Archive for October 2011

October 31, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

Reformation Sunday 2011

Dear Friends in Christ, Grace mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus. Our text is the Epistle lesson. Tomorrow, October the 31st is Halloween and that means that neighborhoods everywhere will be filled with youngsters walking up and down the streets, bucket in hand, wearing all kinds of costumes, knocking on doors, reciting the same refrain: they ring the doorbell, someone answers with a bowl of candy and the youngsters say, “Trick or Treat”. We know how it goes, we have all participated in the fun at one time or another. One thing about the history of Halloween that still is evident today is its connection to All Saints Day. All Saints is a Church celebration of those who died in witness to the faith; the superstitious assumed that was some sort of a summoning of the dead and so Halloween, or All Hallows (All Saints) Eve has become a celebration of those who have died. The secular celebration sometimes can offend against Christian sensibilities. It seems macabre. Scary, and sometimes evil. It can make us pause and consider our participation. Yet there is something reflective of our Christian faith hidden here, that we often don’t realize. And that is the fact that death and evil really is not all that scary. Now I know that the Halloween masks and costumes can be unsettling and even somewhat gross; especially for younger children – I try to steer my younger children away from these sorts of things to avoid having nightmares. But, truth be told they are not really that scary. A kid in a monster mask is just a kid. Underneath the mask is a boy or girl who just wants a piece of candy. Likewise underneath the threats of death and the devil is a weak and impotent spirit stripped of his power and authority and unable to lift a finger against God’s chosen and baptized believers. Under the threat of death is the hope of rest in heaven with Jesus and those who have died in the faith and likewise there is nothing to fear. For the one who believes in Christ’s death and resurrection, for the one who believes in Christ’s victory over death and over the devil, evil can offer no threat that is not easily overcome by the Word of God. Satan is judged. Death is defeated. Sin has been done away with. All that remains is joy and laughter and a big giant celebration. The Word of God has made you free, you are free indeed. Our text for today comes to us from Paul Epistle to the Romans. He is writing about those things that are truly scary and that can truly threaten and kill and that is the laws and the commands of God. It says, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” In other words, the Words of God that deliver God’s expectations and commands are laced with judgment. God demands obedience. God demands compliance. And to make it utterly unreachable and unattainable for any of us, God demands that we do it perfectly. When God’s demands are not met, he in his divine justice punishes every law breaker. This is how it works; the scriptures are abundantly clear – you obey the law you live and prosper. You disobey and you die. Now that is something truly scary. More than any monster movie or Halloween costume could ever be, God’s judgments are for real. But that judgment has been neutralized. Because that law has been fulfilled. It can’t condemn us any longer. The Apostle continues: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Paul points us to Jesus. Jesus is the sacrifice that fulfilled God’s wrath. Jesus is the One who died to pay the just penalty for Human sin. Jesus is the One who received all of God’s just anger and now we go free. Set free from death. Set free from all those things that would frighten us and scare us and terrify us as though we still had to fear God’s judgment, as though we still had to be afraid of death. We don’t. In fact, we can laugh at death. We can mock death. Jesus defeated death. Jesus defeated Satan and made a mockery of Satan. (Ephesians 4:8) We can too. We can laugh at the devil. When the rest of the world is cowering in fear, afraid of ghosts and spirits and goblins and zombies we can turn on the bright light of the Gospel and laugh. We can see death for what it is, the devil for who he is. I have seen it in countless hospital rooms and funeral homes: Christians come face to face with the death of one they loved and instead of shrinking away in fear and anxiety and grief, they sing. Their hearts sing. In spite of the grief and in spite of the sadness of a real loss, faith that trust in Jesus clings to Jesus and trusts that they will see this loved one again. There is nothing like it. These days it has become popular to put out all kinds of Halloween decorations. People will put cobwebs on trees. They will put orange lights all around to give off an erie glow. They will play spooky sounding music and even put mock tomb stones in the front lawn. I doesn’t fool anyone. It’s just a house. And the house gives out candy. Big deal. Same with death –it looks spooky and horrible – but it isn’t. It’s just death. Christian go to and through death with nothing but quiet and peaceful confidence because Jesus has been there first and he has removed its sting and neutralized our enemies that were lurking there. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s the gateway to heaven. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, says the Psalmist. Isn’t Satan a liar? Death cannot harm us. And neither can Satan. But he still tries. In fact, Satan often does what our kids do at Halloween. He dresses himself up and he puts on masks to try to fool us. He tries to intimidate us. He tries to make us think that he is powerful. He snarls and growls and threatens. He lies and pretends that he has power to destroy us, knowing full well that he does not. But hoping we will be frightened into believing him. Martin Luther made the comment that yes he is a devil, but he is God’s devil. God takes advantage of this pitiful spirit. He uses his hatred and anger against the believers and the Church to help accomplish His purposes. God allows the devil some slack in his leash to go attach the church, to attack his Christians from time to time. But God is there watching through the whole thing, allowing his Christians even to suffer for a time, but, all the while knowing that this suffering strengthens the Christian. It even adds to and increases our joy. In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul writes: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV) Suffering leads the Christian to a stronger and more vibrant faith. Satan’s best efforts work against him. He is only God’s agent to teach us to pray. Dear Christian, when you suffer learn to pray. When you struggle learn to pray. Learn to give your struggles and your fears and your anxiety and worry all to God. Learn to run to him in faith and know that he will permit this suffering only as long as he has ordained it. He can remove it in a moment. In the mean time, receive it as a gift, and as an invitation to kneel before him in humble prayer. Receive his invitation. Respond to it in faith. Tomorrow is Halloween, kids in masks will be roaming the neighborhoods pretending to be terrifying. But they are not. They are just kids looking for candy. Likewise the devil will wander in and out of your life breathing out lots of threats and brandishing death like a weapon. Death’s stinger has been removed. Satan’s power is gone. God’s Word clearly testifies to that. We belong to Jesus and Jesus is here. Jesus has defeated death, he chases away the devil. We are saved In His name. Amen.

