Saturday, September 28, 2013

Angels and Humans

Michael and All Angels
Daniel 10:10–14; 12:1–3; Psalm 103:1–5, 20–22; Revelation 12:7–12; Luke 10:17–20

Today, we celebrate angels, regular angels and the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Many people doubt the existence of angels, but even the Bible tells us they are real, mostly invisible beings.
Before we get to today’s texts about angels, let’s talk about angels in popular culture. Our culture tells us angels appear to us in human form with divine power; they are helpful, teachers, help lead to God.
Name some TV shows and movies about angels, or where angels play a large part. Touched by an Angel; Highway to Heaven; It’s a Wonderful Life; Angels in the Outfield. …
What else do people believe about angels from the culture? Guardian angels; we become angels when we die; angel on one shoulder, devil on the other; angel of death guides us into next life.
We hear stories about angels pulling people out of crushed cars, flying next to airplanes, appearing out of nowhere to save human lives. Guideposts magazine includes lots of these stories.
… Let’s compare these cultural images with the images we find in scripture, in today’s texts, and a few more. The first image I want to use comes from Genesis. Abraham and Sarah offer hospitality to three visitors who are later identified as the Lord and two angels. The visitors promise Sarah that within a year she will have a baby.
Daniel is in exile in Babylon, struggling to find his way as a Jew in a Gentile culture. Things get tough, and he wonders how he will manage. Suddenly, a heavenly being appears and touches him. The angel speaks: ‘I have been with the angel prince of Persia, who detained me for three weeks, or I would have been here sooner. Finally, Michael, an angel prince, came to help me, so I could come to you. I bring you good news about the future of your people, Israel. You will be delivered, and those who are faithful will shine like stars in God’s book of life.’ (Pastor Lynn’s paraphrase)
In the Psalm, angels are described as mighty ones, who do God’s bidding, who obey the Lord. We should join the angels in blessing and praising God.
In Revelation, the angels are engaged in cosmic warfare against the evil one and his angels. God’s angels are victorious, the text claims, because of the blood of the Lamb – in other words -- because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This battle happens outside of the human realm, in God’s heavenly sphere.
At Jesus’ birth the angels sing as they share the news with the shepherds. At the tomb, there is an angel, or several angels depending on the Gospel, who give the message to Mary and the other women that Jesus is not there, he has been raised.
So, angels in scripture are messengers between God and humans, and cosmic warriors against evil powers. They are heavenly, spiritual beings, who do God’s bidding. They are above us humans in rank, or put differently, we are a little lower than them.
… The image of angels in our Gospel text is different. The disciples have just returned from their mission trip, when they were send out two-by-two. They are excited to tell Jesus and the other disciples about their experiences of healing the ill and casting out demons. The disciples return from their mission trip amazed that they have access to such power.
It is from this text that we get the image of Satan as a fallen angel, although Satan is not called an angel. Jesus says, ‘I saw Satan falling like a flash of lightning.’ The Greek verb tense for falling gives the sense that Satan was falling over and over again in the same way that lightning flashes again and again. While in the cosmic sense, Satan has been defeated, in the human realm, Satan’s evil powers continue to plague and deceive us. Satan needs to be defeated again and again.
It’s in the gospel text that we get the answer to the “So what?” question. After this brief exploration of angels, “so what” does it mean for us that angels exist? The disciples return from their mission trip excited about the power they have experienced to heal. Yet, Jesus cautions them to rejoice, not in the power, but that their names are written in heaven.
The “so what” for us is that we should not spend a lot of time looking for angels, but that we should focus on allowing God’s power to flow through us to reach others. Today, we can be the angel messengers, bringing God’s message of hope to those who need some hope. We can tell others about Jesus’ love for them, trusting that God’s Holy Spirit will help us speak, and will also help them listen to our words.
Watch for times this week to be an angel to someone in need, appearing in unexpected ways at unexpected times, to share God’s love. You may save a life or change the world they live in, just by daring to be their angel for a moment.
Please pray with me. Almighty God, your angels fight against evil, empowered by the blood of the Lamb. Your angels appear out of nowhere to bring words of hope and mercy to us and all who need it. Show us when we can be like angels and give good news and hope to your people. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen