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St Michael and All Angels sermon – 29th September 2010

  • Today is Michaelmas, the feast day celebrating St Michael and All Angels.
    • Often seen as the start of Autumn and traditionally marks the start of a new semester for universities and a new term in the legal profession.
    • There are lots of traditional English customs surrounding Michaelmas including eating goose (the Nottingham Goose Fair takes place around this date), the giving of ‘Michaelmas Daisies’, and the end of the season for eating blackberries!
    • This day celebrating Michael and the angels is part of the fabric of our national heritage, however if you didn’t know you would be hard pressed to see that it has its roots in Christian faith!

Popular belief in Angels

  • I think the same could be said of Angels
  • A quick search for angels on Google revealed some interesting results, the top results included:
    • Various fancy dress costumes, A couple of links to psychic/paranormal/astrology sites, several links to the Robbie Williams song, some businesses with ‘Angels’ in their name, even a link to the LA angels baseball team
    • But it wasn’t until I got about half way down page 4 that I found any reference to Christian belief in Angels (and that was the words to ‘Hark the herald angels sing’!)
  • Belief in angels permeates our culture, according to a poll last year 38% of people believe they have a guardian angel and I’m sure even more would agree that angels exist.
  • Indeed it seems perfectly acceptable to openly believe in angels when it is not necessarily acceptable to openly believe in God.

Christian belief in angels

  • Christians however seem much more reticent to talk about angels, we rarely talk about them and often seem to have relegated them to the status of embarrassing theological oddity.
  • The bible however is full of references to and descriptions of angels and very few of them look like the fluffy baby cherubs that we are used to seeing!
  • So lets have a look at what the bible says about angels
    • there are lots of things we could say but I haven’t got long so we’ll just have a look at the 2 passages that we have read this morning
    • I’ve also produced a little handout sheet with lots more references to angels which you can look at in your own time if you wish

John 1:40-end

  • Jesus was calling his disciples to follow him, he was very good at getting to their heart immediately – first impressions are important!
    • e.g. ‘Fishers of men’
  • One of the first things Jesus said to Nathaniel was “you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”
  • This would have immediately reminded Nathaniel of the story of Jacob in Genesis 28 where Jacob has a dream where he sees angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. This marked a pivotal moment in Jacob’s relationship with God and was a significant moment in the history of the Israelite nation
  • Jesus is reminding Nathaniel of that and telling him that this is a pivotal moment for him too.
  • However we are not thinking about Jesus and Nathaniel, we are thinking about angels!
  • I think this image of angels ‘ascending and descending’ from Heaven tells us something very significant
    • Angels are able to travel between heaven and earth, they are spiritual beings who are able to take on physical forms when needed
    • When Gabriel comes to Zechariah he says “I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you”
    • There’s a beautiful description of an angel in Philip Pullman’s ‘The amber spyglass’ where the angel is described as “not shining but shone on though there was no other source of light”
  • Angels are not just our helpers or our guardians though they can do that
  • Their primary role is to serve and worship God in the spiritual realm and the earthly realm

Revelation 12:7-12

  • This passage blows the whole ‘fluffy cuddly angels’ image right out of the water!
  • This describes the huge battle between Michael and his angels and Satan and his angels, I imagine this like something out of Star Wars – an absolutely gigantic battle!
  • Eventually Michael and his angels win and Satan is cast down onto the Earth.
  • This again reminds us that angels are not earthly creatures, they can work, worship and indeed make war in the spiritual realm as well as on earth
    • There’s a story in Joshua 5 where Joshua meets the commander of the Lord’s army (often taken to mean Michael)
    • Joshua asks him “are you for us or for our enemies?”, the angel replies “neither, but as commander of the Lord’s army I have come”
    • He is not looking at the battle as Joshua is seeing it, Joshua sees a battle between the Israelites and the Canaanites but the angel sees a battle between good and evil, between right and wrong and we can’t always assume we are on the right side of that!

Application

  • These 2 passages both remind us that there is more to this world than this world alone!
  • There are deeper things going on that we can’t easily see
    • We need to ask God to open our eyes to what He is doing and not get so caught up in what we are doing.
  • They also remind us that angels are very much real and are incredibly powerful
    • So many of the most significant messages in the bible (Moses and the burning bush, Birth of Jesus to name but 2) were given by Angels
    • Hebrews tells us that by entertaining strangers some have entertained angels without realising
  • Our culture may have forgotten the truth about angels but we should not be fooled by fluffy baby angels who are just there to look after us and make us feel better
    • Angels are God’s creatures, created to serve and worship him alone
  • Perhaps Michaelmas gives us an opportunity once a year to remind ourselves of that and to praise our amazing God who is the creator of “Heaven and earth, all that is, seen and unseen”
  • Amen
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