Sunday 14th November 2021
Collect: God, our refuge and strength, bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end, that earth may know the peace of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
Daniel: 12:1-3 https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649379
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649490
Mark 13:1-8. https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649562
Michael the great prince is more usually (for us) known as St Michael or as one of the four archangels. These archangels are said to stand round the throne of God from where they watch over the four corners of the earth. Michael also appears in the Book of Revelation where he engages in battle with a dragon which is Satan, ‘the great deceiver of the whole world’ and drives him out of heaven. In pictures and statues Michael is often depicted with a sword or spear as he attacks Satan.
Michael the archangel – on the basis of this passage from Daniel – has the particular role of protector of God’s people. For the readers of the Book of Daniel the people of God were the Jews, and perhaps in particular those exiled to Babylon and their descendants. For me, God’s people are all people for all are part of God’s creation. If we were to create a contemporary representation of Michael as the archangel who watches over the earth and protects God’s people, I wonder what symbols we use?
Would we still see military arms as a way of protecting people? Would we see confrontation as the way of subduing the great deceiver?
Or would we want tools that suggestion negotiation or justice? Mobile phones and cans of Irn Bru? Rainbow flags and circular seating plans?
Would we want items that could protect people and build peaceable communities? Things like food supplies, tents and roads, sanitation and drinking water, medicines and vaccines, seeds and solar panels?
Would we want arguments and adverts to reveal the deceits and green wash that hold sway across the world? Just and equal access to decision making processes? Scientific explanations rather than political spin and one-up-manship?
Would we want words and actions that united people so that efforts to avoid war and distaste could flourish?
Can we together tackle the crises that beset the world? Can we help each other, value and protect each other?
Can we live and work within the divine plan that establishes heaven on earth?
The passage from Hebrews , like that from Daniel, is imagining a time of salvation, of deliverance, when heaven on earth will be a reality. In Daniel it is a future event; in Hebrews it is an event that has taken place – a promise that has become a certainty through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As in previous weeks’ readings, this heavenly realm, this place where God’s rule prevails, is depicted as being a heavenly of which the one reverenced by the Israelites during their time in the wilderness was but a temporal version. It is a sanctuary that all, having been sanctified by Jesus’s blood, may enter. It is a sanctuary in which all may be washed clean, consciences cleared of evil. And such is the wellbeing that this destination gives, that the writer urges us ‘provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…’ Just as we have the image of Micheal intervening to thwart the great deceiver and to actively protect God’s people, so here we have Jesus as the beacon encouraging us to nurture one another’s well being for that is how the rule of heaven is made real.
In Mark’s gospel the disciples are overwhelmed by the scale of the temple and the security and magnificence it projects. They are persuaded – maybe even conned/ brain washed – into see it as the
promise of their salvation and security. Jesus attempts to help them to see things differently. He tells them that those stones, that temple, will not stand for ever and will not protect them. If Jesus is talking about the end of days, the disciples seem perhaps to imagine that they will be whisked out of the way of any impending danger. Not so. Rather they will be faced with famines and earthquakes and all manner of disasters before the kingdom, the rule of heaven becomes a reality.
It can be easy or perhaps simplistic, to think when we hear of disasters, earthquakes and famines, to stand by and wait to see what happens. But I think the example of the archangel Michael, and the words of the writer of Hebrews, tell us that we must face down the deceptions of the great deceiver (in what ever form they may arise) and must proactively encourage good and loving deeds in all people.
Today is Remembrance Sunday and we remember with love and sorrow those who lost their lives because of war. But war is not an acceptable disaster, it is not the acceptable answer to danger and sin. Remembrance Sunday is the occasion that prompts us to build peace, to be brought under the rule of heaven, and to encourage, in and for all, good and loving deeds.