by Susan in SanPedro
based on Luke 20:27-38
They cannot die anymore, because they are like angels.
Has anyone else noticed that you cant seem to go anywhere lately without running
into angels? Angels are in in much the same way sunflowers all of sudden
appeared and those black and white cows were in a while back. The Hallmark
shop down the street from me has a whole aisle devoted just to angels: on posters and
greeting cards, tee-shirts and lapels, angels are everywhere. Our culture has adopted them
as sort of pseudo-spiritual companions ... and folks who dont seem to want to have
much to do with GOD have latched onto angels in a big way.
In this mornings gospel the Sadducees -- a sort of Jewish denomination that didnt
believe in resurrection at ALL -- were trying to catch Jesus up nit he details of
resurrection with a long, rather convoluted question about a woman and her seven husbands.
Jesus -- who was one step ahead of his questioners, as usual -- skipped past all their
distractions to the bottom line: Forget the marriage part, he told them. Being
children of the resurrection they are like angels and are children of God.
So how are we -- in the midst of all this cultural angel-hype -- to hear Jesus
words with any kind of particuarlity? How are we -- as Christians -- to be like
Well, first of all, one of the few things I remember from my first year in seminary
Greek class was that the word for angel (angelos) means -- literally -- MESSENGER.
The tradition we inherit understad angels in scripture as not just messengers but as
messengers from GOD: angels who can be visible or invisible and take human and non human
form. SO to be like an angel is not to chub out, put on a loin-cloth and sprout wings. To
be like an angel is to be a messenger. Then what, it might be fair to ask, is the message?
First, the good news/bad news part. The good news is that the message IS Good
News. The bad news is that it usually starts our Fear Not. Check out the
scriptural encounters with angels ... nine times out of ten it starts with the angel
trying to calm the fears of the human half of the conversation -- they are not usually met
with an ecstatic individual jumping ups and down in eager anticipation ofhow God inteds to
turn their life upside down! Because when you recognize the messenger as an angel -- when
God enters your life -- your life IS going to change. And the most common reaction to
change is not enthusiasm ... it is FEAR.
I remember all too well what that feels like. Facing a multiple of impending changes in
my own life, I realized I was feeling SCARED TO DEATH. Immobilized by fear, I sorted
through the various options available over and over again and did nothing -- stuck in a
sort of anxious limbo. The message I finally got ... brought to me by an angel
in very human form .... was that being scared to death was not exactly the life abundant
God promises. To be scared to death is to allow fear of change -- fear of the unknown ---
to have the power to drown out Gods promise of life. To be scared to death is to
settle for less than life.
And life is what God promises us -- THAT is the message! Todays lessons are
filled with words of hope and certainty: with the conviction and rock-like faith of those
who heard the message and claimed Gods promise: whose stories inspire us to do the
I call upon you, O God, for you WILL answer me, writes the psalmist.
The Lord is faithful -- he will sustain you and guard you from the evil one,
I know that my Redeemer lives, proclaims Job
And soon it will be Advent, and we will listen once again as the angel says Fear
Not to the young woman from Nazareth -- and we will hear once again the story of how
she refused to be scared to death ... but dared to choose life. Dared to be the bearer of
the life that would end death for all time.
Thats the promise we inherit. Thanks be to God. Thats the life we claim.
And having done that its smooth sailing, right? Right ... until the next time
life throws me a curve -- the next time Im called to venture in faith into the
unknown -- the next time Gods plan for my life turns out to look different than what
I had in mind. The next time I have to face CHANGE!
O that my words were written down cried Job. O that they were
engraved on a rock forever! Thank God they were!
Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions you were taught, Paul tells the
Thessalonians -- and me -- in todays epistle. Turn back and re-read the stories of
your spiritual ancestors. Listen to Job and to Mary ... to Paul and to Luke ... and to all
those who went before you in faith. Listen to the song thats been running through
your head all week -- listen to the message it has for you today.
I go to the rock of my salvation I go to the stone which the builder rejected I go to
the mountain and the mountain stands by me All around me is shifting sand On Christ the
solid rock I stand When I need shelter When I need a friend I go to the rock, rock, rock,
For many of us, the sand seems particularly shifty this morning. We are losing jobs and
seeking jobs; buying houses and selling houses; beginning new relationships and grieving
old ones. Some of us are new to the congregation and not sure where we fit -- and some of
us have been here forever and are not sure where we fit anymore. We are
stunned by the devastation wrought by the violence in nature as a hurricane raveges
Central America -- and uncomprehending of the violence in humanity directed at a college
student in Wyoming and a doctor in New York. Some of us are scared to death. Shifting
sands, indeed. And yet, we are called to stay centered on the rock -- on the stone which
the builders rejected.
So how do we do it? Well, we dont do it alone. In a world that sometimes seems to
be more shifting sand than solid rock we rely on a community of faith to help us stand
fast. In community, a friend or neighbor, spouse or child ... sometimes even a priest ...
will act as angel -- as messenger -- as they remind us of Gods promise of abundant
life. And then WE are to be like angels -- bearing a message of fear not in a
way that it can be heard in the midst of those shifing sands -- in a world that has
settled for the Gospel according to Hallmark rather than the rock of Jobs Redeemer.
I remember so clearly the memorial service for Bishop John Krumm held a few years ago
at the Cathedral Center. I had the privilege of hearing Bishop Barrett reminisce about
their 60 year friendship. John, he said -- stabbing his long, boney finger
into the air for emphasis, was never disillusioned by the church because he never
had an illusions about the church! Yet John Krumm loved this church -- served it
joyfully and well. Because he had no illusions he was free to focus on the ideal. Because
he had his feet firmly planted on the rock, the shifting sands did not overwhelm him. Ive
thought a lot about John Krumm in these last few weeks. I thought about his long and
faithful life and the many changes he must have seen over the course of it. I thought
about his willingness to be an agent of change -- to venture into the unknown future God
called him to. And I thought about the many fears he must have overcome in order to
respond to that call so bravely and faithfully.
Doubt is not the opposite of faith, writes Anglican theologian, Verna
Dozier, Fear is.
Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong I will trust that if I move by the
light that is given me , knowing that it is only finite and partial I will know more and
different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I
cannot even imagine today.
My prayer for all of us today is that we be given the grace to be like angels
-- to be the messengers of Gods Good News not only to all creation but to each
other. To speak the words Fear Not whensomeone needs to hear them .. and to
thank God when someone is willing to speak them to us. To refuse to be scared to
death ... but to choose life. I ask you to trust that God has not brought us this
far not to have somewhere for us to go next. And as we approach Advent -- the season of
expectancy -- let us focus on the new possibilities God has in mind for us ...
possibilities we cannot even imagine today.
We need not fear as we venture into the future because of the promise that God is
already there waiting for us. I close this morning with an assurance of that promise,
summed up in the words of a blessing attributed to the Bishop of Newark:
O Lord our God, Send us anywhere you would have us go, Only go there with us. Place
upon us andy burden you desire; Only stand by us to sustain us; Break any tie that binds
us, except the tie that binds us to you. And may the blessing of God Almighty Be with us
this day and forevermore. Amen