‘[W]ar broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.’ Revelation 12:7-9
Brothers and sisters, our church is no stranger to amateur dramatics, as each year, we not only have a play, but also a panto, and a dramatic presentation of Christ’s passion. It will not be too difficult, then for us to imagine a theatre production, perhaps taking place in our very own Church Hall. As you imagine that scene, come with me as I introduce to you the three groups of people involved in the production. There are of course the actors. This is the group of people whom we recognise, and whom take the bow at the final curtain. The second group of people are those who work behind the scenes without whom the production could not go ahead. Think of the producer, the prompt, or the stage hand. Finally, there is a third group of people whom we need to recognise, and without whom everything would fall apart. And that person is - of course - the Director. Without him or her, the actors wouldn’t know when to speak, or indeed how to act. The Director is absolutely key, in any and every performance.
And as we turn to this week’s Feast of St Michael & All Angels - or Michaelmas - I want you to keep that image of a theatre production in mind, and indeed those three groups of people. The point of this Feast is very simple: to lift our eyes from the immediate, from the everyday, and appreciate the spiritual world which is all around us. This is like the actors in our play, pausing for a second and recognising the work of the support staff, and in so doing, reminding themselves and us, that the play is only possible because of the other groups of people. For just as there are three groups of people involved in a theatre production, so there are three groups of people in the spiritual life. The actors - these are human beings, the Church, you and me who live out their lives, in front of the world. Who by their actions, and by their words, are meant to embody the narrative, and obey the director. The director, of course, is God; He guides all those involved in the play, and indeed in this story, the director is also the Scriptwriter. Finally, there is the support staff, those who work behind the scenes, and whom if we are not careful, we too often forget, and these represent the angels. These are those whose work is often unseen, and without whom the actors cannot operate. The angels are those who fight the invisible, but no less real, spiritual battles and without whom the physical battles we see everyday would ALREADY be lost. Angels are not cute little girls, dressed in a pillow cases, with tinsel round their heads. No, angels are those from whom we would hide our faces and whose first words, are usually ‘Do not be afraid’. They are God’s warriors, messengers, and also choristers. Notice the the reading from Revelation. Here we have a true story, which took place - if we can think of time in regards to heaven - at the very beginning of the world.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
Before Adam and Eve fell, before there was any evil in the world because of human beings, angels rebelled against God, and in doing so committed the first evil act. God’s response, was to send Michael and his angels to fight against this evil, and to cast it out of heaven:
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Here is the origin of all evil. Here is the origin of the snake in the Garden of Eden. The one who tempted Eve, and through whom all of human kind - in one way or another - turn against God. So the first thing we need to realise in this Michaelmas Feast, is that the angels were fighting evil, since literally Adam was a lad. And their job continues to this day. Just as with the theatre production, without the support staff, the actors would not be able to perform, so without the angels, our efforts in this world would be for nothing. However, we must not be tempted to think that the victory against evil lies in the power, or in the hands of the angels. They do their job - and they do it very well - but their victories depend upon another, and that other, the director, is of course God:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming: ‘Now have come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.
Just as with our play, where the support staff only know what to do and when to do it because they are directed, so too in the spiritual world, where behind the angels victories, lies the power and direction of God. It is God who defeats all evil. God who wins the overall war which allows the angels - and indeed us - to win the smaller battles, and that war was won by God as He died on the cross. It is easy for us to miss this, because we are bound by time, and chronologically speaking, the defeat of Satan happens before Adam & Eve, and therefore before the cross. But to God and to heaven time does not bind them, so when the Archangel Michael turns to battle Satan, he completes his victory, with His eyes firmly fixed, and His arm empowered by the cross of Christ. That is God Himself - the director Himself - stepping on to the stage of this world, and defeating evil once and for all. Michael and his angels win, but only because of the cross.
It is time to turn to our last group of people, the ones we normally think about and focus upon - the actors and actresses - that is each and everyone of us. There is another danger to focusing on angels, and that is to think that we play NO part, that we are powerless in the face of evil, and therefore we should hide away and take no further part. However, we Christians have our parts to play! So how do we join up to fight evil, and how do we fight it when we get there? Both questions find their answer in v11:
But [Christians] have conquered [the Devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
We join the fight against evil, by recognising and trusting in Christ crucified. And, then, by confirming in our hearts and in our words and actions that we belong to His family. Having joined the fight against evil - having joined the Church - our second question is how do we fight, and the answer is: ‘by the word of our testimony’. That is, our principal tool, our principal weapon, our principal task in the defeat of evil, is to share the story of Christ and His cross, with the world. Here is how people are ripped from Satan’s army, and enrolled in God’s. Here is how each one of us was brought from darkness to light. Here is how your family member, your friend, your colleague, your neighbour might be brought to heaven. It might seem foolish, it might seem overly simple, it might seem in the grand scheme of things fairly petty when considered against the battle of Michael and his angels, but it is the role that God has given us, it is the part which the director has cast us in: the position of truth-teller, or Gospel-spreader, and this is how He has chosen to win souls for Heaven. Let us then strengthen ourselves to fulfil our roles, to learn our lines, and to share our faith. As we go to battle we can be sure that St Michael and all the angels go with us, and we can be sure of the victory because of Christ’s cross. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)