There is something beyond what we know, see and understand. There is something or someone that is beyond our grasp. Are they looking after us? Are they intent on watching over us? Do they protect us from evil? Some of us call them angels. The interpretation of the Hebrew word “Malach’ is “messenger”. Angels are messengers of God. Sometimes in the Bible they are referred to as messengers in human form and at other times angelic beings.
Various Christian traditions recognize different numbers of how many “Archangels” there are. An archangel is pretty much what it sounds to be “the leaders of the other angels”, a special class of angels. Some Evangelical churches claim only one arch-angel, the angel Michael. Others claim three, and others four, seven and some claim thousands of archangels. Michael seems to be the angel with the most votes. However, on this day we honor St. Michael and all angels.
In our first reading, Jacob had a dream. He dreamed that there was a ladder set up from earth, the top reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. He receives a wonderful promise and blessing and then he hears this message: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you”. Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it”! And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Jacob knew that he could not get any closer to heaven than he was right at that moment.
It doesn’t matter where you are at, you can sense sometimes when the doors of heaven open and you feel like you’re looking into the very presence and ethos of God. That is an overwhelming and awesome thing to be in the very presence of the Living God. But, you know some of us feel like when we come to church that this is the place where we meet with God, and that’s a good thing. And some of you feel that when you come to communion you feel like this is where heaven is opened up to you. And this could be your metaphorical experience of seeing angels ascending and ascending on the ladder to God, a biblical picture that points us to God.
Other examples of visions, dreams and epiphanies include the story of Elijah and how the heavens literally were opened to him and the chariot of God took him to heaven. Or how about Isaiah’s vision? Isaiah says that he saw the Lord and he was transformed by the experience of the vision that included angelic beings with six wings, and one of them brought a hot coal off the altar and touched his lips with it, and saying:
“Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone is your guilt, your sins wiped out.” (Isaiah 6:1-8)
Angels are imbedded in the scriptures throughout the Bible in many places.
Do I understand what the ministry of angel’s means, and when and where angels are ministering to me? No, I do not. If you want you can rely on angels. You definitely have enough biblical backing. If you feel more comfortable saying that the Holy Spirit watches over you and keeps you, then you also have biblical support. If you say, God the Father is watching over you, then you definitely have biblical support for that position. If you say “Jesus is always with me. He will never leave me or forsake me”, you definitely have biblical support.
Jesus tells Nathaniel: “”Very truly, I tell you; you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” The ladder in Genesis is a means for the messengers of God (angels) to ascend and descend. If you notice in the gospel passage the Son of Man, Jesus Christ is pictured as the ladder into the kingdom, the gateway from earth to eternity.
There are times in our lives when we have, or will sense the presence of something greater than us involved in our lives. We are encouraged that this is true all the time, but there are times when God chooses to make this known to us at inopportune moments. These special times of God’s choosing are not necessarily ours. We may have an epiphany of angels or God watching over us or breaking into our lives in a special way, opening our eyes to the things above, and removing the veil from our eyes so that all we can see is the awesomeness of God.
I like to say that I always welcome those times, but I have had close encounters like this when God’s world and my world became blurred and it all felt like one world, where I was looking into the gate of heaven, and there have been times when I remember thinking: “Wait a minute God. I’m not being so good today. Why don’t you come back tomorrow? That way I can clean up my act a little better, and then I can welcome you like you should be welcomed. Maybe you should come back later when my heart s in a better place. It is in those times that we are reminded that God loves us just the way we are. We are all God’s children.
The word for angel means messenger. A guardian angel is someone or something that watches over you. Just as Archangel Michael and all the angels watch over us, we should watch over one another. In this way we become God’s messengers, angels caring for the good and welfare of others.
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven. This is Holy Ground and you are God’s holy people”.
Year A 16th Sunday after Pentecost
Saint Michael and All Angels
September 28, 2014
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen