Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our sermon text for the Festival of St. Michael and all Angels is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 18th (Matthew 18:1-11) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Greatness is something to which all of us aspire. Fame is the dream of many an American Idol contestant. Riches are part of the American Dream. This is the nature of the human spirit and it was no different for those closest to the savior. “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘who then is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” It was as if they were asking, “Is it Peter, or James, or John maybe? And what about Andrew or Matthew or even Thomas.” For the question they were really asking Jesus was, “which one of us . . . is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Calling a child unto Himself, Jesus places him on His lap and holds him in His arms. This is greatness, beloved. It is child-like faith heeding the call of the Savior and allowing Him to graciously love and care for His children. This is greatness beloved! It is the Savior’s humility as He loves the least among us. It is the embrace of children, their care, their nurture, their sustenance. It is a gentle call and a smile, kind words and instruction.
Thus immediately our Lord teaches his disciples and all who call themselves Christians that “greatness” in the Kingdom of Heaven is far different than greatness in the kingdoms of men. For, the greatest and most powerful thing in the kingdom of heaven is the most despised and pitiable thing in the kingdoms of men. In Christ’s kingdom, grace rules, not power. Weakness is strength and poverty is riches. Dependence and vulnerability are virtues. Love is supreme and the Cross central. Life is one of service and death’s sting is no longer known.
In Christ’s kingdom greatness is measured differently than in the kingdoms of men. In Christ’s kingdom, He is God and you are not. Every child knows this, but for some reason we adults struggle.
Yes, beloved, greatness is something for which we all aspire because we are all infected with the venom of a certain fallen angel. Having sunk his fangs into our forefather Adam, the serpent’s poison has tainted our hearts and he calls for our death. Calling for our death, the serpent’s strategy is to lead us away from any sort of child-like faith in Christ to faith in ourselves, our strength, our merits, our glories, riches, and even health care systems. With every accomplished deed, every obstacle overcome, every recovery under our belts, false ideas about the greatness of the kingdoms of men plunders our heart. Pride puffs us up and the heart and soul take comfort in oneself.
The way of weakness surrenders to power.
The way of poverty succumbs to the love of money.
The way of grace is overcome with works.
The way of faith is betrayed to the Law. The greatness of the kingdom of heaven is trampled under foot by the kingdoms of men.
This way is the way that seems right unto men. It is the way that feels right to women. It is the easiest way. It is the “adult” way. It is the way that I am often tempted to travel. It is the way of unbelief. It is the devil’s way and it leads to death. This is always the devil’s modus operandi for he wants you severed from Christ and cast into hell. He wants you trusting in yourself or despairing of God. He wants you damned, depressed, distraught, frustrated, angry, and selfish. He wants you exhausted, bitter, loving only yourself, despising your neighbors, your children, and your spouse. He wants you argumentative, snippy, rude, complaining about every little thing all the while supposing yourself to great among men.
Beloved, the kingdom of men is passing away. Its glory will not last. It is the kingdom of heaven we are to be concerned about. And Jesus says, “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, humble yourselves. Repent. Return to a simple faith and trust in the goodness of our God who Himself took on our humanity in the form of a child. He did not disdain infants and children but gloried in His conception by the Holy Ghost in the Blessed Virgin. He was not ashamed to be born of Mary. Rather to overcome the kingdoms of men our Savior became a child, the lowest among us, was born in a stable, was heralded by angels and visited by shepherds. He grew in wisdom and stature. His heart firmly fixed on the Father’s will. His heart fixed upon the cross. His Way, the way seemingly contrary and weak, poor and full of suffering, is the way through death. His way overcomes the devil and the world, the kingdoms of men and of demons. His way does not avoid death, but with an ever fervent love for the “least of these” He ascends the tree of the cross and overcomes the glories of the kingdoms of men by the power of His Blood. He sheds His innocence that you may be clothed. He pours out His life, that you may live. And He rises from the dead that all who with child-like faith & trust in Him may receive the forgiveness of their sins, the resurrection of their bodies, and the life everlasting.
Now, risen and ascended to the Father’s right hand He sits over all kingdoms, dominions, powers and authorities of this world. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And this King is unlike the kings of this world. He is gracious and loving, humble and meek. And He bids us to come to Him, not with worldly pomp or glory, not full of strength and wisdom, not arrogant and proud, but as a child. He calls us to come to Him as a child, with a child-like faith, simple and trusting, not foolish nor as simpletons, but simply trusting the love of the savior for our salvation.
Thus we adults bring our children to Christ to do with them as He says; to lay them in the arms of His servant that they may be baptized into His death and resurrection. Do not think these infants, these nursing babes, cannot believe. Our Gospel teaches quite the contrary. For “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin . . .” Jesus clearly teaches that these “little ones” can and do have faith. And they are also in need of His salvation, just as much as you and I. They are children of Adam, they have sin, they die . . . just like we will some day. Therefore they need what baptism gives; forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. And like any child they take what they’re given. They eat what you feed them. They wear what you put on them. They listen to the books you read them. They climb into the arms of those who love them. They pray to the God you pray to. Children hear and they believe. They learn what you teach them. And they worship when you worship. They trust and they put their faith into action, many times far better than you or I could ever think of doing.
And because they are such wonderful, innocent, pure examples of faith in Christ, the devil hates them all the more. He attacks them. He tries to frighten them. He abuses them through family, friends, neighbors, and bullies at school. The devil hates all that is praised by our God, especially children. For, all children remind the world about the one Child born of Mary. All children remind the world to have child-like faith.
And were it not for the Lord’s holy angels waging a war we cannot see, with weapons we cannot fathom, through spheres of reality we are only able to confess by faith, Satan would most certainly destroy us and our children. But thanks be to God! For He sets His angels over us & our children that the wicked foe may have no power over us. Michael and his myriads of warriors are before the face of our God and they have been sent from the Lord’s throne to encamp around our children with holy wings. Their swords are drawn and ready to swing through legions of demons sitting in wait for an opportunity to evil.
Thus today we give thanks for God’s angels and the war they fight on our behalf. We commend our children into the care of our God and pray that His holy angels watch over them. And repenting of our adult ways, we ourselves become like little children. We remember our baptism. We trust that God is good and that the war is over. For in Christ we and our children have overcome the devil, the world, even our own sinful nature. We have overcome them by the blood of the Lamb who sits upon the throne, at whose invitation we gather to feast in a kingdom that has no end. How great is that? AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!