Michaelmas (yesterday, September 29, St. Michael and All Angels) was a great opportunity to celebrate the place of angels in God’s creation. And as I prepared for Michaelmas, I was reminded of Luke 15:10, where Jesus tells the Pharisees and the scribes, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” This has always been a comforting thought for me whose ministry often produces fruit in ones and twos! But it also is a good reminder that it isn’t just new faith that the angels in heaven rejoice over. St. Paul, writing to Timothy counsels, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). Certainly, we have seen many who were raised in the Church, baptized and confirmed, yet at some point in their life they walked away to their spiritual peril. The Holy Spirit leads His Church to proclaim salvation to those who have never known the love of God, but also to recover those who have walked away from the love of God.
The High Holidays brought some interesting things into relief for me this year. I remember the Yom Kippur service many years ago where a Jewish lady to whom we had been witnessing suddenly broke down, claiming that the angel that she had been “following” was telling her to kill herself. She ran from the service, ended up barricading herself into her apartment and tried to starve herself to death. I ended up helping her daughter to get her out and to a hospital, where over the course of the next few months she confessed Jesus to be her Messiah (and me her pastor!), but continued to hear the angel’s voice. Clearly, her angel was either mental illness or and evil angel, and was probably both. There are absolutely wicked angels that tear at a person’s faith and life, and I am convinced that as she was drawn more and more by the Spirit to faith, her “angel” went into overtime to tear her away.
But it is not usually that dramatic. More often it is the slow and subtle tearing away that happens in people’s lives. We had a visitor this year during our High Holiday Services He was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, but over the course of his life had wandered. He was interested in our congregation because he was looking for a Jewish service. We had a good discussion and he came to services this week. I was initially a little concerned because we had abandoned our traditional liturgy for the more contemporary celebration of Divine Service I in the Lutheran Service Book. So I prayed for him that our celebration of Michaelmas would somehow help to bring him back to his historic faith. And as he confessed his faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, I know there was rejoicing in heaven. I am blessed to be a part of a ministry that can bring heaven such rejoicing. Thank you for being a part of this ministry too!