Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you
from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dear brothers
and sisters in Christ, the text for this morning comes from the Gospel reading,
but, of course, the theme for the day is St. Michael and All Angels.
We know that sometime during those
first six 24-hour days in which our Lord created everything that we can imagine
or have seen with our eyes, He also created angels, and sometime from the
seventh day of His rest, in order to establish for us time in itself, from that
point forward until we read in the third chapter of Genesis of Adam and Eve
being tempted by Satan, some point in time in there did Satan turn to his pride
and was kicked out of Heaven.
The picture that John writes about
in the Revelation, the epistle reading that was read or the second reading, are
we seeing the scene of Christ’s victory over death and Satan shown to be
eternal in God’s great eviction of Satan from Heaven by the archangel Michael.
But the very end of that text, “woe” is the word used by the writer. “Woe to
you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath because
he knows that his time is short.”
It’s interesting in your and my
life….it takes a great amount of humbling for us to realize the demons that are
always around us. It takes a great deal of adversity to occur within our lives
that God allows to occur in order for us to have our eyes opened to the great
reality of how frail we are and how real demonic foes do exist and continue to
hassle us until we are called home. I was very shocked to hear about a young
lady who had been worshiping with us here at St. Paul as a student at UT
tragically killed by a car coming out of a parking garage as she was
We know not when that day will
come, do we? For her, it occurred at a very young chronological age. For one
whom we have just celebrated his homecoming into Heaven, Pastor Elwanger, it
lasted a little bit longer. More time given for many other things to be
accomplished or endured, depending upon your and my life and what God allows. Woe
to you, oh, earth and sea, for he whose time is short has come down to you.
Holding a little baby, a life in itself, it is hard for us to imagine that such
an infant could be such an archenemy to the one who prowls about like a roaring
lion, seeking someone like him to devour, but it’s very true, isn’t it?
In Pastor’s Bible study about the Screwtape
Letters written by C.S. Lewis, I hope you’re hearing a theme. Satan does
things. Most of the time it’s in a complete opposite of what you and I expect.
We expect to be confronted with evil and forget that the evil of which we
expect to be confronted beats within our own heart. We expect to see something
grandiosely horrid and be able to point our finger and say, “There is the evil
of which God describes,” rather than having heard words come from our lips that
pierce the hearts of those around us with such hurtful and despicable things,
forgetting that they flow from within us and our own sinful flesh. It is pride
that Satan loves to stir up, for as we sang in that hymn, it is his own pride
that moved him to be evicted from Heaven, to place himself and his thoughts and
his conception of life and all that God had created to be supernally more
important than how God has described him and how God has dictated to His
creation what it is and who is the Creator.
I confess to you a great sin of
pride in my own life. It occurs in us preachers and pastors. It also occurs in
anybody in this place. We think we’re destined for great things because of a
self-inflation, and we think it to be below us to be pushed into a direction
that is beneath what we perceive to be our talents and abilities and do not
mark faithfulness as a great act of faith, but rather great things as a great
act of faith. Which is greater as a great act of faith? To serve God’s people
that there are only thirty that gather on a Sunday morning, one at best each
year for confirmation, or to be in a place that there are one thousand members
gathered, confirmation classes of thirty to forty. Which one? Indeed, which
one? Are they not both the same?
When Jesus, in the Gospel reading,
sent out seventy-two men to preach and proclaim God’s good news of eternal life
and blessed them with the ability to exorcise and drive out demons, that’s like
seeing pews filled at your preaching. That’s like seeing God reveal Himself in grand
and beautiful things, and Satan uses that great gift that God alone gives and
can take away to stir up that pride within our bosom, and having stirred it up,
he then attacks the very pride he stirred up and says to you, “And you think
this is all because of you,” crushing that very thing and turning us back
inward again, for Satan drives us here and not to Christ. In driving us here,
whether we are accomplishing much from our perspective or accomplishing little
from our perspective, Satan drives us back here where he knows we will only
find more doubt, more despair, more inconsistencies, more failures, more fears,
but not more faith. It is God’s Holy Spirit that drives us here that brings
faith, engenders faith, creates and sustains faith. It’s here that Satan
doesn’t want you to be driven, so as he is called in Hebrew “Satan,” which
means “the accuser,” well, he accuses us.
