Sermon preached on 10 November 2013

What are you fighting for…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?

The gospel reading that we’ve just heard is a very particular one. The question is – if a man dies and his widow marries his brother, and six brothers die and she marries her way down the family, whose bride will she be in heaven.

What deep truth does this question and Jesus’s answer convey to us.

Well, I wasn’t supposed to be preaching today and swapped a couple of days ago with one of my colleagues.

The deep truth that this passage conveys to me today is always to check what the bible readings are before you agree to swap a date in the pulpit.

I’m going to start from a different place though and work my way back to what is going on in the gospel reading this morning. For the question is not straightforward at all, never mind the answer. [Read more…]

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…

Today is Michaelmas – the day we read the story from Revelation of the Archangel Michael beating up the beast.

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.

Oddly, I rather like the feast. It is a day for thinking about dragons and angels, and of course, a rather butch, military Michael with all the host of heaven sweeping in to put all things right.

I grew up surrounded with military metaphors for religion and by and large I laid them aside and left them be. In the Salvation Army there are few things that don’t have military imagery attached to them and it leads to a peculiar and, if you think about it, slightly troubling mindset. Plenty of people get very excited about the idea of jihad, holy war in Islam after all. Yet for most Muslims it doesn’t seem to be very far away from the religious language I grew up with.

I managed to rescue just a little of that spirit a number of years ago. A friend’s son had a terrible car accident and was fighting for his life. At the time I was attached to St Michael and All Saints church in Edinburgh. I remember on the Feast itself looking at a statue of Michael about to slay the dragon and realising that there wasn’t at that moment a better visual representation for how I wanted to pray.

Young man in question lived.

Yet whether we live or die, the faith I profess insists, sometimes against all credible evidence, that goodness is stronger than evil.

Worth making a fuss about, is that kind of sentiment and that is part of the reason I like to keep the feast.

The other part is that in a world where half the population believes in guardian angels and the other half is reading Harry Potter, a feast day with both Angels and Dragons just can’t be anything other than a mission opportunity.

Want to know why your young people don’t come to church. Maybe it is because adults don’t get excited enough about feast days like this one.