St Michael and all Angels

Michael the ArchangelOn the Feast of Michael and all Angels, we give thanks for the many ways in which God’s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligence other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them.

Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us.

They are referred to as “messengers of God,” or simply as “messengers.” The word for a messenger in Hebrew is Malach, in Greek, Angelos, from which we get our word “angel”.

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel.

Michael (the name means “Who is like God?”) is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures:

Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel)

Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses);

Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon).

He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels?

Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall.

The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending His angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted His love to show their love for one another.

What Is a Seraph?

Seraphim are mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly throne-room (Is 6:1-7), where the Lord is seated between two seraphim. Each has six wings, and with two he covers his face, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies. Later writers identify these functions with poverty, chastity, and obedience.

What Is a Cherub?

Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Gen 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, and two cherubim are set at the gate to guard it, so that no one may enter.

The Lord be with you,

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the Ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thy appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

St Matthew

One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles.

Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).

Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money.

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

The identity of Matthew the Evangelist is complex for a number of reasons. The gospel to bear the name “Matthew” was written anonymously, with tradition ascribing authorship to Matthew at a later date.

Both the style of Greek used and the means of describing events lead some to conclude that the author of the gospel was not a companion of the historic Jesus. Some use the designation “Matthew the Evangelist” to refer to the anonymous gospel author, and “Matthew the Apostle” to refer to the Biblical figure described. Christian tradition holds that they are the same person.

St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel. This has been the constant tradition of the Church and is confirmed by the Gospel itself. He was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors place at Capernaum.

His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labor; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

St. Matthew’s Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord.

Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the “Hebrew tongue” mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands.

Another tradition places the composition of his Gospel either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later.

Definitely, however, the Gospel, depicting the Holy City with its altar and temple as still existing, and without any reference to the fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.

Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius informs us that he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans.

When summoned by Jesus, Matthew arose and followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: “I came not to call the just, but the sinners”.

Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue.

Ancient writers are not as one as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.

Matthew was assumed to be the youngest of the apostles, as evident by his quick and succinct style of writing. He gave up everything he knew, and had to follow our Lord and spread his word.St Matthew

This is a model that we must all have, and live by. Amen

Trinity XV

No man can serve two masters

Serving God And Mammon

Jesus pointed out that no man can serve two different masters. “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” He then completes the thought by adding, “You cannot serve both God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

Here Jesus sets before us two masters who desire our allegiance and obedience. The identity of God is simple and straightforward, but who is “Mammon”? This word is translated as “Money, or Riches” but that may be an over-simplification of the “god” that competes with the Almighty Jehovah for our affections.

Matthew Henry explains Mammon this way: “Mammon is a Syriac word that signifies gain; so that whatever in this world is, or is accounted by us to be, gain (Philippians 3:7) is mammon. Whatever is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life is mammon. Self, the unity in which the world’s trinity centres – sensual, secular self – is the mammon which cannot be served in conjunction with God.”

This shows that Mammon is the spiritual embodiment of all that we pursue in this life that caters to our creature comforts and sets itself up against God. Paul also says in his letter to the Ephesians, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has not any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (5:5).

Devotion to God, and the pursuit of His kingdom, will constantly lift our eyes and desires toward heavenly things. The practical worship of Mammon, and all that it embodies, constantly drags our thoughts and motives down into this fallen, earthly sphere.

As Paul shows, this will lead us into a life of immorality, impurity, and greed. Such a way of life cannot be joined to following the glorified Christ in a life of discipleship.

Since Money and the possession of it is the way to attaining all the greatest and latest “creature comforts,” mankind is driven by the desire for economic success like never before. Practice in politics, education, much religious activity, and more is now assessed and determined by economic considerations and possibilities.

This has filtered into the events of everyday life and has invaded our thinking on practically every level of existence. When this becomes an obsession and the goal, if you will, we are not working for God, but against him.

The Bible indicates that this obsession with financial gain will be the dominant mark of the antichrist and his attempt at global supremacy. He will use his economic and technological power to extort obedience from the nations (Revelation 13:15-17).

His great city, will be the most productive financial centre the world has ever known – buying and selling everything imaginable, even the bodies and souls of men (Revelation 18:11-13). As the “state of the market” becomes the chief consideration in many decisions and actions, the world moves ever closer to this final stage of Satan’s attempt to control global affairs.

As this condition of greed grows and intensifies, moral principles and God’s laws are easily cast aside as men willingly sacrifice individual souls and lives, and the welfare of nations, on the altar of Mammon, their god.

It is no wonder that “the voice from heaven” calls out to the people of God, saying: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes” (Revelation 18:4-5).

The situation referred to in Revelation may require a literal physical removal from the city and empire of Babylon at that future time, but today we are called, just as urgently, to be separate in spirit from the world and whatever is driving it toward the idolatry that will climax in opposition to God and all that is associated with Him.

Trinity XIV

022And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Luke 17:17,18

Ten Lepers met Jesus one day as He journeyed south to Jerusalem. All sought His mercy and were given the same instruction: “Go show yourselves unto the priests.” As they obeyed His word, all were cleansed. Yet only one, a Samaritan, returned to give thanks to Jesus.

The failure of the nine to do so brought the above remarks recorded by Luke. What of the other nine? Were they grateful for their healing? Or did their joy in the gift cause them to quickly forget the giver? Yes, it is possible even for those who have received so much, to take God’s favors for granted.

Thankfulness and genuine gratitude, is considered a mark of maturity and sophistication among all honorable people. But even then, it remains only a gesture unless it comes from the heart in real appreciation of the goodness of the giver. The one leper, when he realized that he had been healed, deliberately turned back to where Jesus was. Heedless of all about him, he praised God with a loud voice. Falling on his face at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him publicly.

There is lesson of thankfulness here for all people. It is not surprising to find numerous scriptural injunctions to Christian thanksgiving — for all things, at all times, in all circumstances. Indeed, the Christian life is to be one of thankfulness, for “what has thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7) The words in Psalm 107 are relevant to every believer in Christ Jesus:

Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” The Psalmist associates the qualities of praise, sacrifice and witness to others with the discharge of the debt of gratitude.

The writings of the apostles make it clear that the giving of thanks is an essential accompaniment to all other aspects of Christian living. But first of all, there must be a heart of gratitude within, a full recognition of the bountiful grace of our Heavenly Father and an appreciation of all His gifts.

We read in James 1:17 that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” What, then, of His “unspeakable gift”? How can we adequately thank God for His so great love in the gift of His dearly beloved and only-begotten Son? Surely we can offer nothing less than lives of thankfulness in every part.

But is it possible to maintain a spirit of gratitude to God always and in every situation? While it is certainly not in our fallen and imperfect human nature to do so, the Christian perspective should be a different one from that of the world. One of the great axioms of our faith is presented in Rom. 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.

It is God’s will that we show forth His praises in lives of inner peace, ready for all His perfect will. Let us be truly thankful for all that He has done for us in Christ — for rich blessings already received, and for the even richer blessings still to come.

Consider that perfect example of thankfulness in our loving Savior. He through whom and for whom all things were created, and in whom all things consisted, always gave thanks to the Father for the daily fare He shared with the disciples. He gave thanks for those whom the Father had given to receive of His word (Matt. 11:25, John 17:6), and for answered prayer. — John 11:41,42

Each one of us has much for which to be thankful. And all His exceeding great and precious promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. They are certain of fulfillment because of the faithfulness of our dear Lord and Savior. How can we be other than a thankful people when we remain mindful of the riches of His grace toward us already experienced! Each prayer should be first an offering of praise and thanks as it says in Psalm 100 -

Of course our expressions of thankfulness should not be limited to our loving Father. Let us never take for granted and let pass un-noted the generosity and kindness of others; it is good to be grateful for all such loving assistance. And it is important that we let them know of our appreciation. Our quiet sincere expression to benefactors may be to them a needed tonic of encouragement along the narrow way. And our spirit of gratitude will be a factor in that character development which God desires in us.

May our lives be lives of thankfulness and praise in every part: first to our Heavenly Father for all the riches of His grace; to His dear Son, our Savior, who loved us and gave Himself for us; and towards all whose love and kindness enrich our lives.