Michael & All Angels—September 29, 2013
Preached at Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
It is rare that the festival of Michael and all Angels falls on a Sunday. But today we chose to forgo the readings appointed for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost so we could shake things up a bit—not only a bit of a break from green paraments, but also a chance to think a bit about angels.
To be honest, I have never spent all that much time thinking about Angels. To me, they are messengers of God who make occasional appearances throughout the old and new testaments—the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Here is what I know about angels:
– the Hebrew word for angel is the same as the word for messenger, and that tends to be what they do in scripture.
– According to Psalm 103, angels are “mighty ones who do God’s bidding.”
– There are also the passage like Daniel and Revelation that talk about angels being God’s army that fight against the forces of evil.
– And the Bible even mentions that there are angels on the other side of the fight.
– The Hymn of Day “Ye watchers and Ye Holy Ones” goes through the hierarchy of angels: cherubim, seraphim, etc., and reinforces their role as messengers, but reminds us that there are mortals who also fulfill that role.
– Other than that, almost all of the rest of our supposed knowledge about angels comes from Pop Culture. Think about all the TV shows and movies that deal with the topic of Angels: the weeping angels in Dr. Who, Angels in the outfield, City of Angels, Bartelby & Loci in Dogma, the movie Michael.
This is what we tend to do when we have a little information or familiarity with something, but not all the details, we tend to search, ponder, wonder “what if” seemingly out loud in the form of art: writing, paintings, and now-a-days, television and film.
It is this working out—trying to understand—the invisible that leads to images in Daniel and Revelation. These cosmic struggles are written down in order to try to make sense of the evil in the world. Stories of angels are written down in a effort to try to make sense of God’s goodness at work in the world. Neither can we see completely, or ever hope to understand, but the musings help our finite human brains grasp the complex concept.
So from this mix of scripture, pop culture, and experience, what about angels can I concretely hold on to?
– There are forces against God, Sin, forces of evil, at work in the world. That can be a scary truth. It is a cosmic struggle that feels as Michael and an army of angels and the Devil, Satan, the deceiver, the dragon (whatever you want to call the manifestation of evil) and his army of angels are fighting over heaven and earth.
– It does not fall solely on us humans to overcome these forces. God constantly struggles against them too—we call the means of that struggle for good angels. God’s hosts of heaven on fighting to protect us and the whole of God’s kingdom.
– Angels are the “mighty ones who do God’s bidding.” Their primary roles are as messengers, but like Michael, they are also protectors. And if you think about it, those two really go hand in hand. For it is only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can ultimately save us, and so logically it is that good news message that brings us hope and protection. However, that message can be scary when we hear it as condemning or as contrary to the way we have made sense of things. This is why angels always start their messages with “do not be afraid.” It is good news that they bring to us, good news from God.
One thing we never hear in scripture, that is solely an attempt to make sense of death and the afterlife, is the platitude that we become angels when we die. Scripture is clear that angels are different beings from humans. However, if you think about it, our roles are not all that different. God made both groups, although there is some kind of designation between them. God calls both groups to be messengers and protect against and Sin and evil. Again, not in the exact same way, but the vocation is the same. The best we can tell, angels are created to do that job, but our call to action is more a result of God’s love for humanity. If all knew of Christ’s love and redemption of the world, we would no longer need to spread the word, but the angels would still not be out of work. So although, we will never become angels, we are sometimes called to do the work of angels: spread the good news in the name of the kingdom of God.
But even when we fall short, the message does not change, and the angels take back over as messengers, and continue to protect us in God’s name, even though we do not fully understand how and most of the time never even notice. Amen.