24 September 2017††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† † †St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
St. Michael and All Angels†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† †† Vienna, VA
ďThe Word that Fells and RaisesĒ
Text: Luke 10:17-20; Revelation 12:7-12
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ďLord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!Ē
The disciples are excited. They report back to Jesus what they have been able to do. He gave them this authority and by this Word of His, the demons are subject to them. Pretty impressive, right?
But Jesus seems unimpressed. Big deal, He seems to say. He had seen satan fall like lightning from heaven. He is no longer where he once was. He is no longer what he once was. He is a flash in the pan. He is no match for God and His Word. He and His fellow demons cannot stand against the authoritative Word of God. The Word of God which created them, and the Word of God that now subdues them.
But they seem so powerful, donít they? I mean, look at our world and the mess itís in! Look at the sin, at the evil, at the confusion, at the way we treat each other. It sure doesnít seem like the Word of God is as powerful as all that. In fact, it seems like the Word of God is pretty weak compared to all that. Not powerful, but powerless.
Maybe thatís what the disciples thought as well, at first. Until the saw the powerful authority. Until they saw what the Word of God can do.
And powerless, not powerful, is how the Word of God looked on the cross, too. The Word of God made flesh, seemingly overcome by sin and evil. His life brutally taken from Him. Not subduing evil but subdued by it. And yet the empty tomb revealed a radically different reality. That what looked weak was really strong. That what looked like defeat was really victory.
Thatís our reality, even if we donít or canít see it right now. For like the disciples on that Saturday after Good Friday but before that first Easter Sunday, we are living in the time of death and tombs, of sadness and fear, awaiting the day of resurrection. Awaiting the day of Jesusí return. And just as it came for them, just as God had said and promised, so it will for us, just as God has said and promised. We will see. And like it was for the disciples, that day will look quite different than what we see now.
But what of satan and his fellow demons now? What are we to make of them and think of them? They were thrown down from heaven; they are no longer where they once were and are no longer what they once were. They are fallen, as we are.
So maybe we give them too much credit. I was thinking about this because look at what sin has done to us and to our world. We arenít what we once were. A world that God created perfectly and in perfect harmony is not perfect anymore. Harvey and Irma and Mexican earthquakes showed us that once again. We read in the Scriptures of men who lived over 900 years; weíre lucky these days if we get to a hundred - and thatís with all the medical advancements weíve made in recent years.
Luther tried to imagine what man could have been like before sin. And, Luther thought, if man was the crown of Godís creation, the best of all creation, then his eyesight was probably better than that of an eagle, and his strength greater than that of a lion. Now I donít know if Luther got it exactly right, but it gives you an image and an idea of the devastation caused of sin; ††††† how far we have fallen.
Well if of sinful us and our sin-subjected world, then should this not be true of the sinful angels, too? We are not what we once were, and neither are they. And so when war arose in heaven, as we heard today, yes, satan and his angels were evicted; thrown down. They were no longer any match for the good angels, the sinless angels, who are what they were created to be.
And so yes, the demons submit to the Word of God; the authority of God the Word. Still.
But satan doesnít want you to know that. Heís like a puffer fish who blows itself up to look bigger and badder than it really is. Heís like us when we get pushed down or proven wrong or embarrassed about something and we say: I meant to do that. He wants you to think he is what he once was, just like we want to think thereís nothing wrong with us. We deny our sin, we deny our weakness, we deny our need. We want to be strong, we want to do it ourselves. We want to know all there is to know. We donít want to be dependent on God or trust God - we want to be God.
And thus us and our world today. Fallen from God and into sin. Fallen from life into death.
Now, make no mistake about it - satan, though fallen and sinful, is still dangerous. †††††††††† He is still an angel, after all, and heís after you. You who belong to the God he hates. And how he is attacking you . . . may not be as you think. For if it is the Word of God that subdues him, then it is the Word of God that he must attack. And so we heard today that satan accuses us; he uses his word against the Word of God. He catechizes us with his word, his ways, his instruction. To listen to him, not our Father in heaven.
And we do. Eve did. We do. And leaving the Word of God we leave that one thing that the demons are subject to. That one thing Luther wrote in A Mighty Fortress (LSB #656), that ďone little word can fell him (v. 3).Ē
But does it? Really? Does it work? Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! The disciples would tell you it does. Maybe we donít think it does because weíve been so catechized by satan and by the world to believe it doesnít work. That we need a different word. That God is untrustworthy and His Word too old, too unreliable, too yesterday. Maybe we donít think it does because the demons are so persistent - coming back again and again to hound us so that it seems like they never are felled; they never go away. Maybe we donít think it does because we donít really know it or use it. Maybe we donít think it does because that gives us a convenient excuse: the devil made me do it.
No. No to all that. Repent of all that. And repenting, rejoice. Rejoice that that powerful blood that was shed for you on that weak-looking cross has written your name in heaven. Rejoice that that powerful blood was poured upon you in Baptism to wash away the guilt of your sin, and that that powerful blood will be poured into your mouth here to give you ears to hear and know and believe the truth. To hear and know and believe the promises of God, not the lies of satan. To hear and know and believe the forgiveness of God, not the self-absolving, self-justifying, ego-stroking, flattery of the one who only wants to drag you down into his misery. To hear and know and believe that as a child of God, though you tread on serpents and scorpions, they will not hurt you.
That doesnít mean you wonít get bitten. That is, in fact, what happens when you tread on serpents and scorpions - they bite you and sting you and inject their life-sapping poison into you. And satan will too. Count on it. At every opportunity. But it will not hurt you† - but not because you are so great and strong, so wise and able - but because you have here the medicine, the anti-venin you need to give you life. The Word and forgiveness of God. As we heard, they have conquered him - how? - by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, John said. Yes, one little blood-stained, blood-filled word can fell him. And raise you.
Now, to be sure, you can turn away from it, choose not to use it, and die. Leave you Father, leave the Word, leave the angels who are protecting you. Or you can humble yourself and repent and receive the healing and life you need. Thatís here for you.
And as you do, the angels are here, too. The angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, rejoicing in our Saviour, rejoicing in His gifts, and rejoicing in you. For the Word of God tells us this too: there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).
So Jesus has not left us alone in the fight. He is with us, His Body and Blood are with us, His Word is with us, and His angels are with us. And your fellow believers are here, too. For you, and you for them. As his gift to each other. To speak the powerful Word to one another. To encourage one another. To lift up one another. To pray for one another. That as many accusations as satan and his army blather out, † there be even more Word of God spoken and proclaimed. To make the accusers flee. To subject them yet again to that Word they cannot stand but which makes us stand. Which fells them but raises us. Which condemns them but saves us.
Until that day of resurrection comes and the Word made flesh comes again, visibly, and what we do not now see we will see. We will see the truth and live with Him forever.
That day is coming. The time is short, though it seems like itís taking a very long time. So make the most of every opportunity (Galatians 6:10). To give and to receive. To repent and rejoice. To listen and to speak, and bless the Lord - for His mercy, for His love, for His Son, for His forgiveness, for His Word, and for His angels.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.