Angels in Our Midst
Messengers and presence on Gary's Faith Walk
I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately. No, I haven’t been visited by Gabriel to have great secrets revealed in the middle of the night. I haven’t heard “Greetings, favored one,” as Gabriel spoke to Mary before the conception of Jesus. Rather, I’ve been thinking about messengers and presence. Angels in our midst, if you will.
The concept of angels has a rich tradition in the world’s religions. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the word itself is rooted in the ancient Greek “angelos,” meaning messenger or envoy. Over the centuries our tradition has interpreted angels in many ways. Two suggest that angels are benevolent celestial begins who serve as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth or as guardians of human beings.
For me in 21st century America, the concept of spiritual messenger works best. It works because twice in my life invitations “out of the blue” have been carried to me by persons, by my angels, which have altered my faith walk, my life’s direction.
In 1996, I retired from the U.S. Air Force following 24 years of service. These were Cold War years filled with worldwide assignments monitoring the strength of the Soviet military; crises in the Middle East, East Asia, and the Balkans; and the Persian Gulf War following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Then, in the midst of packing our household goods one last official time, I received an email. The message was direct, simple: “Gary, are you aware the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is seeking a new coordinator?” No, a celestial being did not send the email, but the impact couldn’t have been more dramatic. I view the person who sent me that email to be an angel. From that message 17 years of service began in the life of the church to bring reconciliation to persons divided by violence or race or the vastly different political systems of East and West.
Then in 2013, it happened again. I was concluding mission service in Russia and other former communist states. “Out of the blue” I received an email from the Eco-Justice staff person of the National Council of Churches of Christ. For several years, I’d felt a call to deeper engagement in environmental issues. I served with the Friends of the Pend Oreille Bay Trail board and became an active member of the Idaho Conservation League. So, another angel intervened asking me to represent Idaho at a major gathering in Washington, DC. That email set my course as an environmental advocate for years to come.
A final note... on a recent Sunday afternoon, Beth Pederson and Bruce Bishop entertained at the Hope Marketplace. With owner Kally Thurman offering hospitality of food and conversation to customers, the two musicians brought forth a wonderful rendition of “Stars Over Black Oak.” Written by Beth and Charley Packard a few years back, the song touches my soul each time I hear it. Beth sings of a gathering of old friends and new friends, of moon rise and stars, of guitars and harmonizing and laughter and deep love… and all around there were “angels in the trees.” Angelic presence set the mood of this wonderful gathering recounted in song.
Angels in our midst today? I think so. I believe a divine message from God can be delivered by a friend, a relative, a stranger, even by email. I believe we can be surrounded by love and warmth that speak of “angels in the trees.” And you? When have you received that “out of the blue” communication which reoriented your life? When have you felt a soul warming presence and rejoiced in unbounded love? Angels… an outmoded concept which doesn’t fit our modern world? No, I don’t think so. Angelic messengers and their presence are still with us this day.