Sermon Archives

Sunday, September 26, 2021
The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
The Faithful Other

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the broad panoply of Christian feasts – excluding the principal feasts such as Christmas and Easter and Pentecost Feast, of course – in the broad panoply of Christian feasts, Saint Michael and All Michael has to be among my favorites! 

As a feast day itself it brings a bit of celebration – so today we will hear the choir sing a Mass Setting by famed 20th century composer Harold Darke.  Just the experience of resting in the beauty of their voices transports me allowing me to consider, to revel in if you will, the chorus of all creation singing to God on high.  If we were in a High Church setting, which a part of me so enjoys, plumes of incense would be wafting through the air as well!

Finally, there’s no other day in the church year that I get to introduce us to a saint, human or angelic, with the heroic title Slayer of Dragons!

And yet, all of that pales in comparison to the real substance of today’s celebration.  In Judeo-Christian tradition, our ancient stories are replete with the welcome and celebration of the other.  From the oldest stories of Israel we learn of the likes of Ramses II who took in Joseph and his family during the great famine and the un-named daughter of Pharaoh who rescued Moses from the river, to the more recent stories contained in Christian scripture telling us of Lydia and Phoebe supporting the burgeoning church and of the curiosity of an unnamed Ethiopian eunuch exploring the faith of Philip.

In each of these stories and more, we are introduced to the faith and faithfulness of the historic other – gentile women and men, and, in the encounter of Philip an individual whose sexuality was somewhere between the customary norms of male and female. 

All of this is to say that from the first to the last stories of the Judeo-Christian tradition we are introduced to heroes who do not fit the cultural norm.  Individuals who challenge our sense of God’s blessing and presence.

And today most of all.  In our designation of Michael as a saint, we are reminded that there is a holiness to life and a faithfulness in life that is beyond our understanding.  For while we know that Pharaoh was an Egyptian, or Phoebe a woman, we know even less about Michael.  We naturally fill in the gaps of our knowledge with a humanization that is understandable, and yet, we know nothing of Michael that would make Michael any more than the great other – an alien in a the most fundamental sense.  Michael is not human in any ordinary sense, and is certainly of no particular nation.  Similarly, Michael is neither Christian nor Jewish, but transcends all faith traditions.  Finally, while we masculinize Michael – we do not know the gender of Angels, in any authentic sense.

For all intents and purposes, Michael is the most complete other of Christian tradition.  Michael falls beyond all categories of ordinary human identity – race, gender, faith, and class – all are unknown and of no account.

All that matters is Michael’s affinity for God and pursuit of God’s kindom of justice and love.

For that singular pursuit, Michael is esteemed as holy, worthy of praise and celebration and memory.

And so we sing Michael’s praise today with joy even as we remember that God’s kingdom of holiness transcends the ordinary identities of human life.