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October 24, 2011 @ 9:11 am

Pentecost 19 October 23 2011

Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Have you ever read the book of Leviticus? Many have not, at least not in a devotional way. Often Christians, wanting to know their Lord’s Word, will commit themselves to reading the entire Bible and will read it then, but even then, the book is hardly a favorite. The Psalms are beautiful and poetic; the proverbs are pithy and easily quotable. Genesis and Exodus have great stories to tell, but Leviticus by comparison usually just seems kind of bland. That being said it’s not a book that read as often as we read others. Maybe to put it another way, not many confirmation verses come from it. I've never had anyone every tell me they want their funeral to be preached from it.

But still, there it is, tucked away as the third book from the front of our Old Testament Canon. Our Lord inspired it to be written and gave it to us for our edification and our understanding and our growth in faith and love. It is good that we read it. It is good that we get it out and dust it off from time to time to see what God has hidden inside this often obscure text. And upon opening and studying from it, we discover it to be filled with treasures.

Our text for today offers a bit of a theme for the book, it is a refrain that is repeated throughout Leviticus that often summarizes and connects a command or series of commands to a purpose for keeping them.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

The Book of Leviticus follows directly on the heals of Exodus. After God led his people out of Israel, he brought them to Mount Sinai where he outlined the conditions of a covenant that he would make with them, an agreement for their coexistence together as God and people. He defined what he would do for the people and then how they would respond. And, according to the conditions of this agreement, they would live together as God and people. God would do what God does, he would provide for the people protection and help and aid from their enemies, he would give them a land that was abundant and fruitful, he would establish their descendants, their children in the land and he would establish their kingdom forever. And, as a response and as a result of what God had done, the people would do the things that God commands, the would “be holy because the Lord their God is holy.” The book of Leviticus is about God’s holiness that God passes along to God’s people so that they can be God’s people.

The thing to note is that holiness is a gift. It is something that God gives and that God creates and if we have it, it is because God gave it. Usually when we hear the word we think of what we do. We think of it as a list of do's and don't's. A bunch of rules and regulations. Yet, holiness has to do with the Lord. It is who he is and what he does and how he does it. The Lord is holy. He can be nothing but holy. In order for us to be with God, to be where God is, it is necessary that we also be holy.

There was a time when we were, that is to say there was a time when people were, that we were holy in our nature. It was a part of God’s creation. It was given to Adam and Eve. They possessed the image of God. They enjoyed the blessing of close communion with the Lord. It was lost. They disobeyed God. They fell into sin. God’s image and God’s holiness was gone, communion and fellowship with our Lord was gone.

In its place came a new self, a new nature. A sinful nature. Our Lutheran confessions describe our will as being curved in on its self. Instead of being tuned in to God and his will and his desires and instead of being eager to serve God and to please him, we have become eager to serve our selves and please ourselves. We are selfish and self-motivated people.

We fail to realize just how far from God we have come.

The world is an evil place. We can read about it in the papers. There were people held in a basement in Philadelphia who were tortured for sport by their captor. Mexican drug cartels are kidnapping and slaughtering people by the hundreds. Libyan rebels treated their captured former dictator with the same inhumanity as he had treated them. We see evil out there, we are not so quick to realize it in ourselves. After all, I haven’t locked anyone up in my basement. I don’t sell drugs. I haven’t dragged anyone through the street. I may not be perfect. But I am okay.

But God has a different standard. God measures with a different stick. Be holy as I the Lord your God am holy. God wants us to be not just better than the worst. He wants us to be what he is and how he is. He wants us to be like him. He requires us to be like him. If there is to be communion with him there is no other option.

And so in our text we see a more detailed definition of what that holiness would involve. God defines how the human will should be bent back out, not toward the self but toward God and our neighbor.

Be fair with each other. Don't falsely accuse. Don't slander, don't publicly run somebody down. Meditate on those words. Consider them with honesty and humility. Pray those words and the Lord will teach you where you have failed to keep them.

The real sinker is that it goes beyond just actions and words, God commands purity of heart. Don't hate your brother in your heart. We can control our actions, if we work really hard we can control our words, but those words and actions come from the heart. Sin is born in the heart. Gossip and slander and even violence and kidnapping and torture begin in the heart. God measures what we hide away from each other, our hidden faults and sin and evil.

Often when we confess our sin, the sins we think we have to confess are the outside sins, the slander or gossip, the outbursts of anger, We think less of the sins of the heart and even explain them away. But the sins that can condemn you are the ones that you refuse to confess. The sins that will send you to hell are the ones you hide away from God and the ones that you pretend need no forgiveness. God's law completely condemns us inside and out. The Christian receives that law and turns in faith to Christ.

Our text teaches us that to be the people of God to be one of God's chosen and beloved Children is to be nothing other than forgiven. To come completely filled with sin, to be nothing but a beggar before God and to receive God's law and be poured out and empty. To be an empty sack.

We are entering the cold season where soup kitchens become a greater necessity as the poor and homeless search for warm meals on cold nights. It would make little sense for a homeless man to turn away a warm ladle of soup because he had filled his bowl with dish water. But isn't that what we do?

The Christian comes before God empty and God fills him. The Christian comes before God needing help and forgiveness and restoration and God provides it. God gives. God forgives. God saves. And God restores.

As God outlines the provisions for a covenant together with him it becomes evident that we have not fulfilled this. We are not holy. We have never been holy. But God is. And god gives his holiness to us. He declares it to us. He speaks it into us. And then he puts it into our mouths.

Take eat, this is my Body says the Lord. Take drink this is my Blood. God's holiness is given to you to fill you up from the inside, to over come sin in you and to strengthen you in works of service and righteousness.

Faith and worship and a relationship with God is all about God making us what we are not. We are sinners, He is holy. We are corrupt. He is pure. We are curved in on ourselves he is selfless and serving. God takes us, forgives us and makes us to be what he is.

May we grow in faith and righteousness and godliness as we learn more and more to walk in faith with him.


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October 17, 2011 @ 8:49 am

Pentecost 18

Dear Friends in Christ,

When the RMS Titanic was sinking in the Northern Atlantic is was very soon apparent that there were not enough life rafts available to save everyone who had booked passage for the transatlantic voyage. There were a select few places reserved on those life rafts, there were a select few opportunities to be saved from that sinking ship. The Ship's crew had to decide who would be permitted to board the life rafts and who would be left to go down with the ship. As it happened on that fateful night, the wealthy, the first-class passengers were given preference to board the life boats. The “upper crust” were apparently treated as though they were more worthy to be saved, while those who were among the poorer passengers were retained below deck. Choices were made, sure they wanted to save everybody. They could only save a few. They decided the rich were worth saving.

Dear Christian friends,

Worse than the Titanic, the world we live in is a sinking ship. She is going down to her destruction. In spite of her superior design and construction, built by the Lord himself, her passengers and crew – that is to say the human race – has run her to her destruction. The ship is going down. Some will be saved. But many will be lost.

