Angels are one of the best selling items in St Clare’s shop. People love angels, they seem to be a heavenly being that they are eager and willing to connect with. This is just one reason why we always make a special point of celebrating the feast of St Michael and All Angels on a Sunday. Also, Coventry Cathedral is dedicated to St Michael, plus its a service that all ages can engage with.
This interactive talk and response is one we’ve used a couple of times now, and is always well received. It was even life changing for one person (see A story of coming and going, led by angels).
You will need:
- 4 decorative angels (we used ones we sold in the shop, but pictures of angels, or cardboard ones like you make for the Christmas tree would work just as well)
- 4 labels, one for each angel; Heavenly Beings, Warriors, Guardians and Messengers.
- 4 bowls (or other open container) to put the scrolls in.
- Printed bible verses and ribbons to create tiny scrolls with bible verses on, appropriate to each angel. You can download the bible verses below. Print them off, then cut the paper into individual bible verses, then roll up and tie with ribbon. Place all the verses for each label into the appropriate bowl. How many copies of each page you need (therefore how many scrolls) depends on how many people you expect to be at the service. You will probably need at least twice as many scrolls as people. Tip: it really helps if you print each separate page of bible verses on different coloured paper, so you don’t get them muddled up.
- Something to display the angels, labels and bowls of scrolls on, that people can easily access.
Arrange the angels, labels and bowls in a way that is eye catching and accessible. We worship in the round, so went for something multidirectional in the centre of the circle. Choose a way that works for your space, but ideally people should be able to see them, and they will need to be able to come and take a scroll form one of the bowls.
In our service, we combined the bible reading with the sermon slot, with a talk as follows, which comprises an introduction to the theme, then an overview of each type of angel, beginning with a bible reading for each section. It can easily be adapted to include discussion, questions or different voices.
I talk about how people seem to really like angels (we certainly sell a lot of them) and then point out that there are 283 mentions of angels in the bible. There seem to be four distinct types of angel – Heavenly Being, Messengers, Guardians and Warriors.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. (Rev 5: 11)
Key points about heavenly beings:
- They live in heaven.
- They worship God – are not to be worshipped.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 20-21)
Key points about messenger angels:
- Sometimes they appear in dreams, sometimes visions, sometime people ‘hear’ a voice. Example of this is Joseph.
- Sometimes they appear as an actual being. Examples of this are the visits to Mary (the Archangel Gabriel being best known messenger angel) and to Abraham.
- They come with a message from God.
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. (Revelation 12: 7-8)
Key points about warrior angels:
- Cosmic battle between good and evil, outlined in Revelation.
- The Archangel Michael is the most important warrior angel.
- God wins.
Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3: 28)
Key points about guardian angels:
- The term ‘Guardian Angel’ is not found in the bible.
- However, God sends angels to guard people in need or danger.
- Examples are the angels who protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lion’s den. Also the angel that tended to Elijah when he was exhausted and ready to die.
All angels come from God and do God’s bidding. Ours is a God to worship, a God who speak to us, a God who fights for good, a God who guards and protects us.
After the talk, I explain that we are going to listen to a piece of music, during which people are invited to ponder on each type of angel, and think about which one speaks to them this morning. If they wish to, they can then come and take a scroll from the bowl by that angel. They read the bible verse, and see if it speaks to them.
After the music has finished, people are invited to share any insights or thoughts they have, which may or may not relate to the bible verse they have picked up.
Conclude with the collect for the feast of St Michael and All Angels or some other appropriate prayer.
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order: grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven, so, at your command, they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.Collect for Michael and All Angels, Common Worship, copyright Archbishops Council, 2000.