In worship on September 28 and 29, we will be celebrating St. Michael and All Angels Sunday, a minor festival of the church year that occasionally falls on a Sunday. In this service we thank God for angels, who fight against evil, protect God’s people, and serve as God’s messengers. As we gather for worship, especially around the communion table, we also join in the angels’ song of praise. You may be asking the question: “Why have I never heard of this festival Sunday of the church year?” If that is the case, here is some background information and devotional thoughts to help you prepare for worship.
A festival dedicated to the honor of the archangel Michael arose in the fifth century in Rome. Michael is not a saint, but in Jewish angelology one of the four archangels who carry out the will of God. The stories about Michael are war scenes, situating him within the final battle between good and evil. The focus of the day has broadened to include thanksgiving for all the angels, who are seen as messengers of the word and will of God. The two primary readings of the day will be Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3 and Matthew 18:1-11. The Daniel reading highlights the ancient hope that God’s will, embodied in the archangel Michael, will finally conquer evil, and gives us comfort whenever we know anguish. Christians believe that on the cross Christ broke the power of Satan; yet the devil continues to rage, until the end of time. The Matthew reading helps Christians understand that even when temptation comes, everything they do to oppose evil has power only through Christ, who conquered the ultimate power of the enemy in his crucifixion and resurrection. Especially for children: consider teaching this simple song to your children and grandchildren before worship:
On this Sunday, we sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” as we gather around God’s presence in bread and wine. According to Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8, this song is the continuous praise of the angels. We ask God to strengthen us as we join in the ministry of angels, contending against the forces of evil, which we attempt only through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.