Sunday, September 29; A day for Michael and all Angels

September 27, 2013

While many Anglican churches will pass by the observance of St. Michael and Angels on Sunday September 29, Michaelmas, as it is sometimes known, is an old and hallowed observance. It is even part of the court calendar in many jurisdictions. The fall term of the United States Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October, shortly after Michaelmas. Gabriel and Michael at the two angels named in the Protestant canon, but the apocryphal books also name Raphael and Uriel.

Christians have a special advantage in recognizing the unseen realm through which we wander. Paul warns that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 ESV). The Epistle reading for today also deals with conflict, but this time the armies are made up of heavenly beings.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:7-12)

The text does not say exactly what caused the heavenly war, but it would not be unjustified to suggest that Satanic pride was at the center. We learn on Heb 1, for example, that there is a divine plan to place human beings over angels in the heavenly order. For the Evil One, this elevation of such disgusting two-legged creatures must have been the ultimate slap in the face. Michael and his angels have a different view altogether, one that stands in awe of divine wisdom. This is not a blind brainless submission, but a deeply help trust that, whatever plans may be conceived by the Almighty, they are always altogether good.

The holiness of heaven and the grimy self-aggrandizement of ego cannot live peaceably together, so there was a celestial housecleaning in which Satan and all his followers were cast out. It was an eviction in which the forces of wickedness were utterly removed. Good news for the heavenly courts. Not such good news for the residents of planet earth.

It is bad enough that the old serpent deceives the world with his pleasant sounding words. Oh, no. Don’t worry about that fruit. You’re not going to die. That was the beginning of falsehood. Having flat-out lied to our first parents, the demonic forces continue their plans to ruin humanity by their unceasing accusations. The forces of darkness take full advantage of a fallen nature to thwart God’s loving plan for the creatures he made in his own image and likeness. There was a time when the fallen angels enjoyed a close relationship with the Eternal, but the resistance has ended all that, and Jesus has won the final victory over death, sin and Satan.

But now things have gotten even worse for mankind. It is a fearful thing to know that we are wrestling with supernatural beings who are well aware of their final condemnation. The plots of Satan and his angelic followers are rotten, desperate and disrespectful acts against the divine majesty.

This is exactly why Paul instructs believers to put on the full armor of Christ (Eph 6). Christians must be able to stand against the forces of Saran. Our Coptic brothers in Egypt, and Christians throughout the Middle East, are courageously taking on the enemy today. How are they doing? Headlines can be misleading. John correctly observes, “they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Conquered? Absolutely.

The armies of wickedness are subdued by an act of Divine-human cooperation. It is the blood of the Lamb that subdues the ancient accuser, and it is joined to the patient lives of Christian people who trust in God’s word and live by the gospel truth. It is the believer living out the inspired word of God, knowledge of the Creator’s purposes joined with actions to bring one closer to the Almighty.

When the Lamb was laid in a tomb, it seemed that his life and ministry were for nothing and the worldly powers had won the day, as they so often do. All of the disciples, except John, ran for cover. Pilate slept sound while Mary and the followers of the Anointed One doubtless passed a sleepless night. Throughout a careful reading of scripture we see how God makes strength out of weakness, and that is exactly the case with Jesus and the Christan martyrs who have followed his lead.

So what? As believers, we have an understanding of creation that is hidden from those who do not know Christ. The created order, every aspect of it, is good. All of the angels were created as powerful invisible agents of the loving and covenant-keeping God. Every one of them was good until a number of them began to rebel against The Lord’s plan for mankind. They know their fate already, and so do we.

And the other angels? “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14) They are our powerful unseen servants, doing our work and God’s. They are sent, and therefore under orders, from the heavenly throne. to look after the’s elect. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that the righteous angels are most useful in helping us stand against the spiritual forces of evil. This is a little insight into our cooperation with the Living God. The angels are part of God’s eternal plan to bring us into close relationship with Himself. We are not alone.

EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer p. 251)

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