Sunday, February 19, 2012

if ever I saw an angel

The Word for today:
Hebrews 3:1-6

mark this: Hebrews 1:4-6
This shows that God's Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is far greater than their names.
For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: "You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.”
And again God said, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son."
And then, when he presented his honored Son to the world, God said, "Let all the angels of God worship him."

I don’t get as excited about angels as a lot of other people seem to get.

I just searched through nearly one thousand Stand in the Rain articles and found that the word angel occurs 31 times.

About half of those 31 ‘angels’ are mentioned as part of a phrase, “the angel of the LORD,” which is a title for the pre-incarnate Christ.

So that leaves about 15 more ‘angels’ in three years of daily articles. And almost all of them are in articles that mention angels only because they happened to be on the scene when Jesus was born, or when he resurrected.

That is as it should be--as the angels would be the first ones to tell you! They seem to spend most of their time at the throne of God proclaiming “Holy, holy, holy” (1) — and might actually be embarrassed, even offended, by the attention they receive from some Christian circles.

My reluctance to delve into angel-ology (there’s a real word for that) might be the “Catholic” in my background. When I was a kid, my family went to a church where there were so many statues of saints, Virgin Marys, and angels that you’d be hard pressed to find the statue of Jesus.

(Don’t get your hackles up if you’re a Catholic. I know churches with problems that are a lot worse than an overabundance of statuary, and I know a Bible blogger who has more problems in his single soul than all the rest of the Catholics and Protestants combined.)

Anyway, when I came to the rabid faith I am now subject to (and sometimes enjoy), I determined, like Paul did, to know only Jesus Christ and him crucified (2).  So while I tip my hat to many of you living saints, and while I practically have a thing for Mary myself, and while I have a biblical appreciation for angels, regular readers will notice that they are seldom on my mind.

I have even developed a personal theological position on angels that puts them, I think, in their proper biblical place. I won’t bore you with the entire thesis, but I will quote a footnote (from the November 15, 2011 edition of Stand in the Rain) that gives you the gist:
This writer is of the opinion that angels accompanied Israel, but have been supplanted by the resident presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers today. However, I am not dogmatic on this issue, and would not be surprised to find out I'm wrong! But right or wrong, the protection and guidance of the omnipotent and omniscient Spirit cannot be enhanced by the presence of a created being, so the question of angel involvement with the church today (while interesting) is merely academic.
I tell you all this for one reason—to establish my angel-cred! Because all my angel skepticism makes me the most credible source for a possible angel sighting, which happened once upon a time, on a hot midsummer afternoon, in a state far, far away…

I once spent a summer at Indiana University, mooching off my sister who was a graduate student there. Her academic advisor was a young medieval classics professor who was said to be brilliant. I don’t know about all of that, but she sure was good-looking for a professor in Indiana. (In fact she would have stood out as strikingly good-looking among all the starlets in Hollywood.) Anyway, this young professor was writing a book about, of all things, angels.

Unregistered, unmatriculated, not at all interested in angels, and only somewhat interested in medieval classics, I still found my way into the back row of this professor’s lectures. They were graduate summer classes, which can be notoriously laid back, so she often digressed about her book-in-the-making. (She could have talked about the Transylvanian commodities market and half the class would have remained attentive.)

I can’t remember much, in particular, of anything she said except for her response to a question she was asked by the quiet guy who always sat in the back row right next to me. It was toward the end of the summer, maybe the last class before exams, when he stood up (unusual in itself) and asked, “Is there anything in your book about Jesus?”

“No, of course not,” she smiled dismissively, “my book is about angels.

The young man sat down. You could feel that the entire room resented his intrusive and invasive question—loaded, as it was, with the unsettling J-word and transported behind secular lines.

For the next couple minutes, while the class was winding down, I studied his face for what I expected would be signs of embarrassment or fluster. What I saw instead was something quite like nobility and even majesty, yet without a hint of arrogance or condescension. He looked, as they say, like he owned the joint---and the ground it was built on.

When the class was over, he bent to pick his books off the floor. When he straightened up and rose to leave, he turned directly toward me and said, “Angels exist to exalt Jesus. They have no other mission.”

And then he was gone.

I can’t remember now what the beautiful professor even looked like, whether she was blonde or brunette. But I have never forgotten the deep and unwavering gaze of the quiet man in the back row who saw right through the situation and brought honor to the name of Jesus in the most unlikely of places.

If ever I saw an angel, it was he.

(1) Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8; (2) 1 Corinthians 2:2

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