It is February 1st, 1939. Swing sensation, Benny Goodman, teams up with trumpet great, Ziggy Elman, and popular vocalist, Martha Tilton, to fill America’s airwaves with the #1 chart-topping hit, And the Angels Sing. The song’s sybaritic words say:
“We meet, and the angels sing
The angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard…
You smile, and the angels sing
And though it’s just a gentle murmur at the start
We kiss, and the angels sing
And leave their music ringing in my heart.”
It is September 13, 2005. Eric Kripke draws a fan-base held in thrall by main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, hot and tempting heart-throbs of the TV series, Supernatural. Two demon fighting stud-muffins who zip around in their ’67 Impala killing demons, monsters, and hellions; and in Dean’s case, gets brought back from the very bowels of hell by an angel in season 4. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for anyone wondering if Dean’s “going-to-hell contract” comes due in season 3—it does.)
Two examples of our obsession with angels and the supernatural. Two examples of our flailing at what is beyond us. Two entertaining examples of how to be woefully, theologically wrong. I hope you are okay with learning that angels truly do not sing when you and your “sweet baboo” smile and meet, and that they do not speak a language called Enochian. They do not even hang out in our world under the guise of Della Reese and Roma Downey, still angels are amazing.
They are created beings; God’s envoys, champions, devoted worshippers.
Their activities are seen and unseen. They are spirit beings. We see little of them and little of their works. But we sure do popularize them in literature, song, and movie—and we also develop rather sorry theology about them because, when it comes to the study of angels, we’re less into scripture and more into entertainment.
To this end—you might call this sermon, “Pr. Bryant’s Primer on Angels for Entertainment Age Christians.”
Luther says, “The dear angels are not so proud as we human beings are. They walk in obedience to God, serve humankind, and take care of little children…A marvelous thing it is that the holy servants of God take care of eating, drinking, sleeping, and waking children! It certainly seems an insignificant work. But the angels do it with joy; for it is well pleasing to God, who has commanded them to do it.”
And, Luther also says, “You should be certain that angels are protecting you when you go to sleep, yea, that they are protecting you also in all your business, whether you enter your home or leave your home….even when you come to die, you should say that Christ will be with you and will have an unnumbered multitude of holy angels with him. You should know that angels are at your side not only in this life but also in death.
[For] At death I know not where I am to go; but my guides, the holy angels, know it well.”
So says Luther, so say well all.
Angels are envoys. And in God’s Word, we learn that in Hebrew and Greek, our word “angel” comes from words meaning, “envoy/messenger.” The Greek word ἄγγελος can be rendered as “messenger.” The angel Gabriel was the envoy sent to Zechariah to prophesy Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John, then he was envoy to virgin Mary, to declare that she would bear Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. Angels minister to Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness, they are at his tomb to deliver the message, “He is not here. He is risen!” They were in the skies at his birth and will be with him in his return.
Angels are champions. They are not, in any part of God’s Word, fat babies with piddling wings. That’s confusing God’s Word with Greco-Roman myth. The fat baby with wings is Cupid, what Romans named the son of brother and sister lovers, Venus and Mars—child of the incestuous sexual union of the god war and the goddess of love.
And angels are not anything like Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven, that’s 20th century entertainment industry confusing self-help philosophies, and a ‘60s and ‘70s TV heart-throb with God’s Word to nail ratings. Fat babies with wings, and a do-gooder from the Ponderosa, are not God’s champions, envoys, and worshippers.
For God’s Word pictures angels as enflamed, even terrifying. And the common human response to angels, per God’s Word, is fear. In Luke 2, it’s put this way, “an angel of the Lord stood before them [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
Luther calls these angels found in Luke 2, “the princes of heaven,” and says, “For we who believe must be certain that the princes of heaven are with us, not one or two, but a great multitude of them…if we were without this protection, and the Lord did not restrain the fury of Satan in this manner, we would not remain alive for a single moment…therefore the good angels are busy in order that the fierce enemy may not inflict harm.”
Luther says, further, “…it should not be called luck, but the special work of good angels, when a person is saved from drowning or when a stone falls upon someone without inflicting any particular harm.”
And this brings us to the angel Michael, named in both Daniel and Revelation. Michael is the angel who God uses to cast Satan down. Now that’s what I call a good angel! Maybe it’s really Michael rather than Castiel who saves Dean Winchester in Supernatural season 4.
So, angels are envoys, champions, and, are also worshippers. You join in angel songs every time you sing, the Gloria: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth.” We sing this in our worship because it is the worship of angels depicted in Scripture. You join angel songs every time you sing the Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of your glory.” We sing this in our worship because it is the worship of angels depicted in Scripture. The worship of the Church on earth mirrors the worship of the hosts in heaven. Liturgy matters because it mirrors on earth, where things are visible, what happens in heaven, which to us is invisible. Just as angels in heaven encircle the Lamb and cry, “holy, holy, holy,” so we on earth encircle the Lamb on the altar and cry, “holy, holy, holy.”
It’s all about mirroring, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther says of angels, “One good angel is far wiser than all the devils put together. Because they have a mirror into which they look…the face of our Lord God.”
Would that we were more intent on seeking the face of our Lord God, for therein lies the source of angel power, our Lord God. Michael casts Satan down by the power of our Lord God. Michael was created by the One through whom all things are made, Jesus. And by the power of Jesus, crucified and risen, Michael casts Satan down.
And since Satan is already cast down in defeat, this means that our God is the winner. And this means, that by the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, we are winners, too. So, in some sense, it is safe to say, “love wins, because love has already won.”
Satan has fallen like a lightning flash from heaven; is an accuser and very little more. For the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus has dealt with everything that Satan could ever do. Since Satan can’t haul you to hell, thanks to Jesus, all Satan can do is use your sin to accuse. And if we buy into Satan’s accusations we create for ourselves an earthly hell all our own. For those in Christ Jesus, hell is a non-issue, for we are secure in Christ Jesus, and God’s Word assures us that, “God will command God’s angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways… and we are convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So, when it comes to the supernatural, fallen angel, Satan, accusing you, Luther offers this entertaining advice, “I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away. When he tempts me with silly sins I say, ‘Devil, yesterday I broke wind, too. Have you written it down on your list?’”
There you have it—“Pr. Bryant’s Primer on Angels for Entertainment Age Christians.” Do not doubt God’s goodness. Do not doubt God’s love. For God is saving us by God’s grace, and encompassing us with St. Michael and all angels by God’s love.