Today we observe the lesser festival of Michael and All Angels. The recognition and honor of Michael has its origins in the dedication to Michael of a small basilica near Rome in the fifth century. The churches of the Reformation chose to incorporate a recognition of all the angels into this festival. So, instead of focusing on one angelic figure, we focus on the host of Angels.
Angels play an important role in the life of the people of God. But, for all of their importance, we only know the names of three of them. In the Bible that most Lutheran use, we know Michael and Gabriel. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches incorporate the Apocrypha in the Scriptures. There, we learn the name of another angel, Raphael.
The rest of the angels are anonymous to us. While we do not know them, they apparently know us. They are on orders from God to watch over us and protect us. They do so in such a way that directs praise and glory to God alone.
While this day’s honoring of Michael and All Angels can be traced back to a fifth century dedication of basilica, the truth is that our Jewish friends have honored Michael and other angels long before Jesus showed us the full revelation of God.
The prophet Daniel, writing under the power of the Holy Spirit, identifies Michael as the angel charged with protecting the Jewish people. He definitely has his hands full. But Michael is also a part of a great promise to God’s people. Michael will be a part of a great deliverance in a time of horrific anguish. Daniel says, “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found in the book of life. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life…”
Today’s lessons and themes serve to remind us that there is more to the universe than meets the eye. Angels are around and about us. What we know of them, we glean from the Scriptures.
- They can be warriors when need be. Revelation tells us that Michael led a great war in heaven.
- They are helpers. Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are “all ministering spirits sent out to serve for eh sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Psalm 91:11 says, “God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
- They make up a heavenly choir. When Jesus was born the veil was lifted and the shepherds were blessed to witness the choir singing Gloria in Excelsis. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” In the choir, they bless the Lord. When we worship, we join with the heavenly choir around the Altar. As Psalm 103 says, “Bless the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who do God’s bidding, who over the voice of God’s Word. Bless the Lord, all you hosts of God, you servants who do God’s will.”
- Angels serve as messengers. They announce God’s intentions and interventions. Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce her pregnancy with the Savior. Gabriel also appeared to Zechariah in the holy of holies to announce Elizabeth’s impending pregnancy. She will give birth to the one we call John the Baptizer.
As we reflect on the important role of angels in our faith formation and our daily lives, we bear in mind that angels exist to point the way to God. Angels are not adored or prayed to or worshiped. The object of our adoration, prayers, and worship is always to the God revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the cross and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther has a single morning and evening prayer for us to use. He concludes both prayers with a plea to our heavenly Father - “Let your holy angels have charge of us that the wicked one have no power over us.”
May the awareness of angelic supervision and intervention strengthen our gratitude for God’s care and redemption of us. And, may those angels lead us into a fuller trust and love of our Lord.
All God’s people say…Amen.