Think about all your discussions
with those whom you love dearly in your lives. You and I in our discussions
with those people whom we love dearly in our lives have been found to be more
often than not clinging too tenaciously to our pride rather than being humble
with that loved one, because, by golly, we want to be right and not wrong. And
by being right, we can notch that in our wallet or in our holster and say, “Look
at what we have been made known to be right.” We don’t get done at the end of a
day and ruminate about how we’ve been too humble, and if we do, well, we’re
taking pride in our humility, aren’t we?
When someone accuses us and impugns
our integrity, we’re very hurt, pricked. But what is hurt and pricked? Our
pride. Check with Breckenridge. Check with Seton and St. David. They have never
ever had to call a Code Blue on someone who choked and died because they
swallowed their pride. It doesn’t happen. And yet, you would think….you would
think it would be, because we cling so strongly to it and aren’t willing to let
go of it, and it is what stands in the way of our relationships with one
another; doesn’t it? It is what stands in the way of our relationships with all
people. It is what stands in our relationship with our God and how badly we
need Him and how Satan continues to glaze our eyes over to the critical need
for His great mercy.
Judgment Day for you and me, we
know not when that day will come. We know and believe and confess He will come
again with glory to judge the living and the dead. For Brianna, her judgment
day occurred out on a run. For Pastor Elwanger, it occurred at another point in
time, at a hospital in Cedar Park, and for you and me, we know not when that Judgment
Day will come for us. But we do know because of the text and God’s promises and
our own experiences, Satan will not stop accusing you, deceiving you and me,
until we die.
So what is our hope then? Left to
ourselves, we will fall each and every time just as our forefather, Adam, and
Eve did, just as the parents who bore us and sired us did. And on our deathbed,
we shall not look back at our life and say, “I should have been more proud,”
but rather, “I should have been more humble, for it is my pride that has
pricked the people I love the most, and it is pride that has kept me further
away from my God than He desires.” By the blood of the lamb did John write.
When those seventy-two returned
full of pride, could not help but have pride. Oh, yes, the text does not say
that. I would not disagree with that, but you and I know what it’s like to see
God’s grandiose power at work. Whenever things seem to go so right in our
lives, we are not left humbled by such a thing. We’re left proud by such a
thing. Let us not forget for who we are….sinful, damnable creatures who deserve
such punishment that was meted out to Christ on the cross. And God, through
Christ Jesus, said, “Do not marvel at such grand things that you have witnessed
with your eyes that I have done through you, but rather marvel that I would
allow your name to be written in the book of life. Marvel that I would claim
you as my child, for your parents are sinful just as you are. Marvel that I am
your God and hath called your name at that baptism, writing your name in that
book of life, redeeming you by that blood of My Son.” How humbling to have
returned in such fine fashion to be met by their Lord and, rather than a rally
cry and a whoop of great delight, are they reminded of humility and grace.
By the word of their testimony, this
is what you and I have to give for we have tasted and we have seen that the
Lord is good, good to me, as we all say to ourselves, “He has been good to me.
He has brought me thus far. He has kept me in his hand. He has not let go of
me.” That’s the word of testimony that we have to give, about which Daniel
spoke leading many to righteousness. That is why God continues to use you and
your life and even….even your death regardless of how it comes. As a believer,
it is used by God, for it is a reminder that that which we cannot see and yet
we confess that God has created everything visible and invisible is deathly
real and is very visible, for in bread and wine with body and blood does He
redeem us and does He feed us and does He sustain us. Rejoice. Your names are
written in the book of life. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.