Monday, October 21, 2019

October 20, 2019
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
(2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8)
She was an elderly woman. About 50 years old. Moderately well-preserved, although a bit dried out. Not likely to attract much attention.
Granted, 50 is not so old - unless you're living 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. This 50-year-old woman was found in 2000 in burial chamber TT-95 in the Egyptian necropolis at Thebes-West. For someone who'd been buried for three millennia, she looked remarkably well-preserved. Yet even to archaeologists, she was not likely to attract attention because she appeared to be an average, everyday, garden-variety mummy ... until someone noticed the odd-looking big toe on her right foot. It was totally artificial.
It consisted of three pieces of carved wood fitted onto her foot with leather straps, making it the world's oldest known prosthesis. The wooden toe still looked ready for use, still lashed to the patient's mummified toe by a textile lace.
For paleo-pathologists around the world, this big toe was big news. X-rays revealed that the Egyptian woman's actual toe had been surgically removed, perhaps because artery disease had cut off circulation to the toe. Soft tissue and skin had overgrown the site where the toe had been taken off, and then the prosthetic toe had been added.
She must've been a persistent woman to go to all the trouble! Evidence shows that the device must've worked. Scuff marks on the toe's underside indicate that the artificial toe had assisted the woman for some time while she was alive. Without it, she would have had a very difficult time walking like an Egyptian.
Two millennia ago, there was another persistent woman of record, who evidently didn't have trouble getting around like Mummy did. Say what you want, but she was persistent. A pain. A pest. And Jesus uses her for an instructive lesson. Like a terrier at your cuff, she sunk in her teeth, snarling to the judge handling her case: "Render a just decision for me against my adversary."
Finally, the judge couldn't stand it anymore. "I neither fear God," he admitted to himself. He even confessed that he didn't care for people. "because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her." He simply wanted to get her out of his hair, because she was wearing him out with her continual griping. The widow's pleas were like a big wooden toe, one that kept jabbing and jabbing and jabbing away.
"Enough!" shouted the judge. "I get the point!" And, in a sense, so does God. "Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" asks Jesus. "Will he be slow to answer them?" Of course not! "I tell you," Jesus insists, "he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily." Jesus is saying that if a corrupt and uncaring judge responds to persistent pleas, then certainly a holy and loving Lord will do the same.
Yet Jesus adds a nuance here easily overlooked. Whereas the earthly judge delays, God will act quickly. God does not need to be browbeaten into submission before he hears our prayers. Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.
As I have stated a few times in the past, prayer was never meant to be a way to manipulate God into doing what we want God to do. Prayer isn’t about changing God; we pray to change ourselves. We are always looking for God to rescue us from our problems, but God doesn’t always rescue. God doesn’t rescue us from every problem or suffering. Rather, God walks with us in the darkness. However, saying this, we must still pray in faith, because Christ made it clear that we not only should pray, but that we should pray in faith that God will indeed grant our desire. That is the point of the parable in today’s Gospel.
That's why prayer is not a prosthesis, a kind of a crutch for people to lean on as they try to keep their faith from falling over. Prayer might be the big toe of faith, but there's nothing artificial about it, and we don't need to use it to be kicking God in the shins trying to get his attention. Prayer is rather the critical stabilizing faculty that keeps our faith upright, that keeps us in the game, that positions us to receive from God what he wants us to have.
Prayer is a practice that connects us to a power that is much greater than ourselves, a power that can fill us and change us and strengthen us and guide us. Prayer is a practice that is perfected by persistence - by disciplined determination to be in an ongoing conversation with God.
Prayer is like the movement of a wave in harmony with the great ocean that supports it and sustains it. Individual waves can make a splash now and then, and even beat themselves against the rocks - but they are most majestic and powerful when they are rolling in harmony with the ocean that creates them, day after day after day.
Kevin Burke, a social worker from here in California, was not a religious person, and he was discouraged from discussing religion in the hospital where he worked. But at San Francisco General Hospital in the early 1980s, he saw several patients who seemed to fare better because of their spirituality.
Now, years later, Burke has studied the effects of religion and spirituality on mental health and found a distinctive result: Those who say they feel "closeness to God," which Burke defines as spirituality, fare much better according to a standard research tool, the Rand Medical Outcome Survey.
