I love stories.
We are a people of a story, we use story to help us locate ourselves, to tell us or remind us or even to discover who we are and what we believe.
Tonight, we have in our reading from the book of Revelation the story oh Michael and the Angels fight with Satan. It’s a story about good and evil – a story that signals a feast day that the Christian calendar has used to mark the fall equinox, a time to complete the summer harvest, to prepare for a new season, hire new workers and offer prayers for safety as we enter a time of longer nights and shorter days.
This story of Michael and his fight with the dragon is also connected to the story the birth of Apollo in Greek mythology. That tale goes like this: there was a woman called Leto who got pregnant by the God, Zeus. And a dragon called Python came after her intending to kill Leto and her baby. But the North wind saved her by carrying her off to an island where she gave birth to Apollo and his brother Artemis. Four days later (as you do when you’re a Greek god, Apollo chased after the dragon and killed him to avenge his mother.
According to Craig Koester in his book: Revelation and the End of All things, Roman emperors of the time used this story to locate themselves as leaders of the people and to try to show the people what trusting in them would bring about. Caesar was called the new Apollo and Nero too wanted to be seen in this way even going so far as to put his head on coins with beams of light coming out of it which was Apollo’s trademark.
Koester writes that when John writes this story in Revelation about the pregnant woman and the dragon, he is telling the people of his time a familiar story but connecting it to the Jesus story: the woman is the people of God, the baby born is Jesus and dragon as we all know is Satan, or the accuser.
This telling of the story, according to the author, invites an alternative narrative for people to locate themselves in. Here I will quote Koester: “In the end, a story that was used to celebrate the popular culture is now transformed in a way that helps readers resist being assimilated to that culture.”
John, the writer of the book of Revelation uses all kinds of imagery to help the reader understand the role of each of the characters: the woman clothed in sun with the moon at her feet and the stars forming a crown, the seven diadems on the dragons head…
I really ended up down the garden path on this – because as I said, I love stories and I love unpacking the imagery that is used in stories to tell us about the characters and their importance.
So, as we think about this one – and its relevance to us – I wonder what you are hearing?
What does this story tell us about ourselves? About who we are as disciples of Christ?
This story about Michael and the angels fighting the dragon connect us to our history and remind us once more of the continued fight against evil and if Craig Koester is right, then it also offers us another opportunity to think about how easily we might fall into aligning ourselves with the empire of our time and what opportunities we have to choose another way.
That this is something that humans have been wrestling/fighting with/over for as long we have been able to differentiate between good and evil.
I love that we have been telling stories about celestial beings that have been participating in this fight for as long – maybe longer – that once more we are reminded that we are not alone.
We tell stories to each other to locate ourselves, to tell us something about the reality of our lives, the battles that we find ourselves in and it is where we try to discern where God is in it with us.
Could we also talk about where Angels are, what they might look like? Sure – absolutely,