But the Lord has provided a life raft. He has provided salvation for all so that none need be lost. The Lord has provided the church with ample seating for those left adrift in the sea. Yet still so many will perish. And many wonder why? Of all those who are milling about on the deck of our sinking ship, of all those who are out in the sea drifting aimlessly along, why me? How did I come to be saved and why are other still un accounted for? This question is taken up in our Epistle text for today.

In catechism class we call this the doctrine of election. The teaching of the scriptures as to how it is you have come to be saved. Our text tells us that those who are saved, those who receive the gospel are the elect. They have been elected, or chosen, or selected out for salvation. They have been dragged in to the life raft of the church through the influence of the almighty. God chose them. God pulls them in. God is responsible to save them.

In our text, the Apostle Paul assures his readers that they are among the chosen, that they are the elect. God predestined them and their salvation is sure. And the proof is in the marks of the Church. That is to say, the proof is in the power and work of the Spirit of God. God sent His Word, God sent his Spirit to accompany that Word. The Spirit moved unbelievers to faith and joy and righteousness. Hear how Paul communicates this message:

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Dear Friends, this doctrine of Election is given for our comfort. Paul makes use of this teaching to give comfort to the Christian in Thessalonica. In spite of their suffering, in spite of their struggle, they could be sure of their salvation. They could be sure that God would be with them and take care of them, they could be sure that God would see them through to the end because God had chosen them for salvation.

Imagine how comforting it would have been for those passengers on the Titanic if they would have been able to know that they would be saved. Think of how terrifying it would have been to be aboard that ship. There was the initial collision with the iceberg. Then the ship began filling with water. It began to tilt and be drawn further and further into the ocean. Experts today know that the ship went into the ocean front first and that the back end was sticking straight up out of the water before it broke in half and went down to the bottom of the ocean. Can you imagine how terrifying that would have been? To look up and see this huge ship with its back end sticking out of the water? Watching it go down into the sea? Yet what if you had the comfort, the assurance, that as all this was going on you would be saved. What if you had the promise that you were going to make it? What if it had been told to you ahead of time that the sinking ship, that watery grave would not take you? Because you were chosen. You were elect. Before you ever got on that boat you would set foot on land once again.

That’s the promise of election.

No matter how bad this world gets. No matter how much evidence we see of its destruction, it will not take you. You have been chosen by God. You are among the elect. You are going to be saved. You have that promise, that guarantee by God himself that you are going to make it. You will make it to heaven.

Paul gives the evidence of this to the Thessolonians. He tells them that he knows they are elect and his proof is in the Word of God and the accompanying power of the Spirit. Faith in the midst of struggle. Joy in the midst of suffering. Hope in the midst of death. Paul says to the Thessalonians. We know God has chosen you. You received the Word. You received the Spirit. You have the marks and the evidence of faith.

Yet, dear Christian friends, Satan would have none of this hope and joy and comfort while he is trying hard to steer this ship to the bottom of the sea. He is going down with the ship and he wants every single passenger to go down with him. He knows of Christ. He is aware that the Son of God built an unsinkable life raft that would save everyone, but he wants us all to perish, he wants us to doubt the strength and the sea worthiness of that life raft, he wants you to doubt your place in the church, so he does everything he can to take it away from you. He does this by attacking the words of promises of God. He does this by undermining the hope provided by the true doctrine discovered in the Word of God and twisting it into falsehoods. Satan takes away your comfort with false teaching and false doctrine; particularly here with the doctrine of election.

One of the tragedies from the sinking of the Titanic was the overconfidence in its design and the foolish belief that it was not going to sink. The Engineers thought they had hit upon a design that would withstand a rupture in the hull and they billed the ship as unsinkable. The passengers believed them. When the ship was sinking they were so confident in the strength of their ship that they refused to board the life rafts. Satan uses similar tricks to convince people that they don’t need to climb aboard the Church. He tells some that the ship isn’t sinking. He tells others that they are good enough swimmers to make it to shore without a life raft. This is foolishness. Put in these terms we can see it immediately, yet still many are convinced to jump out of the boat, to leave the church because they don’t think they need the gospel. I can make it on my own. I can make it to heaven without the church, without the gospel. I am a good salvation swimmer. Friends this is a lie from Satan and those who leave the safety of the gospel are doomed to drown in their sin.

Today we are honoring the work of the LWML – Lutheran Women in Mission. This wonderful organization represented here in our own congregation has dedicated itself to the mission of pulling people out of the water. They support the work of missionaries. They help local congregations. They support pastors and preachers – in other words they help support the life guards – those who are casting out lines into the icy ocean to pull aboard those who Christ would save. This is a necessary work. It is a needed work and these ladies have done it faithfully. They have held up the hands of pastors and missionaries, supporting them so that the work of evangelism might continue. This group and these ladies are worth honoring.

