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 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 in Genesis, Jacob has a dream. He dreams that there is a ladder set up from earth, the top reaching to heaven; and the angels of God are 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 wakes up from his sleep and says, “Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it!” And he is afraid, and says, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Jacob knows that he is at heaven’s gate, the gateway to Heaven.
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 many of us feel like when we come to church service that this is the place where we meet with God, and that’s a good thing. And many of you feel that when you come to communion, this is where heaven is opened up to you. And this could be your metaphorical experience of seeing angels ascending and descending 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 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 embedded in the scriptures throughout the Bible in many places.
The Ark of the Covenant was beautifully crafted of acacia wood and over-layered with gold inside and out. The atonement cover placed on top of the altar was also made of pure gold. Two golden angels or cherubim were placed on each end of the atonement cover, their wings touching and overshadowing the atonement cover, and with their eyes they were looking down.
It is above this ark beneath the eyes of the cherubim that we hear these words: “I will meet with you between the two cherubim above the atonement cover.” (Ex. 25:10-22) The angels are guarding the place where Gods presence dwells, just as in the story of Moses with the burning bush. Out of the burning bush the voice speaks to Moses with these words: “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals. The place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:6)
When Adam and Eve were told to leave the Garden of Eden, we read that an angel was placed at the entrance of the East side of the garden with a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way into the tree of life.” (Gen 3:24) Then we read the climactic episode of the dueling archangels in heaven, Michael and Lucifer, referred to as the evil angel (Satan). The Archangel Michael casts him from the heights of heaven and this passage coincides with the ripping of the veil from top to bottom, the thick covering that separated the holy place from the most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant and Gods presence dwelt between the two cherubim. (Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 27:51) The way into the presence of God has been eternally opened to us. All are welcome and invited to come into the presence of the Living God at any time we desire or choose.
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 that Jesus is pictured as the ladder to heaven, the gateway from earth to eternity.
Do I understand angels, when, where and how angels do their work? No, I do not. If you want, you can rely on angels. You 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 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.
There are times in our lives when we have or will sense the presence of something greater than us. We are encouraged that this is true all the time, but there are special times when God chooses to make this known to us at opportune times and sometimes seems to us as inopportune times. 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, and I have had close encounters like this when God’s world and my world became blurred and it all felt like I had crossed over into Gods world and He had entered mine, a place that was like looking into the gate of heaven, but there have been other times when I remember thinking: “Wait a minute God. I’m not being so good today. I haven’t been on my best behavior lately. Why don’t you come back tomorrow? I would feel a lot better about this. That way I can clean up my act, and then I can welcome you like you should be welcomed. Maybe you should come back later when my heart is in a better place.”
It is in those times that you are reminded that God loves you just the way you are, not for what you have done in the past, and not on your actions in the future, but right here, right now, just as you are, God loves you. This is a safe place, a place where the love of God trumps all fears, disappointments, shortcomings and guilt. We are all God’s children, and this is none other than the household of God. Relax and enjoy time with the family.
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, so we should watch over one another. In this way we become God’s messengers, angels caring for the good and welfare of others. The angels become models for us in how we should care for one another, caring for one another at certain times and in specific situations we can all be angels, (messengers sent from God to watch out for one another) “guardian angels.”
“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.” Amen.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen