Weekly letter from St Luke's - 30 September 2020
Dear Parish Friends
Yesterday, Tuesday 29th September, we celebrated the feast of St Michael and All Angels. This is special to June and myself, as we were married in the church of St Michael and All Angels in Headingly, Leeds (just round the corner from the Yorkshire County Cricket Ground!).
What are angels? They are certainly scriptural, being mentioned 338 times in the bible (with 79 of these in the book of Revelation). They are messengers of God. The angel of the Lord told Sarai, Abraham’s wife, that she would bear children, angels appeared to Jacob in a dream, inspiring him to trust and follow God. Then the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to Jesus, and to Joseph to tell him to marry Mary. Angels strengthened Jesus after his temptations in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and an angel brought the news of the resurrection to the women first at the empty tomb.
But angels do not just bring messages from God, they are also often the means whereby God acts. In Numbers the Israelites say “when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt” and much of the Exodus story describes the angel of the Lord going with them as they move on to the Promised Land. Then in the New Testament, in the book of Acts, on a number of occasions, an angel rescues the apostles from prison.
Angels, whatever they might be, are therefore a manifestation of God’s interaction in the world. We believe that God is concerned about the world and humankind and does act. Whether you believe they are specifically winged creatures, with accompanying cloud and harp, or that they are creatures beyond our understanding, or that they are just a way of describing God’s actions, does not remove the importance of recognising their purpose.
Michael is mentioned in Revelation 12:7-12. The book of Revelation records a vison that John of Patmos received from God, which effectively tells the whole history of the world and its relationship with God; that there would be a time of oppression and destruction, a time of reckoning, a final battle between Good and Evil, but that God will triumph. So in this passage, Michael represents the leader of God’s army. Michael and his angels fight in heaven against a dragon (verse 7), representing those forces opposed to God. They conquer him ‘by the blood of the Lamb’ (verse 11).
That can all sound way beyond our comprehension, so can I leave you with this thought, for the Feast of Michael and all Angels? We give thanks for the richness and variety of God's creation that far exceeds our knowledge of it, and of the many ways in which God's loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly.
With blessings for the week ahead.
Yours in Christ