In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Why do you think vampires, zombies and werewolves are so popular in our culture right now? One reason is that whether we admit it or not we are all aware of our own innate sinfulness. These creatures are an expression of our inner reality, of the sin that abides, lives, dwells in us. But in the past such creatures were generally considered evil. IN today`s popular culture its only some that are supposedly evil. Whereas many vampires, werewolves, and occasionally zombies in movies and TV shows today actually have hearts of gold. They conduct relationships with us mere mortals. Their inner evil, their unnatural abilities, their wicked cravings are often portrayed as desirable even honourable. That says something about how our society views sin. We seem to think it can be a virtue. We think it can be directed toward good. That we can use Satan`s weapons and accomplish God`s purposes. Utter foolishness!
God says that the weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the flesh. They are not onions, garlic, stakes, silver bullets or any other physical thing. For our enemies are not human beings. Human beings in their wickedness can be used by their own sinful desires and by the spiritual forces to unleash great evil on the earth. But human beings are not our enemies. It is Satan and sin within ourselves which are the enemy. Therefore, physical weapons will be of no use in this battle. The weapon for our warfare is the Sword of Spirit, which is the Word of God. And this is not an offensive weapon. It is not the two-handed great sword used by medieval knights, or the katana of legendary Samurai warriors. It is not even a hand and a half sword. It is merely the small, defensive short-sword used by warriors throughout the ages when the enemy has gotten in close combat to ward off blows, and make small strikes when the enemy is on top of you.
This is the weapon that the angel flying in mid-heaven wields when it proclaims the eternal Gospel. Our reading says that the angel is flying directly overhead, but that is merely the literal translation of “mid-heaven” requires too much explanation. Mid-heaven is part of the ancient world’s understanding of three separate heavens. The “first” or “lowest” heaven is the physical heavens, the atmosphere and the universe, what we’d call space. The “third” or “highest” heaven. It is that otherworldly, metaphysical place where God dwells in righteousness and holiness unhampered by evil, decay, and the corruption of this creation. It is the place where Satan has been tossed out of and has no access to. Meanwhile, the “second” heaven or “mid-heaven” is the place where Satan’s wicked minions, his evil angels, the demons are at work. It is where God’s holy angels, His messengers, His servants of flame go about their business and their warfare with Satan.
It is interesting that God’s Word, which this angel proclaims, is only ever referred to as a short-sword. It is a defensive sword. A sword of last resort, just for close defensive combat. That’s what the angel flying in that place of warfare has as a weapon. Why? Because God’s servants need only that. For He is God. He is in control of everything. Satan bows to Him. Satan seems fearsome. He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but he is caged lion. He has been defanged. He has no power over those who have the Lord’s blessing. Remember that! Remember that in your Baptism you have Lord’s name on you. His name on you is your helmet, your shield, all the protection you need. His blessing is yours. Satan has no power over you. God’s Word is all you need to fend him off. It is your protection. You don’t need to go out fighting him, seeking battle with Satan. For your Champion Christ Jesus, the mighty one of God. He has already defeated Satan, and brought him to heal, when He crushed the head of the Serpent, cutting the head off the Dragon. He has staked a cross through the sin that lives in your heart, shot you with a silver bullet in Baptism so that the evil that lurks inside you is dead. And you have been raised up with your champion, pure, clean, holy, undefiled any longer. You are free indeed, released of your bondage to those wicked forces.
But it doesn’t seem like it, does it? Because on this side of heaven sin still lurks in you; Satan and his minions still roam in the second heaven for now. He’s still roaring even though he’s caged. And it scares us. We live here in the valley of the shadow of death. Fear besets us on every side. Fear of our sin and God’s judgement. Fear of Satan’s destructive power. Fear of death which will claim us all unless Our Lord comes first.
This is why we must hold two things in mind: we have freedom now; but not fully, not until Christ comes again. The Son who is not a slave to sin, who has committed no sin and done all things perfectly in your place—loving His Father perfectly, loving His neighbour more than He loved Himself—He abides, remains, dwells, stays in the Father’s house forever. We miss that mark. We fail. Our failure dooms us to eternally miss the mark, to never get it right, to fall short of God’s holy standards. But our mighty champion, God’s own warrior Son, slays our evil foe by hitting the mark, by dying the slaves’ death, by giving the slave His perfection, by becoming like us in every way except that He was without sin. And rising in victory over death the Son lives forever in the Father’s house! The Son gives us a place in that house by giving us a place in Himself, in His body, by legally uniting Himself to us in Holy Baptism, by feeding us Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar.
You are free. But because it is not full yet Satan can deceive you into thinking you are not free. So we need to remember we are free. You need to use your sword to ward off Satan’s attacks. You do that by hearing His promise of your full freedom again and again. For in hearing His promises of salvation to you you are defended from our old evil foe who seeks deadly woe, eternal woe, eternal death, eternal judgement of Father on your sin. So hear the Word. For God’s Son our Saviour, has judged Satan, judged sin, sent it to hell, removed its curse from you, given you Himself, clothed you in Himself until that day when you shall be raised to perfection and sin be no more.
This is what the Reformation is: the renewal of God’s angels—be they angelic spirits, or pastors, or you and me—speaking the gospel of repetance and forgiveness, in Jesus’ name and the freedom from sin and death that comes with it. It is one little word. One short sword which fells Satan, reminds you of your freedom even when we are in midst of struggle, and promises you what is yet to come! You are free.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON