testament book of Jude… and once in the book of Revelation.  He is called the prince of the people of God… the protector of God’s people. We are told that he leads God’s fight against the devil and his powers at the moment of truth in history… whenever that moment might be.

Both Daniel and Revelation were written specifically for people who lived during very troubled times.  I think it is safe to say that it is people who have faced dark and terrifying times that especially appreciate thinking of angels being in their midst, just as they can imagine the devil and demons in their midst.

It’s when we deeply realize how lost we are in this world… how weak and small we areas we face destructive powers all around us and within us… it is then that stories and visions of angels can become the Gospel of Christ for us.

In the song, “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” there’s a line that declares: “Michael’s boat is a Gospel boat.”  The song speaks of the painful separation from God that we know in this world; but joyfully proclaims God’s will to bring us fully home to him.  “The river is chilly and the river is cold,” the song declares.  “The river is deep and the river is wide…” but Michael brings us to the other side…where there is milk and honey, and where God plants his garden of eternal fruit for you and for me.

In the words of these songs, I can hear that angels are important figures of the Gospel for some people… even if ideas and stories of angels are impossible to understand.

Looking specifically at today’s lessons, there are a few lines in these otherwise mystical and bewildering texts that I think are very important… and very much within our understanding.  I want to draw one of them to your attention today.  It’s from our Revelation text, beginning in verse 10.

It reads:

The accuser of our [brothers and sisters] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  Butt hey have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.”

The accuser identified in that verse is the devil.  That name — “The Accuser” — is a very old name in Biblical history.

Today’s lesson from Revelation makes use of that ancient title in order to highlight the primary power of the devil.  To accuse is to charge that a person has done wrong and deserves punishment.  It is to make the case that a person has failed to measure up to standards and therefore should be cast away.  To accuse is the great “no” of human life, the rejection of our worth and being.

That is the power of the devil… to accuse. He does not have the power to claim us or condemn us.  He can only appeal to God with accusations.

And that basically sums up the cosmic… and also, intensely personal… spiritual battle in life.  We see it in evil shown in hatred that accuses others of worthlessness… of deserving punishment,annihilation… damnation.  Its tragic consequences can be seen all around us in the world.

We can also meet the accuser in our own shame… or even in own actions… which accuse us of the same.  That we are worthless, no good, undeserving of love.

Other forces in this world assail our spirits in the same way.  Tragedies, illness, addictions… growing old….  They rob us of joy and purpose and health and leave us broken and wondering, “What am I good for?  Does my life have any value?”

Eventually, all of us… our bodies fail and we die. This world says its final “no” to us and we cease to live.

The passage from Revelation promises us that the power that accuses us in all these different ways is undone… finished… utterly defeated… by the blood of the Lamb.  The “blood of the Lamb” is an expression that refers to Christ’s death on the cross.

According to Revelation, “Night and day,” evil accuses us before God who is the author and ultimate authority of life… the ultimate judge over value in this world.  This evil wants us reduced to nothing… and it never rests. And it expects God to deliver on that judgment.

But God’s answer to the Accuser is unexpected.  His answer is the blood of the Lamb.  Rather than destroy the accused, God takes on human flesh and stands in place of the accused.  In Christ on the cross, God becomes the accused.  The work and weight of evil fall on him.  On the cross, God draws all the weak and shamed and grieving people into his loving embrace.  And there he grants them forgiveness, mercy and eternal life instead of judgment.  In that way… through the blood of the Lamb, the power of the Accuser is shattered and cast away.

You belong to God.  There is nothing on earth or in heaven that can stand in the way of God’s claim on you.  Michael and all the angels proclaim and participate in this powerful unfolding promise.

In Christ, the Kingdom of God has broken into your world and into your hearts.  From there, sooner or later, one way or another… God will redeem every bit of you.  No human or demonic will can out last the will of the creator of all that is.  The great “no” will be silenced, and you will rejoice as you discover that God, in love that has no limits, has written your name in heaven and stamped it “child of God, you are mine forever.”

Amen.