First, I have to say that I believe in Angels … both as God’s messengers and as beings that sometimes intervene.
A true story. … A few years ago now, my wife, Jo, my mother-in-law, Elisabeth and I were travelling back from West Wales to Leominster where Elisabeth lived. The A-roads in the area are relatively narrow and they twist and turn with high hedges either side. It was late in the evening and dark. Just after rounding a sharp 90-degree bend, a tyre blew on our car. It was a dangerous location and the road was too narrow to be changing a tyre without some sort of ‘protection’. Jo headed round the bend with a torch to flag down drivers and let them know of the obstruction ahead. We all tried our mobiles. … There was no signal. We tried to work out where the nearest house was but could see nothing.
At that moment a Range Rover stopped near Jo and ask what the problems was. The driver left his vehicle beyond the bend with hazard lights flashing walked over to our car, changed the tyre, shook our hands and left. We did get chance to say thank you. But before we knew it he was on his way and gone. We encountered an angel!
Let’s set aside ‘Angels’ for a moment and think a little about the Gospel reading set for Michaelmas in 2019. … John 1: 47-51.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? … Do you like what you see?
I am still surprised by the age of the person who looks back at me out of the mirror. I feel as though I am no different than I was twenty years ago but the mirror does not lie!
Many of us when we look in the mirror can be quite critical and wish that a different face was looking back at us. And yet, if we say these things to someone else, they often wonder what we are talking about!
If we see an image that we wish was different – others don’t seem to see the flaws that we can see. Those close to us see the face of the person they know and love – yes, not perfect – but certainly not someone who needs to worry about their appearance!
I am always surprised when I read a column is the glossy magazines that come with weekend papers, and hear someone famous or beautiful, or both, talking about themselves. It is as though someone who seems attractive and self-confident has looked in the mirror and as a result they are surprisingly over-critical of the face that looks back at them, the person that they see.
And it’s not just our looks, is it. … We can underestimate our abilities, our gifts and skills; we can be reticent about trying out something new because we think that we’ll be no good at it; we can even get some kind of distorted sense that it’s wrong to think about the things that we’re good at, in case we’re thought to be overconfident or boastful! Sadly, so often, this holds people back from reaching their God-given potential – using their gifts and talents to help others and being comfortable with who they are.
Many of us keep parts of ourselves hidden even from our nearest and dearest.
Nathaniel, in our Gospel reading, was probably no different – he assumed that he could control what people knew about him. And then he met Jesus. … Jesus seems to know all about him, without having met him.
Jesus sees Nathaniel coming towards him and says ‘Here’s a true Israelite – without a false bone in his body.’ Nathaniel is amazed ‘How do you know me?’ he asks. ‘Ahh… says Jesus, ‘One day before Philip brought you to me, I saw you sitting under the fig tree’.
Jesus seemed to know everything about Nathaniel – from just having seen him under a fig tree. … From that glance, Jesus was able to decide that here was someone he wanted in the group of his twelve closest companions. No lengthy interview, not gathering of references – Jesus just knew.
We see this throughout the Bible, that God, that Jesus, knows things about people that enable God to give those people a new direction in life. Jesus, meeting the woman at the well, surprises her because he knows about her past – and instead of feeling embarrassed, she runs off to tell her town all about this man. They put their faith in him – she’s an unlikely evangelist!
God is not a distant authoritarian figure judging us from afar, but a God who is tender, who is loving, who knows and experiences the messy-ness of life. God knows us, warts and all, and keeps on loving us. God sees the good and the bad in us, and keeps on loving us. God is saddened when we stray from the way of living that he knows is best for us – but he’s not there with a notebook putting down another note about our failings, he’s longing for us to recognise where we get things wrong and to turn to him to show us how to live differently.
God lovingly ‘created our inmost parts and knit us together in our mother’s womb’ and who is saddened when we don’t like the way we look, because we’re rejecting his gift of creation.
God made us who we are, giving us unique gifts, and is saddened when we don’t use them, as if we’re saying that we know better than him.
What do we see when we look at ourselves in a mirror, or in our weakest moments? Is it an image that we have developed ourselves, is it based on rude and unfair comments made by someone in the past, or is it going to be based on what God thinks of us. A God who knows me and loves me.
In the grand scheme of things, that is all that really matters. That knowledge allows me to be truly me, the me that God has created, known and called.
What does this have to do with St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and Michaelmas?
Just this, I think. …. Angels are messengers. The most famous are Michael and Gabriel. They bring God’s message to his people. They speak the words of God. Overwhelmingly in the Bible we see Angels bringing words of hope, encouragement and blessing, whether it is to Abram and Sarah, to Jacob or to Samson’s parents, or to Gideon or to Joseph or Mary or Zechariah, or to us.
Angels are truth-speakers and overwhelmingly their message to us will be encouraging and up-building, they see us and speak to us through the eyes and mouth of God. They see us as children of God.
Michael and Gabriel, and Jesus, all call on us to be the people God intended us to be, loved and loving, blessed and blessing others, full of grace and gracious towards others.
And finally. ……………………. Angels drive Range Rovers!