Sometimes Satan tries to discourage the work of evangelism. Remember he wants everyone to go down with the ship he has steered into the iceberg of sin and he wants to undercut and undermine this work of evangelism. He tells Christians that it’s not necessary. Sometimes he does this by way of a false teaching called double predestination – a teaching that says that God has chosen some for salvation and everyone else he has chosen for death. Because of this Christians conclude that evangelism doesn’t matter. If your elect, God will save, if your not, there’s nothing we could do about it anyway so why bother. Other times Christians don’t do the work of evangelism because they are board, because they don’t care, because they are preoccupied, because they are busy doing other things.

Christians, could you imagine anything so callous if while out on the high sea drifting along in a life boat with plenty of seats still to be spared the passengers save from the wreckage of the Titanic would have ignored the cries of those gasping for breath and struggling to swim on their own? Isn’t it mere human decency to respond to those cries for help by reaching out to save them, to pull them aboard? Shouldn’t we, shouldn’t you be scanning for those who need to pulled aboard? Do we instead deny their need for help because heaven forbid someone sit in my pew, heaven forbid that we should have to welcome them as they sit down beside us. Dear friends, the world is perishing. People are dying. The LWML reaches a hand out to the drowning, a hand of Christian love, and a promise of salvation.

Our text teaches us that Christ’s death was for you. You can be sure. You can be confident that you will be saved because of what God has given in his word and by his spirit. May we share that gift with a dying world.


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October 10, 2011 @ 9:10 am

Pentecost 17

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October 3, 2011 @ 9:13 am

St Michael and All Angels

Dear Friends and fellow believers in Christ,

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this morning tells us that there was a war in heaven. St Michael – the chief of the angels, fought against the devil and his angels. And we are told that the devil was defeated and thrown down, thrown out of heaven because there was no longer any place for him.

The question I would like to consider today is this: what were they fighting over? What was this battle in heaven for and what was Satan hoping to achieve? Was it for power or control? Was it for possession of the heavens? The answer is no. The war was not for heaven. The war was not even for control of the earth. It wasn’t about territory or space or power or wealth. The war was over you. Over people, God’s people, specifically Christians. Those who have received Christ’s message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, who have believed that message and who have eternal life. God wants you to have that gift, Satan wants to take it away. The battle, the war in heaven was over your salvation.

This fact requires of us two things. The first is sober reflection.

Our text tells us that Satan was cast down out of heaven because there was no longer a place for him there in heaven. Dear friends this is good news for you. You need to understand what this means. Satan’s chief goal is to slander and accuse Christians. He is like a corrupt prosecuting attorney who loves putting people in jail. He sets traps to catch us in disobedience to God and his law and then he slanders your good name before God in heaven. God, did you see what your Christian just did? How he behaved, the things that she said? Looks like this one deserves to go to hell.

And that’s why Satan was cast out of heaven. That’s why St Michael threw him down, that’s why Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven in our Gospel text. Jesus came to forgive sins. The sins that the slanderer used to entrap God’s people have been washed away. They have been forgiven. The accusations can’t stick to us any longer. The blood of Jesus has made us like Teflon; the accusations and slanders of Satan come but they just roll right off because Jesus has already paid the penalty and suffered the punishment for that sin.

But, and this is important. The devil has not given up. And this is what requires from you sober reflection. The devil has not given up. He has been cast down from heaven because he can no longer accuse. So he has come to make war on the church one Christian at a time. The very last verse of this chapter God tells us that Satan became furious with the woman (that is to say the Church) and he went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

It is for this reason that St Paul, speaking by the inspiriation of the Spirit in Ephesians 6 tells us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities and lords of this dark world.

And so dear Christians, take note of this. Satan has been thrown out of heaven. He no longer has the authority to accuse you. So he has come to earth to attack you directly. He has come to attack the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.

I said that this text requires two things from us; the first is sober reflection. Here is the second: the second thing this text requires of us is that we faithfully hold to the pure word of God. And here’s why. When Satan comes to attack, Hollywood movies would have us believe that he sneaks around in the dark and jumps to grab us. That is certainly terrifying, but not very effective. Satan doesn’t just want to scare you. He wants to destroy you. And the only way he can do that is by undermining God’s promises in his Word. And so that is what he does. It is what he has always done, from the very beginning. In fact, every time we see Satan active in attacking God’s people he is always attacking God’s Word.

