Wednesday, 1 October 2014

St. Michael and All Angels - 29th September

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the playwright puts the following words into the mouth of his main character as he addresses Horatio, who is having a hard time believing that Hamlet has seen a ghost:

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

In other words although Horatio’s education does not allow for the existence of such things, he does not have the monopoly of all the knowledge of heaven and earth.

And neither do we. That is why the Bible is so counter-cultural and so radical because it challenges our thinking and opens up for us a whole new dimension of things we don’t ordinarily have access to because we are restricted to only what we can see, hear, touch or smell.

Today we remember St. Michael and All Angels. St. Michael in the Bible is identified as the Archangel who has charge of all the angels of God. He is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel. And in the New Testament he leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation (Rev 12:7-12), where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. And in the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as "the archangel Michael".

Angels are everywhere in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and some of the most famous stories in the scriptures have angels in them. Abraham entertains three angels on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). Jacob wrestles with one at Bethel (Genesis 32:22-32) and earlier was given a vision of them ascending and descending into heaven (Genesis 28:10-21). In the New Testament Joseph, Mary and the shepherds have encounters with them (Matthew 1:20-21, Luke 1:26-38, and Luke 2:13-18) in the Book of Acts Peter is rescued from jail by the intervention of an angel (Acts 12:1-19).

There is a reference to what appear to be guardian angels in a passage where Jesus, after rebuking the disciples for turning the children away who had come for a blessing tells them:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. “ (Matthew 18:10)

The activity of angels are by no means limited to ancient times either. I have just been reading an account of a Norwegian Missionary in China named Marie Monsen who served there in the early part of the last century ("A Present Help" published by Kingsley Press).

It was a very dangerous time to serve in what was a very unstable country and she and her fellow missionaries had many brushes with death at the hands of corrupt and renegade soldiers and brigands. Several times she had reason to believe that angels intervened to rescue them. On one occasion as their compound was besieged by looting soldiers they barricaded themselves in the chapel. Some of the locals came and joined them because they said that they felt safer with them because they had protection. When asked what they meant they were told that on the roof of the chapel they had seen four soldiers on guard one at each end, one on the middle and one by the main gate. When questioned about what they looked like they said that they were tall and had shining faces. When asked if they were Chinese they said no, they were foreigners.

The only explanation was that these were no ordinary people but were angels sent to guard the praying missionaries.

The point of all this is really to awaken us to the fact that we do not live in a one (or indeed three) dimensional world. That there exists something more than what we can see, touch, hear or smell. And there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in all our science and philosophies. In fact the dimension in which God and his angels operate is actually what came first and out of that, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Once we start there—rather than here—life as we know it begins to take on greater meaning, and God and the supernatural comes into sharper focus.

We start to ask important questions about God—who He is, what is His purpose for creating us, how are we to live the life he has given us? Is this life a preparation for the next? Does what we do and how we live now have an impact on where we will spend eternity?  Does it make life better now?

St. Michael and all angels challenge us to ask deeper questions of life other than what iphone we should by or what the latest fashion is. There is more out there and what that more is can have a much greater impact on our lives here and now.

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