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. 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
Today the Lutheran Church celebrates the festival of St. Michael and All Angels.
Every time we celebrate holy communion we hear “…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn..” Then we sing a hymn of praise before receiving Christ in the bread and wine.
Luther’s evening prayer includes the line, “Let your angels have charge over us that the wicked one have no power over us.” When we are weakened in rest, our senses shut down in sleep, we pray for the defense of angels.
Angels stand for life beyond life, over and around us, invisible to our hardened, secular blindness that measures everything by the numbers and by the results of experiments.
As people of the spirit we believe that angels are all around us. The angels came to get our dear friend Ruth Sunday morning, just before noon our time They lifted her beyond time, beyond the numbers and the charts and graphs, beyond history and science and finance and medical care.
The angels are there in your life today, especially when you feel alone, fighting against discouragement and disappointment, helping you solve problems, come to important decisions, manage stress. They bring you moments of hope. They bring a faint sense of peace. They invite you to play and enjoy life. Angels breathe the spirit of God that reminds us of a blessed order that awaits, and peace that passes all understanding.
I believe in angels, and as angels are present with us in our communion, I pray with Luther that God’s angels are present with you, standing by you, encouraging you if your life is a little dark.
Today the Lutheran Church commemorates St. Jerome (c. 331-420), translator and teacher. In the Roman Catholic Church Jerome is patron saint of all who study scripture. In iconography Jerome is portrayed often as an emaciated old man in a desert monastery where he translated the scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into the Latin version known as the Vulgate (common version). The Vulgate became the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church. Jerome was an expert in Latin and Greek. He worked hard to command Hebrew so that he could make a solid Latin translation. In the sixteenth century Martin Luther looked back at Jerome when he returned to the original languages for his translation of the scriptures into German, even though his goal was to replace Jerome’s Latin Vulgate with a new translation in the common language of the German people.
Jerome was a disagreeable and controversial figure, full of passion as well as ascetic devotion. For example, he went to the Judean Desert around Bethlehem and set up a monastery with his collaborator and admirer Paula, a wealthy Roman woman, because his many enemies and detractors had driven him out of Rome, where he was secretary to Pope Damascus. Jerome and Paula are still remembered together in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Last week I had a fun email exchange with one of you about translations of the Bible in English. Jerome was the original, bold scholar, immersed in languages, able to make sacred words breathe their special kind of life in words that could be understood by people who do not read the original.