Look at the Garden of Eden. God gave a command about the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan came and attacked that word. “Did God really say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?” And later, when he came to attack Jesus in the wilderness after he had been baptized. God had spoken at Jesus baptism. God said, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased and so Satan came and attacked that Word of God. “If you are the Son of God, then turn these stones to bread, then cast yourself down from the temple.” Satan attacked the Word of God.

St John refers to Christians as those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus, that is to say Christians are those who hear and obey and believe the Word of God, and therefore when Satan comes to attack us he does to us what he did to Eve and what he did to Jesus. He tries to take away from us the Word of God.

Did God really say, “You shall not commit adultery”. God knows that human beings were not made to be monogamous. Marriage is an outmoded out dated structure. And besides sex is fun.

So goes the attack on the commandment of God.

But the Lord comes with his knockout punch.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33 ESV) Christian marriage is far from outdated. Instead it is a picture for us of God’s love and faithfulness for us. He is not a pig of a husband who uses us up and then casts us aside. Instead he loves us and cares for us even onto death! The commands of God stand firm.

But Satan does not just attack the commandments. He also attacks the testimony of Jesus. He attacks the Gospel itself. Jesus testifies, “Take eat, this is my body. Take drink, this is my blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

But then Satan comes to rob Christians of this blessed testimony. “Bread can’t be body. Wine can’t be blood. It can’t forgive your sins.” And so Christians are robbed of the clear testimony of Jesus and they lose the assurance of Christ body and blood, given and shed for me, as sure and certain as the bread and the wine in my mouth.

But then comes the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. “This is my body. This is my blood. Given for you. Shed for you. For the forgiveness of your sins.”

Dear Christian friends, be sober minded, we watchful and alert. Because your enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Dear friends, take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Grip it tightly. Hold to it faithfully so that Satan not wrestle it from you. Instead believe it with all your heart and that faith will be for you a shield that will put out Satan’s fiery darts. (Eph. 6:16-17)

Today we are celebrating the feast day St Michael and All Angels. In our text for today we see Michael and the angels doing battle with Satan in heaven and casting Satan out of heaven. Today we give thanks to God for his angels.

I wonder if we are not often tempted to believe that God and his angels are much like Charlie and his angels. God is like Charlie, aware of what’s going on but distant and unseen. Instead he sends his angels, beautiful and empowered, to do his dirty work.

Not so.

Certainly God has seen our fight, he has seen our battle and our struggle with the attacks of Satan. But he has not left us alone. Instead, he, God himself, Jesus the Son of God, has come to fight for us beside us and among us as one of us. He fought off the attacks of the devil who lured us into sin so that he could turn the tables on us and accuse us. Jesus paid for those sins so that they are powerless to condemn us.

So now Satan comes to undermine our faith by attacking the testimony of Jesus – getting us to doubt God’s forgiveness and God’s promise. Getting us to believe that forgiveness must be earned or deserved or somehow maintained. So God still fights with us.

As the angels battle Satan in heaven, our text gives us a clue as to how Satan is defeated. When I read this Revelation text, it draws all kinds of pictures in my brain. I picture a great war with powerful angels armored and armed, swords drawn, powerful, emanating light. And hordes of demons, dark and terrifying. Two sides grappling in a fight to the death.

But the text says different. Instead of this war being won with swords and spears and shields and military strength and prowess, it is a battle won with prayer. The angels defeated Satan by the Word of their testimony and the Blood of the Lamb.

The thing that undoes all the strength and the power of Satan, the thing that overthrows him and renders him utterly powerless is exactly what happens here on Sunday mornings. Christians come to Church. They hear God’s Word preached. They hear the absolution. They receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. They sing and pray and worship and the work of Satan is undone. The strength and the power of hell come unraveled and Christians are preserved.

Christians are preserved because of Jesus. Jesus is here. Jesus is with us. Jesus has given his word and his testimony that he is with us to the close of the age, that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, there his is in the midst of them.

Dear friends we are engaged in a battle. But God has given to us angles that fight with us, that fight alongside us, who pray for us and pray with us. And Jesus hears those prayers. He answers those prayers and like a champion, like a hero, he comes to clear away the darkness and defend those he died to save.



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