Grace and Peace to you from God, Our Father and from our risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I still cannot fathom exactly why I agreed to preach on these texts. Maybe because I figured I’d might as well and have this experience delving into Scriptures such as these since apparently from looking at my preaching schedule, I’ve been blessed with being assigned most of these Feast Days.
Angels. War. Satan. Chaos. All of these seem so ancient to us. As progressive, modern and intellectual Christians in Western Christianity, the ideas of both angels and demons seem nothing more than fodder for fiction writing. Yet, with all that erupts across our global community we find ourselves weeping, struggling, asking and pleading, calling on Jesus Christ’s name for intervention and expulsion. Expulsion of the pandemonium that trips up our steps as we journey through life. Expulsion of the war that rages and scatters the serenity of our own personal heaven, right where we are. Expulsion of the negativity that creeps up as thickening, choking vines within our gardens. Expulsion of the darkness that blocks out the radiating warmth and ethereal light which pours onto our spirits from God. Expulsion of the evil that stalks us in shadows, rendering us immobile and frozen in fear. We have been labeled and marked with the sign of the cross forever as the beloved children of God, made in God’s image and yet this morning, this text finds us caught off guard and ill equipped to face the dire warning that cracks and splits the evening skies above as it rolls, “But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath because he knows his time is short.”
There is struggle with this Revelation text because something as fantastic and horrific as war has broken out in a place where we have been promised there is no pain, no fear, no suffering, no illness, no chaos, no war and yet the first thing we are faced with this morning is the subject of war: “And war broke out in heaven.” The book of Revelation is already confusing because for so long we as Christians were told this is what we would face in an apocalyptic future with angels bringing us foreboding warnings of watchfulness and destruction; angels bringing messages of more condemnation than salvation. Angels storming into battle as God’s warriors lead by Michael, clearing out of heaven the fallen angels, namely satan/lucifer/the Devil. One commentary that I came across gives us food for thought: that perhaps this war was not of something we should fear in our future but of a victory because of the presence of Jesus Christ. It stated that “this war in heaven describes what subsequently happens as a result of the prior birth and victory of the Messiah on earth.” Think about that for the moment. Jesus Christ addresses the seventy disciples when they return stating, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening.” In the midst of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, blessing and commanding his disciples, followers and the faithful to go out and spread the Good News Jesus was also vanquishing any foothold that satan mistakenly though he had on humanity. By living out His mission that God, Our Creator had given and bestowed upon Him, His presence alone was setting up a chain reaction that would empower the celestial victory of Michael and all of the angels who would proclaim “Now have come the salvation and the power; and the authority of God’s Messiah.” The battle cry that was heard was Jesus telling these seventy to go out and spread God’s Word saying to all “Peace to this house.”
We share a sign of the peace every morning in this church community with a hug, a handshake, even a peace sign not because we are glad to see each other or are merely friends but because we are commanded by Jesus Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves and to share that love with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with that same simple phrase “Peace be with you”, “The Peace of Christ be with you!”
If it was only so easy to affect change our world here and now with those words, which spoken from our lips sometimes seem ineffective and powerless because our humanity sometimes gets in the way. We find ourselves on the outskirts and outcast from this world, who mocks and demeans us to nothing more than Jesus freaks. That passing the peace could hold so much weight as it did for the seventy missionaries, those seventy followers who were able to go out among the ancient peoples and affect lives. They were able to strengthen, to heal and to exorcise demons all by mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. Hearing these miracles we as brothers and sisters in Christ today lament that we are not as fortunate to be flooded with the power that Jesus Christ gave to the seventy. They returned exclaiming, excited “Lord in your Name, even the demons submit to us!” Was their faith any different than ours today? Was their dedication any different than us as people of faith today? Perhaps they were able to block out all the worries and ills of the world and strictly be mission driven, because we find that our own missions are tangled in the distractions of our life here and now. The seventy were able to call upon Jesus Christ’s name to illuminate, expose and drive out the suffering, agony and darkness in their fellow brothers and sisters lives. Why is it not as effective today? We should be able to call upon the name of Jesus Christ, standing in the middle of the plight and violent world of our urban streets across the United States that is polluting those places in neighborhoods that should be sacred for all. We should be able to stand in the midst of flowing, ancient oceans as living witnesses that those who plunder every aspect of Creation in the name of profit margins and wealth should hear the mightiness in Jesus Christ’s name and be still! We should be able to place our hands, God’s hands upon the ugliness of walls that separate peoples from each other, people who are brothers and sisters in Faith and call upon the name of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and cause those walls to crumble into dust liberating all. We should be able to stand in doorways of respite and sanctuary, spreading our arms wide and embracing our brothers and sisters bringing Christ’s message “Peace be with you,” in love through the power of the Holy Spirit when their Spirit is trapped and cornered by the dark and demonic. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not be blind as to not realize and dismiss the angelic warning that evil, that satan, however you want to address, it is here. That this darkness void of the brilliant light and love of God, is angry and unleashes its wrath upon us, God’s Creation because we lean upon God’s love, mercy and grace for healing and protection; that we are seen as fragile, weakened lambs.
But there is Good News.
The Good News is here right in this confusing Revelation text “But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” The Good News of Jesus Christ is that Christ’s sacrifice was poured out for all of God’s Creation, for all of us washing away any permanent chaos, confusion and death that evil thrives on in this world. The evil that lurks is fully aware of its temporary hold and the infection it has brought in our lives, and screams out in frustration from the pit of oblivion separated from the ever powerful eternal light of God. It cannot fathom the fact that God is Our Protector because God loves us so much that He created us, but that He sent His Son, the Risen Christ “who forgives all of our iniquities’, who heals us of all our diseases, who redeems our lives from the pit and who crowns us with love and mercy.” And the Good News, beloved is because we as people of faith and children of God faithfully have been sent out to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, we can count ourselves as angels here on earth. Just as Angels are messengers of God, so are we when we share with one another our faith stories, our struggles, our prayers, our hopes and joys. When we share our praises singing, “Bless the Lord, O My Soul and all that is within me, Bless His Holy Name,” the darkness, the evil, the negativity and the demonic is defeated, by the Word of our Testimony. Evil and its confusion can only thrive if we allow those fallen angels who appear in the forms of every ill from greed to jealously, from exclusion to denying basic human rights to those whose voices are muffled on a daily basis, because there are those in this world that simply do not want to hear. It loathes the fact that it has to sometimes work extremely hard to contaminate our very being and influence who we are as children of the Most High. In those moments when our role falls from saint to sinner, the Good News is that our protection and redemption comes from the blood of the Lamb and the power of sharing our testimony, our witness of the Good News of the Gospel.
Jesus Christ is in our midst, beloved! He speaks to us in those times we feel utterly hopeless, powerless to do anything and are lost; He cradles our spirit and speaks life into who we are saying, “Peace be with you.” Jesus Christ reminds us that we should rejoice, “because your names, our names are written in heaven.” We should rejoice because no matter whether we celebrate the presence of angels upon high, upon saints in our lives or upon the shoulders and strength of our ancestors, God gives to God’s people so many advocates to remind us how precious we are and how we are not forgotten. These messengers of God share whispers of encouragement intertwined in Creation itself: Do not fear for Jesus Christ is with you and you are loved. Do not weep, for we bring Good News that the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Jesus Christ has risen, has overcome death and the grave and goes among the heavens and the Blessed company to prepare a place for all of us.
Thanks Be to God.