Reading Ramblings – September 29th, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

Date: September 29th, 2013 –
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; St. Michael & All Angels
Sunday

Texts: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3;
Psalm 91; Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20

Context: September 29 is
historically the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and has been
observed as such since at least the eighth and ninth centuries.
Michael is one of only two angels we are given names for in Scripture
– Michael, Gabriel (the angel Raphael is named in the disputed book
of Tobias, part of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Scriptural canons
but not Protestant). Michael is often associated with power,
spiritual battle, and judgment, as his role in today’s reading
demonstrate. We are told of his might and power, restrained power
that is finally set free in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus
Christ to throw Satan from heaven.

Culturally angels have waxed and waned
in popularity, and another surge was noticeable 20 years or so when
they appeared on bumper stickers and dangling from rear view mirrors,
often as enticing females. They appeal to our culture because they
are interpreted as beings of blessing and protection, but without any
duty or obedience required on our part. As such, they subvert the
worship due to God and become a source of comfort and ease. The
powerful description in Daniel 10 makes it clear that this is not
the sort of creature we are to imagine!

Daniel 10:10-14, 121-3: Daniel
is enabled to see a powerful angel who comes to him, unseen by those
around Daniel but palpable to them in a fearful way that causes them
to run off and Daniel himself to black out. The angel indicates that
he has been sent specifically to Daniel, and has arrived only after a
powerful struggle against and victory over demonic powers seeking to
keep him out. Michael – one of two angels that are named in
Scripture is referenced here as coming to the aid of this angel to
ensure that he is able to come to Daniel. The angel speaking to
Daniel is often assumed to be Gabriel, as Gabriel is mentioned in
earlier chapters in Daniel and is associated with being a messenger,
but Chapter 10 does not require us to assign this identity.

The emphasis is on the powerful nature
of this angel, who has been detained by evil powers. What amazing
power must be required to restrain such a being! How dangerous and
real is the spiritual battle that rages in this world unseen, the
effects of which we are at best dimly aware of! Praise to Jesus
Christ for his victory through death and resurrection over all of
these evil powers, even their leader Satan himself!

Psalm 91: A psalm of promise and
encouragement to the people of God. We need not fear the dangers and
tribulations of this world and this life! We have on our side a
savior who has freed us from all worry. Angels figure into the psalm
starting at verse 11. Angels are obedient to God, not only
glorifying him but serving to protect God’s people from harm. 91:12
is quoted to Jesus by Satan during Jesus’ temptation in the
wilderness following his baptism, eliciting Jesus’ clarification of
the verse. While angels attend the Son of God, it is ultimately
obedience to God the Father that is most important. In an age where
having a retinue of friends and followers – whether in person or
online as Facebook friends or other digital contacts – is seen as a
matter of status and prestige, we are reminded that our glory lies
not in the angels that surround us, but in the Son of God who
delivers us.

Revelation 12: We are given a
glimpse with St. John of heaven itself, but particular events that
play out in heaven as well. The Son of God has been delivered into
the world, fulfilled his duty, and has returned to the Father. The
restrained power of Michael and the angels is then unleashed against
Satan and his followers, who had been tolerated to remain in heaven,
acting as accusers against the people of God (v. 10b, but also
consider Job 1:9, 2:4-5). No more will the lies of Satan stand
against us – he has been thrown down, and now the Son of God who is
our intercessor and mediator stands at the right hand of God.
Judgment against Satan and evil has been completed, and the beginning
of sentencing has begun. Heaven is purged, but the defeated and
mortally wounded enemy of God has become our enemy, seeking to waylay
and snatch as many as possible before his eventual consignment to
hell. Victory is assured in Christ – our task is to remain
faithful until death, even if our death is for our faith in Christ
(v.11).

Luke 10:17-20: Humanity is
obsessed with power. The ability to control our environment, our
neighbors, our children, our spouse, our vocation, our finances, our
safety and our very fate is part of the sinful fibers woven into our
very being. We envy those with power even as we decry them. We
condemn those who blatantly seek out control even as we try to gain
control in smaller ways in our own lives. The ability to manifest
power and control, to demonstrate to the world our influence and
power through how many YouTube views we can collect or Facebook likes
we can amass or whether we have cubicle walls or real walls and a
real door on our office – these evidences of power and control
dominate the thinking of many people.

But power and control is not to
dominate our thinking. We, who have been given freedom and authority
over evil spirits, are not to relish our power. Rather, we are to
relish the source of that power – our faith in Jesus Christ as the
Son of God which inscribes our names in the Book of Life for
eternity. Our power is not our own, and the glory associated with
that power is not our own, but belongs to the source of that power,
the Son of God. Consider Simon the Sorceror in Acts 8 – he was
interested in the power he saw Peter and John and Philip
demonstrating. He wanted to purchase this power for his own benefit
and glory, a move that nearly cost him his life!

What matters most to every person in
this world is whether they see Jesus of Nazareth as the incarnate Son
of God, who lived and died and rose again to bring each of us
forgiveness and hope. Nothing else matters. We should not obsess
about the powerful freedom we enjoy in Christ, as though it is in
itself anything. Neither should we obsess about the angels, beings
we are told so little about and yet have repeatedly in history become
the focal point for many people. We do not concern ourselves with
what we can’t know, and focus on what we do – Christ crucified and
resurrected.  

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