St Michael and All Angels. September 29th.
Matthew 18:v1-10; also Revelation 12:v7-12.
Prayer: Lord, may these spoken words, be faithful to Your Written word and through these spoken words lead us to the Living Word your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s a couple of news websites I follow and on one of them at the bottom of the screen there were other sites recommended to visit. And a few months ago, one site, was ‘to know who your guardian angel is?!’ That’s interesting – in a Dutch sense – I thought! Angels for some or many are an interesting subject – people will have views and perhaps it is an easier way to get people talking about spiritual things than – what do you think of the Church or God– you can ask what do you think about angels? Give it ago and see what happens! But instead of a weblink, from our readings set for this Feast day of St Michael and All Angels, also known as Michaelmas, what can we learn about angels?
Our Gospel reading. Jesus said: “See to it, you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew’s Gospel has most of its teaching collected into 5 sections which have a specific theme. Matthew 18 – the entire chapter – is one such collection – and it focuses on church relationships, how Christians should treat one another. Jesus has been asked who is greatest in the kingdom by his disciples, and Jesus takes a little child and has the child stand among them and says they need to become like this child, so have childlike faith, childlike trust, childlike humility. So the ongoing mentions of little ones does not refer to children but to disciples becoming like little ones – becoming like children. So Jesus does not talk about guardian angels for children here. In fact he is talking about angels for followers of him. Clearly from the Jewish world view he speaks into, it is heavenly beings he has in mind the ones who as for example the book of Daniel points us to. Can we say we each have a guardian angel – no, that is not clear. It says their angels – suggesting the ones attached, the ones allocated to his followers. The ones who minister to them, to us : Hebrews 1:14 – “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will to inherit salvation.” It is not clear if each has a guardian angel. It is clear, that angels are sent to serve, to minister to disciples of Christ. To serve – when we consider our Bibles, we think of how they guide, bring messages, sometime arrive in human forms and we are unaware of their presence, they protect, they fight.
Just pause at that point – what value God places on us! I mean, Romans reminds us – he is for us and not against us, and if he gave us Jesus his Son won’t he give us everything else. Not just that – his Son not only died for us and he is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Not just that – the Holy Spirit resides, lives in each believer. And on top of that, he sends angels to us to serve and help us! Wow I’d say. And that is where it fits in Matthew 18 also – for Jesus is saying by mentioning angels, if God places such value upon his disciples, that he would send angels to serve them, and so, we should so value each other. How can we treat each other badly when God values us so much?
But where does Michael fit into this? Michael is only mentioned in the OT in Daniel, and in the NT in Jude and in Revelation. He is described always in battle or as a warrior, compared to Gabriel who is always described as a messenger. “And there was war in heaven and Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels fought back.” Michael leads the war against the great dragon, who is Satan, who is defeated and cast down with his angels. Now, for many years I thought this described the angelic fall when the devil rebelled against God, which happens before the temptation in the Garden of Eden. But no. See it says warfare, the dragon is hurled down. And then the voice in heaven declares: “for the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Heaven says: dragon overcome by blood of Christ and the testimony of the believers. We see these events are from the cross, it is the cross that defeats Satan and throws him down.
In fact the entire chapter is focused on the days of Jesus. The first verses, before what we heard, are of the birth of Jesus – told from a different perspective. The attempt of Satan to kill Christ. We often lose that sense of opposition around the birth of Jesus – our readings naturally celebrate the birth but only on day of Holy Innocents, Dec 28th, we remember Herod’s plot to kill Christ. Revelation says, it is demonically inspired…Michaelmas reminds us of two realities.
A story. A football match where a goal has scored and afterwards the two players debated who got the final touch – maybe you’ve been in those games and maybe still debate them! – but then the manager came in and said, well I scored actually. They looked at him – and he went on: well, that goal came from a corner kick we’d practiced and it confused the other team, your movement and positioning were rehearsed in training – and I made those decisions – and so I scored! In a way he was right and the players were right.
Michaelmas, reminds us, we have this reality, but there is a spiritual reality also. We read Luke 2 and Matthew 1 and 2, and we read birth, Rev 12 reminds us of threat, we read cross – and rev 12 reminds us of warfare in heaven and Satan cast down. In the book of Daniel, the elderly Daniel has prayed and then an angel comes to him, who says that 21 days earlier heaven send him, but he had been in battle against the prince of Persia until the angel Michael came to help him… prince of Persia. A demonic angelic being who influenced that nation and later we hear of a prince of Greece to be fought – another demonic spirit. Reality. Michaelmas reminds us that in certain countries, demonic powers are at work – seeking, as Satan does, to deceive, to lead people away from the truth, to harm God’s people. So when we complain about how the government does this or culture has become that, or persecution of Christians takes place, Michaelmas reminds us that there is a demonic side, another reality, another power at work. Inferior power but still one at work.
And Paul hits this home very strongly in Ephesians. He shares about all the blessings of the Christian life, he shares about they were spiritually dead and now are alive, he celebrates how God is forming one people from Jews and Gentiles. And he talks about what it means to follow Christ and then in last chapter he says: “Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” We are disciples of Jesus, but Paul reminds us the devil and his demons has not given up seeking to attack his church – it says, when the day of evil comes, not if. Paul says: celebrate your salvation, live out your faith as disciples in holiness and action, remember we are engaged in spiritual warfare – its not an option, we don’t tick a box like in a software saying I don’t want that, its reality, we are all involved…
Michaelmas. Michael and All Angels. We have angels allocated to us, sent to us – and as we read our Bibles we can see what angels can do: give guidance, bring messages, arrive anonymously, and protect. I’d suggest they can be one way God will answer our prayers – as Daniel experiences. Michael – the general, the archangel – reminds us that we are in spiritual warfare, we have a spiritual opponent, we are to wear the armour, surrounded as Paul shares, by prayer…
To finish. When we read Rev 12, we see there is an Accuser who likes to remind us and sinners of our past. But Michaelmas and Michael teaches us to remind the enemy of his future…!
Watch dear Lord, with those who wake
Or weep tonight.
Give your angels charge as we sleep this night.
Tend your sick ones O Lord Christ
Rest your weary ones,
Bless your dying ones;
Soothe your suffering ones,
Pity your afflicted ones
Shield your joyous ones.
May you do this by your angels sent to minister to your people, or use us as your servants.
All for your love’s sake.