Burke traces his research to his days in San Francisco. He remembers one patient, an undocumented worker from Central America, who was suffering from spinal cancer. Because Burke could speak Spanish, the man went to him for help. Burke brought the man a prayer card.
"He thanked me profusely," Burke recalls. "He just started talking about how important it was to pray. All I did was listen." Before the man died, his pain lessened. He required less medication. Doctors asked Burke what he had done. Burke became known as the prayer-card counselor.
The people he interviewed for his doctoral study were in similarly poor health. "All of these people had a number of chronic conditions. Physically, they were very sick people," Burke says. "Persons who were close to God tended to have very high mental health scores, independent of how bad they were physically. They tended to cope much better."
Here prayer is reduced to pain-killing, mood-enhancing theological Prozac dispensed at the hands of a "prayer-card counselor." Is this what feeling close to God is all about? Take a little prayer in the morning, get some rest and call me in the morning?
There's no question that the person who walks with God, the big toe of faith functioning as it should, is in a stronger position to endure the calamities of life than one of little faith. But you don't ignore God all your life, and then take a prayer card and slip it under the door of heaven asking for help.
Get serious. The faith walk of the Christian is strenuous and demanding. We need strong legs, and healthy feet for the journey. Without a muscular faith that has been well-conditioned, we'll be reduced to someone who thinks he's okay if he has a bed pan and a prayer card handy.
St. Augustine has said this regarding prayer, and it is so true. He said: “Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.”
Ever since I returned to my daily prayer of an hour a day, I feel better emotionally, even though the physical and other things are not where I would like them to be. I can’t recommend it enough to set some time aside each day and spend it with our heavenly Father. You will be glad you did. I can’t wait to have my private chapel and my tiny tabernacle with the Body of Christ set up again like I used to have in Louisiana – I was more at peace then. I have years to make, but I take it one day at a time. So, get praying!
Jesus had great respect for the feisty woman in our Gospel reading. She knew how to walk the talk and talk the walk. Her persistence was rewarded. She was no wave lapping up on the shore of Existence; she didn't need a prayer card. She had what she needed.
May her tribe increase! Even Jesus wondered whether "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
It's a good question.
Will he find, in each of us, the Big Toe of Faith?
Let us pray.
That we may persistently call upon God in our times of need and remain open to be changed by His love. We pray to the Lord.
For our families where there is loss of faith, division or struggles: that God’s loving care will embrace and unite them. We pray to the Lord.
That all will defend true justice and the common good in order to shape society according to God’s wisdom and order. We pray to the Lord.
That all who have abandoned the practice of faith, that the grace of Christ will soften their hearts and move them to cry out to God. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to persevere in prayer, confident that God hears and answers us. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Loving God, we place our offerings in these plates, we place our faith in you, we place our confidence in the Spirit's power, and we place our hope in the ongoing work of Christ's church. Father, we thank you for the power of prayer, which is simply the power of your love. Give us the joy of knowing that love all the days of our lives. Help each of us to pray more fervently and frequently. Help us to experience you more deeply during our prayer times with you. Help us to know that we do not need to be like celebrated saints who were mystics in order to feel your presence, we merely need to make a discipline in our lives to draw close to you, and you will do the rest. We ask all these things in Jesus' name. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, October 13, 2019

October 13, 2019
The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
(2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19)
Leaf peepers are a fairly recent invention by the tourist industry and small businesses located in picturesque locales which are particularly dependent upon the dollars of seasonal visitors. Festivals, parades, harvest-themed fairs are all timed to coincide with nature's annual blaze into the rich, warm colors of autumn's turning leaves.
But the beauty of fall is fragile; it only takes a single hard frost and a cold rain to drop all that brilliant foliage to the forest floor, creating a colorful, if soggy, carpet underfoot. What was the focus of all eyes and cameras one day becomes an annoying mess under our feet the next. What was enjoyed as ethereally beautiful is now cursed for the work of raking, piling, scooping and bagging it represents. When fall leaves are still on the trees, they are treasured. Above our heads they are sacred; under our feet they are profane. When they fall to the ground, they are dirt.
Alas, it seems that in postmodern culture, dirt is the order of the day! Everywhere we see evidence that there is a gluttonous desire for more and more grease, more and more grime, more and more gossip.
How many tabloid trash magazines dish the dirt in our faces as we stand in the check-out line?
How many entertainment/celebrity gossip shows fill our TV screens each day?
How many new Web sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., appear online with electronic immediacy to offer the "real" story behind still breaking headlines?
How many careers have been started and ended by an individual's infamy in gossip?
How many Wall Street fortunes have been made and lost on the dirt of rumor and innuendo?
We are so inundated by this kind of self-pollution that we require far more grace than poet Dorothy Parker's self-deprecating epitaph at her death: "Excuse my dust." What a few years ago we would never have even said in polite conversations has today become the vernacular. This new explicitness is making us all into Beavises and Buttheads.
The Christian tradition provides us with a phrase and prayer that is much needed to protect us from all this sludgy seep of profanity into every nook and cranny of our lives. The Latin phrase Asperges me, Domine ("Wash me, Lord") was common in Jesus' day because the highway was very dirty, making constant foot-washing a necessity. Postmodern culture has brought us back to the first century. It, too, is extremely dirty. Our sandaled feet spirits need this prayer: Asperges me, Domine.
Each one of you has flaking skin that needs washing off. Scientists estimate that the human body is made up of around 10 trillion cells in total. Your skin makes up about 16 percent of your body weight, which means you have roughly 1.6 trillion skin cells. Of course, this estimate can vary tremendously according to a person's size. The important thing is that you have a lot of skin cells. Of those billions of skin cells, between 30,000 and 40,000 of them fall off every hour. Over a 24-hour period, you lose almost a million skin cells. In one year, you'll shed more than 8 pounds of dead skin. But more than that, we accumulate from the highway of life many more pounds of crud and dirt on our souls that need cleansing if we are to be whole and well and alive to God.
But as the morning's reading has taught us, our "quest" for cleansing, our rituals of washing, are incomplete without that return to the source of our healing for a final, cleansing exercise: giving thanks. Without the integration of gratitude into our lives, there can be no lasting wholeness or wellness, health or holiness. From a biblical perspective, to say Asperges Me, Domine is incomplete without celebrating those who made our newness and wellness possible.
Viktor Frankl, the eminent psychologist and founder of the so-called Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (Logotherapy), provides a revealing example of what it means to express gratitude for wholeness and wellness. Frankl, who died in 1997 at the age of 91, was a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II. Dr. Gordon Allport, in his preface to Frankl's significant work, Man's Search for Meaning, says that "there he found himself stripped to a literally naked existence. His father, mother, brother and his wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that except for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps. How could he -- every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination -- how could he find life worth preserving? A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to."
Frankl answers Allport's question when he recounts his experience immediately following his liberation from the camps:
"One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country, past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around and up to the sky -- and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world -- I had but one sentence in mind -- always the same: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space."
"How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence, memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed until I again became a human being."
Frankl, released from arguably the most "leprous" episode in the history of humankind, could do nothing but kneel before his Creator in a posture of overwhelming gratitude. From that point of thanksgiving, he marked his renewal as a human being. Likewise, our wellness, our wholeness, our very healing and health, our becoming wholly human depend on our being able to celebrate and give thanks for the "freedom of space," for the liberation and cleansing God has brought to us, often mediated by influential people we love and the people who love us.
When Jesus touches and cleanses us, releasing us from the prisons of grease, grime and gossip, how does he do it? Through people. Through relationships which have changed us. Unfortunately, we often forget to go back and offer our gratitude to these God-inspired and enabled persons who have changed our lives.
Sue Bender, in her book Everyday Sacred, describes how she began to develop an attitude of gratitude. It had, she says, something to do with an exploding turkey:
Last month my husband Richard and I decided, at age 60 and 63, it was finally time to be grown-up and responsible. Neither of us is practical about business or financial matters. We went to a lawyer and started the process of making a will and a living trust for our sons.
"What would you like to do in case there's an 'exploding turkey?'" the lawyer asked.
"Exploding turkey?" I asked.
"What if the whole family was together at Thanksgiving and the turkey exploded?" he asked. "If the four of you were killed at that moment, who would you want to have your worldly goods?"
That turned out to be a terrific assignment. A chance to think about the people in our lives, a chance to be grateful and express our gratitude.
I decided to create a new ritual. I would stop at the end of the day, even a particularly difficult day, and make a list: a gratitude list. Who or what do I have to be grateful for today.
Like Frankl and Bender, we too should find something or someone to be thankful for. As we go about our upcoming week, let us all think of something that brings thanks. Maybe with some practice and repetition, we can be more thankful people by Thanksgiving next month.
Let us pray.
Jesus reminds us of the importance of gratitude and so we thank the Father who gives us life, the Son for his great love and example, and the Holy Spirit for the wisdom and enlightenment bestowed on us in our daily lives. We pray to the Lord.                      
We thank God, Our Father, for the greatest gift which he has bestowed on us, his own Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. We pray that we, like the cured leper, will never take this great gift for granted and never cease to thank him for his enormous generosity. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace to begin again: that we may grasp the opportunities to start anew when God opens new doors and opportunities in our lives. We pray to the Lord.
That the Supreme Court in the cases they took up this week will rule in favor of those who have lost employment due to being transgendered and/or their sexual orientation. We pray to the Lord.
For doctors, nurses, paramedics, and all who help to heal our injuries and illnesses, that they may know the gratitude of the people they touch. We pray to the Lord.
For Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, that they may be treated with respect and dignity. We pray to the Lord.
That during this Respect Life Month our hope in Christ’s resurrection will strengthen us in protecting the gift of human life. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
God of love and power, we come to you for healing and reconciliation. Where relationships are full of stress and unkind words shatter the spirit, grant reconciliation and renewal. When the load seems too heavy and our backs are tight with pressure, place on us your yoke, which is easy, and your burden, which is light. In wounded places of our hearts, our faith and our globe, God, heal as you know how; lead your people as they seek reconciliation, healing, justice and peace. God of love and power, you are the healer who came to us in Jesus Christ. We know you are near when people are healed and the poor hear good news. Be known among us in healing power, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who was and is, and is to come. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, October 6, 2019

September 29, 2019
St. Michael and All Angels Sunday
(Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51)
Today I am doing one of my infamous “Bible Study Lessons.” I know; you are all thrilled beyond belief. Try to restrain yourselves! So, sit back and get out your toothpicks for those drooping eyelids!
War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
War broke out in heaven: At the mid-point of the great tribulation, God will turn the tide against Satan – first in heaven, then on earth. A battle will take place that will deny Satan access to heaven.
Michael and his angels: Some individuals and groups (such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses) believe that Michael is actually Jesus. Generally, all other Christians teach this is wrong on every count.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because he has his angels. But if Satan – a fallen angelic being – has his (own) angels, can’t Michael – an unfallen angelic being – have his (own) angels? The logical conclusion is that if Satan had “his” own angels, then it becomes obvious that there are other angels, and clearly by this passage, Michael appears to be the leader of these other angels.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because his name means One like God. But if this were a title of Jesus, it could be argued against His deity, not for it – because it would say that Jesus is like God, not actually God. We know – and it is a firm doctrine of Christianity – that Jesus is indeed God in the representation as the Second Person of the Trinity.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because he is called the archangel, which means leader or prince among the angels, and they say that only Jesus is the leader of the angels. But we know from Daniel 10:13, 10:20-21 that Michael is one angelic prince among others.
Daniel 10:12-13 reads: “Do not fear, Daniel,” he continued; “from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia[e] stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” The one speaking is the Angel that had began to speak to Daniel at the beginning of the chapter. One might surmise that the angel is Daniel’s guardian angel.
Daniel 10:20-21 again confirms Michael’s status: “’Do you know,’ he asked, ‘why I have come to you? Soon I must fight the prince of Persia again. When I leave, the prince of Greece will come; but I shall tell you what is written in the book of truth. No one supports me against these except Michael, your prince, and in the first year of Darius the Mede I stood to strengthen him and be his refuge.’” (“Book of Truth” - a heavenly book in which future events are already recorded.)
Also, Paul refers to an archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 in a way that presupposes other archangels. “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Keep in mind that Paul was a devout Jew and to make a statement about an angel as “archangel” is significant. It shows that even in ancient Judaic times, the believe in angels/archangels was a commonly held belief.
Some say that Michael must be Jesus, because Paul says that at the rapture, the Lord will call His people with the voice of an archangel. But Jesus can use an angel to call out for His people without being that angel, just as much as God can use a trumpet to sound out a call without being the trumpet.
Additionally, in Jude 9 we read; “Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
Here we read that Michael would not rebuke or accuse Satan on His own authority, but only say “May the Lord rebuke you.” This shows that Michael isn’t Jesus, because Jesus often rebuked Satan and demons in His own authority (Matthew 17:18, Mark 1:25, 9:25, Luke 4:8, 4:35). Even though he cannot rebuke Satan on his own, being an Angel Prince, he does speak in the name of the Lord, much like a priest does when he is acting in persona Christi. Given that angels are higher than earth bound humans, we can be assured of Michael’s word being nearly equal to God, especially if he is speaking on God’s behalf just as when we read about Archangel Gabriel in the Nativity narratives.
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon; The dragon and its angels fought back: This is a dramatic scene of battle between good angels and bad angels.; faithful angels and fallen angels.
This is truly a battle between equals. The dragon represents Satan, and Satan is not the counterpart of God – God has no counterpart. If anyone, Satan is the counterpart of Michael, who seems to be the chief angel opposite this chief of fallen angels. Though, I suspect those angels still loyal to God are instilled with greater power from God. God would never allow Satan to win.
Why is the battle fought? In a previous scene of conflict between Michael and Satan (Jude 9), Satan wanted to prevent the resurrection and glorification of Moses, because he knew God had plans for the resurrected and glorified Moses (Luke 9:30-31). This is another occasion where Satan wants to get in the way of God’s plan for the end-times.
When is this battle fought? This battle occurs at the mid-point of the seven-year period, as described by Daniel.” At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape.” (Daniel 12:1)
How is this battle fought? We know this is a real fight; but is it a material or a spiritual battle? Our battle with Satan and his demons is spiritual, fought on the battleground of truth and deception, of fear and faith (Ephesians 6:12). In regard to material attacks against the believer, Satan and his demons were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15). Satan can only win against us in this spiritual realm if we allow his entry into us. (Evil cannot enter your house or your person without being “invited” in.) Among angels, it is possible that there is a material battle to be fought in a way we can only imagine. In his classic work Paradise Lost, the great poet John Milton imagined this battle:
“Michael bid sound Th' Arch-Angel trumpet; through the vast of Heaven it sounded, and the faithful Armies rung Hosanna to the Highest: nor stood at gaze The adverse Legions, nor less hideous joyn'd the horrid shock: now storming furie rose, And clamour such as heard in Heav'n till now Was never, Arms on Armour clashing bray'd Horrible discord, and the madding wheeles of brazen Chariots rag'd; dire was the noise Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss Of fiery Darts in flaming volies flew, And flying vaulted either Host with fire. So, under fierie Cope together rush'd Both Battels maine, with ruinous assault and inextinguishable rage; all Heav'n Resounded, and had Earth bin then, all Earth Had to her Center shook.”
The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven: This shows us that up until this happens, Satan does have access to heaven, where he accuses God’s people before the throne (Job 1:6-12, Revelation 12:10).
It troubles some to think that Satan has access to heaven, but the Bible clearly says that while Satan appears on earth (Luke 4:1-13), and describes him as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), it also says that Satan has access to heaven, where he accuses God’s people before the throne (Job 1:6-12). However, there is no longer any place for him in heaven, so he lost access.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth: This single verse uses many different titles for our spiritual enemy, including Dragon, serpent of old, the Devil, Satan, and he who deceives the whole world. These titles describe Satan as vicious, an accuser, an adversary, and a deceiver.
The term “Devil” is from the Greek diabolos, from the verb diaballo, which has the meaning of ‘defaming’ or ‘slandering.’ He is the master accuser of the brethren.”
The Bible describes four different falls of Satan. Revelation 12:9 describes the second of these four falls.
