Have you ever been called by the wrong name repeatedly?
Have you ever been in a group where everyone or even just one other person is known by name and you’re not?
What about being known only by your membership of bigger group of people?
During seminary, our family was lovingly referred to as the O’Doyles—there’s an O’Doyle or that’s the youngest O’Doyle. We were all one, called by a surname that wasn’t even correct. I wonder what it would have felt like if one of the children was known by their first name and the others were just “the rest” or “the others.”
At my children’s high school there was a group of boys referred to as (name changed for privacy) Kevin and his posse. Parents knew who all these boys were by sight, but few could name them all by name. Kevin was a nice young man, but he definitely walked with a swagger. He spoke for the group. He decided what their weekend plans would be. He knew he was “important.” It reminded me of Danny Zuko and the T-Birds, and not in a good way.
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Michael and All Angels sometimes referred to, especially in England, as Michaelmas. I’ve always preferred that title. I never liked that only Archangel Michael is named and the rest are just grouped under ‘all angels.’ Names matter. Being known as an individual matters. We are all beloved children of God, each created in God’s image, but also created with individual characteristics and gifts. It doesn’t seem fair to name one angel and clump the rest in an anonymous group. So, I dug into Archangel Michael. I wanted to understand.
The Archangel Michael is the powerful protector of God’s people. Tradition says he defeated Lucifer in the war in heaven, but not to elevate himself or to be honored. The Archangel Michael acted for the community. He was brave and resolved to face his fears. He defends the community against evil, and advocates for all people and heralds—spotlights other angels. The Archangel Michael doesn’t seek to lift himself above all others, he seeks to lift all others. He helps and defends and protects and advocates.
Today’s Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels comes at the beginning of the school year, and for the church, the beginning of the program year. Celebrations acknowledging the beginning of the year can bring both excitement and fear. The unknown and uncertainty, the challenge of another year—more math, more reading, more expectations, more responsibilities are recognized and we ask for strength to meet these new demands with courage and determination. In the spirit of Saint Michael, however, we do this not for individual recognition and to place ourselves above others but rather for the good of all, to help create spaces where everyone thrives, where everyone is known.
We know the names of the important people—the people who strive to make themselves known, the people who keep others under them. Their names are found in culture, sports, politics, and yes, even the church. Our children and youth can probably name those people in their schools. Today take some time to talk about the people who aren’t as well known. Name people who strive to make the world, your local community, and the children’s school better for all. Name the people who defend the community, lift up others, and strive in their own way to further the Kingdom of God here and now. Commit to pray for these people and pray that we may all follow in their way.
[Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis via Flickr]