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Angels - Sermon on Luke 10:17-20

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Jesus grants his followers the power to perform miracles, and talks about the expulsion of Satan from heaven. This is the power of angels. But we have the power to do angelic things.  

Note: This sermon was a rerecord done as the recorder did not function on Sunday when It was delivered.  

 This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

October 2 - Michael and All Angels Sunday 

"Angels".  Text is from Luke 10:17-20

Click here for sermon audio 

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

We start with a few short passages from Luke in which Jesus has sent the seventy out and they return with joy, proclaiming that by using his name, even demons would listen to them being cast out.

Here Jesus tells them about having seen Satan cast from heaven, which hearkens back to an older Jewish legend about how Michael and Satan fought and Michael cast Satan down from heaven. And they power that Jesus has given the ones that he has sent out is such that the miracles done in the name of the spirit are done not by the superhuman beings such as Michael and Gabriel but by the people that Jesus had appointed. 

Finally, Jesus tells them not to rejoice in the power that he has given them. That they should instead rejoice that they are destined to join him in the hereafter, the paradise where he resides with Father God and all the other beings of heaven. 

Through the name of Jesus Christ he gives his disciples power, the power to heal and exorcise demons and more important, the power to proclaim the good news in the world that Jesus Christ has come, God has forgiven all people and death holds no more sway over humankind. Such power being exercised by humans is limited, and only through Jesus' will and command. It is the power of beings who many consider to be mythological, but who our scripture tells us about with clarity and purpose. Who are these beings called angels, and what marks our fascination with them, despite our firm conviction that there is only one God in heaven.

The belief in angels goes back long before Christian times. Even at the very earliest of Judaic history, our ancestors in the faith needed to account for the fact that although the belief was in one and only one God, there was no way to interact with that God without having one being blinded or driven insane. And yet messages nevertheless traveled from God to humanity in some fashion or another. The word angel that we use today literally comes from the Greek word Angelos meaning messenger. This word itself appears to be a loan word into Greek from some other language, quite possibly a Semitic precursor to Hebrew. 

Angel in sanctuary.jpg

But the Hebrew concept of angels certainly predates the Greek word and goes all the way back to the time of Moses. We read about the angels and the heavenly hosts throughout the old testament.  In Daniel we read that Michael is the great protector of his people, and will bring the dead of Israel back to life. 

After the exile, before the time of Jesus the Jewish tradition speaks of four archangels who hold up the legs of the throne of God. Michael is the foremost of these, the warrior against Satan, the evil one. Gabriel is the one who announces the end of time, and therefore was the one who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary.  A third one we don't find in the Protestant bible, but the deuterocanonical book of Tobit found in a section we call the Apocrapha, describes the Raphael, the healer.  A fourth archangel, named Uriel, is not found in any scriptures, was known as the angel of death.  

These four archangels are contained in a hierarchy nine different ranks of angels, as follows: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. We don't hear much about these in scripture, and even Michael only appears in the books of Jude and Revelations in the New Testament. Our text from revelations describes how he threw out the great dragon, the snake, also known as Satan, who was thrown to earth with his angels, as it describes. 

We have seen angels depicted in books and in cinema. Often they are beings who do divine will or break ranks with God. In one movie, Dogma, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two angels who'd been cast from heaven and were, like Satan, jealous of mankind. We find Angels in television series, portrayed by the likes of Michael Landon and Roma Downey. Angels pervade our consciousness and whether or not we see them in our midst, with all that we read about them, it's hard to be people of faith and not at least play with the idea that angels are behind the scenes helping us along in many different ways.

When we have had experiences that we can call near fatal, that we somehow managed to get through despite ourselves. Just three weeks ago, this pastor took a dangerous spill on his motorcycle on I-80. I'll confess to the incident being more the fault of a personally inflated ego than happenstance, and clearly the fault of me, person riding the bike, as I was rapidly switching from slow moving lane to slow moving lane during afternoon rush hour with the intent of entering the fast lane. And realizing my fatal mistake even as I bumped the side of the regional bus which was moving somewhat faster than I could compensate for, I dropped the bike to the ground. The miracle was that I survived with nothing more than bruises on my body from the spill and that the traffic around me was paying close attention and there were no additional collisions. If there were such beings as angels who invisibly watch over us they were likely there at that moment. But I fear testing them more than I need to, because this was not the first time that I needed angels in my life.

But the extra terrestrial beings we call angels, and I use that word, extra-terrestrial, because literally, they are not of this earth, may find themselves        sometimes outdone but the work of our fellow human beings doing angelic deeds. Sometimes the kindnesses bestowed upon people by other people are emblematic of the kinds of things that angels do. The unexpected payment of someone's bills, the tireless efforts to see that someone finds safety and security. The walking with another person in their life to see that they get through a hard period, whether it be getting off of drugs or alcohol, getting through depression, or siting with someone to keep them safe from the outside world.

Can people be angels themselves? Each of us is subject to the same saint and sinner dichotomy that plagues mortal humans, and yet maybe in some way we have the spirits of angels within us in order to make these things happen.

Even as Christ gives his followers the authority over demons, he uplifts the authority to proclaim the gospel even more. Even as we may feel at times protected by angels watching over us and keeping us out of harms way from the evils of this world, we remember that the primary function of angels goes back to the historical meaning, that they are messengers of God, sent by God in order that we may know without a doubt that the good news of Jesus Christ, God's only son, our lord, rules over the earth and his heavenly kingdom to give us grace, through his forgiveness making us God's holy people now and forevermore. 


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