Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: Lutheran saints

St. Michael and All Angels

September 29th is historically known as “Michaelmas,” or, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, a day of the year set aside as the celebration of the angels in the Church.

Angels are discussed throughout Scripture as winged beings, some with two wings (1 Kings 6:24), some with four wings (Ezekiel 1:6), and some with six wings (Isaiah 6:2).  Sometimes, though, they appear in human form (Gen. 19:1-5), so that, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebr. 13:2).

There are a number of ranks among the angels, each seemingly designated a special purpose.  The cherubim are described by Ezekiel (1:5-14, 10:20), and are the same type that adorn the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4:4).  It would seem, then, that the cherubim are a kind of honor guard to the throne of God.

The seraphim are often described in a glorious light, and would seem to be the messengers who spoke to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13-14).

Archangels are the highest order of angel, their name meaning “chief angels.”  Michael is the only one explicitly named as an archangel, so it is unclear whether he is the only one or whether there are several others.

Michael is also one of only two angels given names in the Bible, the other being Gabriel.  Whereas Michael is usually considered a royal and warrior-type of angel, Gabriel is a messenger and a herald.  Michael’s name means “Who is like God?” and Gabriel’s means “Strong man of God.”  There is another angel given a name in the Apocrypha, Raphael, whose name means “God heals,” but his existence may by mythical.

The angels may have different specific purposes, but they are unified in one common overarching purpose: service in the kingdom of God.  The word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and our word “evangelism” comes from the same word.  Angels are therefore those tasked with delivering the messages of God—which we see accomplished in many of their appearances throughout Scripture, such as appearing to Mary and to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, likewise coming to Abraham to tell of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But they are also soldiers in God’s armies.  Jesus said he could call down legions of angels to defend him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:53), and in Revelation 12:7-12 they are pictured as a fighting force that defeats Satan and the evil angels.  They are also the protectors of God’s people, as when Daniel was in the lions’ den “God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan. 6:22).

St. Michael Slaying the Dragon

Ultimately, the angels serve God and, therefore, his followers: “Are [the angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebr. 1:14); “Let all God’s angels worship him” (1:6); “For he will command his angels concerning you / to guard you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).  Therefore, the doctrine of guardian angels is sound.

We can take comfort in the protection of God’s mighty angels, but, even greater, at the command of our conquering Lord these angels have cast Satan out of heaven, signifying that the devil has no power to blot our names from the Book of Life.

St. Matthew the Evangelist and Apostle

Today is the celebration of St. Matthew the Evangelist and Apostle.  As we have done previously, what follows is some background on the life and work of this saint.

All that we know of the apostle Matthew’s early life is that he was a tax collector.  This was a position which caused him to be hated by the Jews, because he served the Roman oppressors, and because tax collectors were famous for shaving off extra money for themselves.  But this was a life that he left behind him when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matt. 9:9).

With the other eleven, Matthew served as an apostle of Christ, and received the same commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).  According to tradition, Matthew went and preached to the Egyptians, converting the whole country, and it was there also, according to legend, that he was betrayed by the king and murdered while offering prayers in the church.

But the most famous of Matthew’s evangelism efforts is in the writing of his Gospel.  The Holy Spirit spoke through Matthew as he wrote this work, which had as its aim specifically to preach the message of the Messiah to the Hebrews.  In his Gospel, he points specifically to Christ as true Man (and therefore Matthew’s symbol is often that of a winged man), thereby demonstrating the humility of our Savior.

If one word were used to describe St. Matthew, it would be humility.  In his Gospel he refers to himself continually as “Matthew the tax collector,” showing what humble beginnings he had.  Like all Christians, Matthew’s hope was not in himself or in anything he could do, but in the almighty God who became a man such as us, so that he could show us his mercy and grant us salvation.

St. Bartholomew

Introduction: How a Lutheran Regards the Saints

The Augsburg Confession states that “the remembrance of the saints may be commended to us so that we imitate their faith and good works according to our calling…. However, the Scriptures do not teach us to pray to the saints or seek their help, for the only mediator, propitiation, highpriest, and intercessor whom the Scriptures set before us is Christ” (AC XXI, Tappert).

Lutherans teach three benefits that may be gained by examining the lives of the saints: 1) Thanksgiving to God for sending teachers and other gifts to his Church; 2) The strengthening of our faith by the examples of how God provided for his saints in the past; 3) The examples of godly living provided by the saints which we may imitate.

We do not pray to the saints, nor do we give them any glory that rightfully belongs to God, but we honor their lives as one honors the soldier who gave his life for a righteous cause.

St. Bartholomew

Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and is usually identified as the same as Nathanael, and he was one of those to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21). The story goes (although it is not certain) that Bartholomew went on a missionary tour tho India, where he preached the Gospel and left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. He is also supposed to have evangelized in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, and other parts of Greece.

Bartholomew is said to have been martyred in Armenia. According to tradition, he converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity, after which Astyages, Polymius’ brother, ordered his execution. Bartholomew was then flayed alive and crucified upside-down.

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The symbol of Bartholomew is often a silver knife with a golden handle over a golden book, with a red shield behind. This symbol represents Bartholomew’s faithfulness to the Word of God, even as the knife took his life. Other symbols include three knives (again to recall Bartholomew’s martyrdom), or the branch of a fig tree, to recall what Jesus said to him in John 1:48: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

The question of what Jesus meant by that revelation has bothered theologians for centuries, especially because of Bartholomew’s reaction: he responded by exclaiming a confession of Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel. Some have thought that Bartholomew’s reaction was too intense for Jesus’ statement to be merely a demonstration of his omniscience. Somehow, what Jesus saw was enough to show Bartholomew that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, as Philip had told Bartholomew.

It was the custom of devout Jews at this time to study the Scriptures and the Talmud in some quiet, secluded place. Bartholomew may have chosen the quiet shade of a fig tree as his place of meditation, and so here he read the Word of God, and here he prayed to his God – perhaps he even prayed for the Messiah to come. What Jesus saw of Bartholomew was not merely Bartholomew’s physical presence, but his prayers. Jesus, as God incarnate, saw into the heart of this man, heard his prayers, and knew how deeply he desired that salvation would come. When Jesus told Bartholomew that he had seen him, Bartholomew knew that this was the one who was the hope of all Israel.

Of course, this is an interpretation, which cannot be definitively proved. In the account in John’s Gospel we are given only a mystery, and our imaginations seek to fill in the gaps. We can only take the facts given to us in the Word: that Bartholomew was a devout Israelite who hoped for the coming of the promised Messiah, and when Jesus met him, Bartholomew believed. We can only acknowledge the faith of this disciple and the power of Christ, whose revelation brought him to faith as his disciple.

August 24th had been held as the day of St. Bartholomew since the Middle Ages and before in Western Christianity, to celebrate the life and martyrdom of this witness of the Gospel.