· From glorified to profane (Ezekiel 28:14-16).
· From having access to heaven (Job 1:12, 1 Kings 22:21, Zechariah 3:1) to restriction to the earth (Revelation 12).
· From the earth to bondage in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20).
· From the pit to the lake of fire (Revelation 20).
Additionally, in Luke 10:18, Jesus said “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Its angels were thrown down with it: This indicates that demonic spirits are indeed fallen angels, those who joined with Satan in His rebellion against God. These are “his angels,” those angels I mentioned earlier.
These angels are also the same as the third of the stars of heaven described in Revelation 12:4. Since Satan only drew a third of the stars of heaven, it means that two-thirds of the angels remained faithful to God. It’s comforting to know that faithful angels outnumber fallen angels two to one.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.”
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Whoever is behind this loud voice, it would seem to be some representative of redeemed humanity – not an angel or God – because the voice speaks of the accuser of our “brethren.”
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night: Satan’s work of accusing only ends here, when he is cast out from his access to heaven.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death: This tells us three keys to the saint’s victory over Satan.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb: The blood overcomes Satan’s accusations. Those accusations mean nothing against us because Jesus has already paid the penalty our sins deserved. We may be even worse than Satan’s accusations, but we are still made righteous by the work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, and Hebrews 9:14).
The blood of Jesus heals our troubled conscience, because we know that by His death our sin is atoned for (Hebrews 9:14).
It works because the work of Jesus on the cross for us is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love (Romans 5:8), and a constant remembrance of the blood of the Lamb assures us that every fear Satan whispers into our mind is a lie.
Therefore, we use the blood of the Lamb in spiritual warfare – not as a Christian “abracadabra,” as if chanting “The blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus” could keep Satan away like garlic is said to keep away vampires. Rather, our understanding, our apprehension, our focus with the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute wins the battle.
They conquered him … by the word of their testimony: The word of their testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Knowing and remembering the work of God in their life protects them against Satan’s deceptions. As faithful witnesses, they have a testimony to bear – and because they know what they have seen and heard and experienced from God, they cannot be deceived by Satan’s lies telling them it isn’t true.
They conquered him … love for life did not deter them from death: Loving not their lives overcomes Satan’s violence. If they do not cling to their own earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring against them. If they believe to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), then Satan’s violence against them be ineffectual.
The ancient Greek word for love here is agape, which speaks of a self-sacrificing, decision-based love. It is up to each one of us to choose: Will we love our lives to the death? Will our physical lives be the most precious thing to us, or will we find our life by losing it for Jesus? (Mark 8:35)
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time; Satan may have deceived even himself into thinking that he has a chance, but because of Christ, he hasn’t a chance – well – in hell!
Let us pray.
That we understand that the devil is real, and thus we must always be diligent to not listen to his lies. We pray to the Lord.
That St. Michael, our Guardian Angels and the host of heaven deliver us from all evil, who turn to them with confidence and enable us by their gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for those who work for ecological justice and peace in the world, that they may inspire in others a love for creation and a reverential care for our common home on this earth. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for a Spirit of hope in our country and throughout the world and that all who are overwhelmed by life may find new reasons to live this day and be gifted with a vision of a better tomorrow. We pray to the Lord.
For our Jewish brothers and sisters, who celebrate the beginning of a new year this week. We pray to the Lord.
For the sick, that they, through the Archangel Raphael, be comforted and healed according to God’s will. We pray to the Lord.
For those who suffer from cancer, that Saint Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, come to them in their suffering and be an advocate for their healing. We pray to the Lord
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
O, Creator past all telling, You have appointed from the treasure of your wisdom the hierarchies of angels, disposing them in wondrous order above the bright heavens, and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe. You we call the true fount of wisdom and the noble origin of all things. Be pleased to shed on the darkness of mind in which we were born, the two-fold beam of your light and warmth to dispel our ignorance and sin. You make eloquent the tongues of children. Then instruct our speech and touch our lips with graciousness. Make us keen to understand, quick to learn, able to remember; make us delicate to interpret and ready to speak. Guide our going in and going forward; lead home our going forth. You are true God and true man, and live for ever and ever. Amen.
(Paraphrased from St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html