Pastor Chris Matthis
Epiphany Lutheran Church, Castle Rock, Colorado
St. Michael and All Angels, Series C
Saturday, September 28th, 2013
Sunday, September 29th, 2013
Sermon: Angels Watching over Me
Text: Psalm 91; Matthew 18:10
Focus: God’s holy angels watch over and protect us.
Function: That they would not be afraid.
Locus: “Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me” (SC, Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers).
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Tim. 1:2, ESV).1 Amen. Don’t be afraid! Dear people of God, if you only take one thing away from today’s sermon, I hope it’s this message: Don’t be afraid! That is God’s Word to us on this Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
What an unusual feast it is! We don’t often think about the angels except at Christmas time. Perhaps setting aside an entire weekend of worship services to talk about angels sounds excessive. But angels are real, and they are God’s servants, and because Scripture speaks of them, so do we. September 29th is the Christian Church’s traditional remembrance of St. Michael and All Angels, so when St. Michael’s Day falls on a Sunday, we talk about the angels.
“Angel” is mal’ak in Hebrew and angelos in Greek. Both words mean “messenger.” Angels are God’s messengers, his servants who speak his Word and bring Good News (Ps. 103:20). As the angel said to the shepherds when Christ was born: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The Good News of Jesus Christ is the best news of all, and before there were apostles and pastors, the holy angels proclaimed the message of the Savior!
But nowadays when we think about angels—if we think about angels—we suffer from all kinds of misunderstandings about the angels. Some of it comes from well-meaning, popular piety. Some of it comes from Hollywood. (For example, the famous line from It’s a Wonderful Life: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!” Thank you, Frank Capra!)
One common misconception about angels is that we become angels when we die. But that’s not what Scripture teaches. What is true is that, after we die, our souls are at rest with the Lord and await the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day. The Bible doesn’t say we become angels. Jesus says only that we are “like angels” because “in the resurrection [we] neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30; cf. Mark 12:25). Angels are only spirits. We are creatures blessed with both body and spirit. So we will enjoy both spirits and bodies in the new heaven and new earth.
Another misunderstanding is that the angels are almighty and all-knowing. They are certainly stronger and more powerful than we (Ps. 103:20; 2 Thess. 1:7). They also have
1 All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
incredible wisdom. But they’re not omnipotent or omniscient. Only the Triune God is Almighty and All-Knowing. There are mysteries that God’s angels long to look into (1 Pet. 1:12), but they don’t even know the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32). So don’t give the angels more credit than they deserve!
Another potential pitfall is over-interest in the angels. I knew a woman in another congregation whose entire home is filled with statues and pictures of beautiful angels and fat cherubs. Her obsession almost borders on idolatry. But we’re not supposed to worship angels (Col. 2:18). With us, they are fellow servants of God (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9). On Judgment Day, we will judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). So why should we bow to them in worship? Worship God and him alone!
Angels are God’s messengers, heavenly warriors, and bodyguards for the saints. Angels are God’s servants (Heb. 1:7). They obey his Word (Ps. 103:20). And they serve the Lord by serving us! How remarkable that is that the holy angels serve us. It’s true! The Bible says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). What a wonderful surprise! And in our Gospel lesson, Jesus insists that children, in particular, have guardian angels: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Did you catch it? “Their angels”! The little children have angels watching over them.
Martin Luther was a great believer in guardian angels. Both his Morning and Evening Prayers end with the words, “Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me” (Small Catechism). And the psalmist declares: “[God] will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11-12). You see! Guardian angels!
Angels guard and protect the saints. And they bring Good News to the people of God.
Angels are mighty messengers of God. But they’re not cute or cuddly. They don’t have a lovely feminine form or tear-shaped eyes like a Precious Moments figurine. They are awful and terrifying to behold! The cherubim are winged warriors with flaming blades (Gen. 3:24; Ezek. 10). The seraphim, or “burning ones” (in Hebrew), fly around God’s throne with six wings (Isaiah 6). Sometimes they appear by fire (Ps. 104:4; cf. Heb. 1:7). At other times, they appear like men in gleaming, white garments (Matt. 28:2-4). In most Bible stories where people meet angels, usually their first reaction is to scream in terror! A-a-a-a-a-ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! You get the idea! That’s why the first thing out of an angel’s mouth is most often “Don’t be afraid!”
“Fear not, Daniel,” says the angel in our Old Testament lesson (Dan. 10:12).
“Fear not,” said the angel to Hagar in the wilderness (Gen. 21:17).
Another angel spoke to Joseph in a dream: “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
“Do not be afraid,” said the angel to the women at the empty tomb (Matt. 28:5).
Fear not! Don’t be afraid! That’s what God’s angels have to say.
In the Bible, angels seem to show up for all the most important moments in history. They were there to witness the creation of the world (Job 38:6-7. An angel told the virgin Mary that she was going to give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1). Angels announced our Savior’s birth to the shepherds and sang his praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). Angels were there at the empty tomb to tell the women and Jesus’ disciples that he had risen from the dead. Angels witnessed Jesus’ ascension into heaven. And angels will attend him when he returns in glory on the Last Day (Matt. 25:31).
In the end, maybe all we need to know about the angels is this: they are the Lord’s servants so they serve the Lord Jesus. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). And “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He is Christ the Lord! So don’t be afraid. Do not fear!
Don’t be afraid when you “hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6).
Don’t be afraid when temptations threaten to destroy you.
Don’t be afraid when you get fired and have trouble finding a job. The Lord is with you. He will provide.
Don’t be afraid when sickness and disease knock at your door and cancer grows in the body of you or a loved one.
Don’t be afraid when fire and flood destroy or earthquakes knock us to our knees.
Don’t be afraid when your children, grandchildren, or friends seem lost and far from home.
Don’t be afraid when it seems like everyone is against you and out to get you. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12, NIV).
Don’t be afraid when the end of life draws near, or when the Day of the Lord is at hand, and the sun is darkened and the moon turns to blood.
Don’t be afraid! Because that’s what the Word of God teaches, and that’s the message the angels bring. “Fear not!” “Do not be afraid!” “For you have found favor with the Lord!” “The Lord is with you!” “You seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:5-6). “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). So fear not! Don’t be afraid. There is no reason to be afraid. Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!
Our hope is in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He is “much superior to angels” (Heb. 1:4). For a time, God made Jesus “lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7). Indeed, Christ took on the form of a servant (a slave) and in human flesh he became obedient to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8). Christ did not come to save the angels. He came to save us human beings, mere mortals, and to give us eternal life (Heb. 2:16).
So fear not! Don’t be afraid! God has given you his Son! And he will give his holy angels charge over you. Therefore “you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Ps. 91:5-7). So don’t be afraid! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Chris Matthis