Sermon for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels
29th Sep 2019
SERMON FOR ST MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS
HOLY CROSS CHURCH 2019 (Year C)
“God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world”.
God in heaven: at least something’s right. But surely there’s more: God is also with us, God is also among us and between us and God is also within us. Today’s great festival draws our attention to heaven, to the presence of the God who is transcendent, beyond our knowing, and majestic, glorious, the God worshipped by the saints and the angels. The heavenly vision which this encompasses is expressed most profoundly in the words of the Sanctus, which is deliberately placed in the Mass before the great and climactic Prayer of Consecration.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest.
So much for the God who is somewhere out there, above us and beyond us. But this festival also draws our attention to God’s presence which, in the power of his Spirit is here, he is now with us, and in us… This God is the one ‘who is ‘blessed’ by us as the One who comes in the name of the Lord Jesus. He is the God who has come down from heaven to dwell among us and to reveal himself in His Son. It is only when this earthly Christ is admitted that praises or hosannas are offered to ‘the highest’; or to heaven. Thomas Merton, the 20th century Cistercian monk, wrote of God’s presence within us:
“At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives. This little point of nothingness is the pure glory of God in us. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.”
‘God in us’ is also the God who acts beyond our immediate control and yet for our own being. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that,
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow;
it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
If we try to go it alone as Christians, we run great risks of going astray. The Church understands the work and role of the angels as assisting in mediating the presence of God with us and amongst us. The presence of the angels remind us that God’s work on our behalf is a co-operative work and not a coercive one… The angel Gabriel is God’s messenger to Zechariah and to Mary in Luke’s nativity stories in Luke 1. In St Mark’s Gospel, we hear of a young man in white at the tomb, telling the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead. We see Peter’s guardian angel in action when, as recounted by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, he is freed from imprisonment and restored to the Church Acts 12.12. This love and care of angels for the Church extends, Jesus tells us, more generally, when he says of children, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18.10).
So our thoughts are directed back to heaven, where the angels who bring messages of love and care for us here on earth also constantly see the face of God and seeing him love him, and loving him worship him. In this way God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven as The Lord’s Prayer reminds us. It is impossible to imagine what heaven can be like, since our own vision is limited.
One day, one day, by God’s grace and if we persevere in faith, we shall see as we are seen and know as we are known. In heaven, in the very presence of God himself, we shall join the song of the angels and saints, the eternal worship of those who rest in God’s being without let or hindrance and who experience the fullness of joy in his presence. We shall then no longer need to sing the Sanctus; we shall inhabit it and live in it.