“Teach us good Lord, to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and not to ask for any reward; except that of knowing that we do Your will.”
Angels may appear as young men in white robes (but without wings!) or they may also appear as ordinary people. This does not mean that they are merely humans, but simply that their appearance can be like a human.
There have been countless stories of angels appearing beside vulnerable women walking home alone, or angels piloting planes during the war. I cannot vouch for these accounts myself, but I have no reason to disbelieve them. They are, after all, ‘ministering spirits’ sent by God to be messengers and protectors.
But angels according to our text may come in the form of a ‘stranger’ (v.2). They may come in the form of a beggar or a visitor at church. They are unexpected and unsummoned, yet they are there. Who knows why? Our passage does not explain that. But we are to treat all people with the respect and the hospitality that we would extend towards an angel, if we were but aware that he was an angel.
One of the benefits of hospitality to the host(ess) is that the stranger may be a ‘messenger’. That is one of the main purposes of an angel, and indeed their name (angel) means ‘messenger’.
There is a story in the Old Testament of three ‘men’ visiting Abram without warning. He showed them hospitality and gave them food. They brought with them an extraordinary message: “I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:10). This was received with doubt by Abram and derision by Sarah. Nevertheless it came to pass as they had said.
Who knows what may happen and what message we may receive if we too are prepared to extend hospitality to strangers and unexpected visitors. They may be God’s gift to us.
Dear Lord, teach me to be generous-hearted and to be ready to receive the unexpected. Amen.
1 What were the angels doing in Jacob’s dream at Bethel?
On Tuesday evening an induction service was held at St. Peter’s Lyngford for The Revd Debbi Turley who is the new vicar for the Priorswood area. It was a very happy occasion and it is our prayer that all will be well and Revd Turley’s ministry there will be a powerful one. We have also said a fond farewell to our Rural Dean Geoff Boucher and his wife Catherine (DDO). Adrian Youings, vicar of Trull, has become Rural Dean. Sue Rose, is the new Diocesan Director of Ordinands.
This year the Ash Wednesday Service and the Ascension Service will be held with our friends at St John’s. We will join them for Ash Wednesday on 18th February and they will come to us at Ascension. St John’s will use incense on Ash Wednesday but they will not cense the chancel area (when the Gospel is brought down to the congregation and read). I do hope your will come. The night before is Shrove Tuesday and we have pancakes and a quiz. Please sign up for this.
I am sure you have noticed that the old notice boards have been removed in preparation for the message boards to be erected on Monday. On Tuesday we will have a short unveiling ceremony and we would love you to come. The notice board which will go in the churchyard is on order and will follow shortly. I would like to express my gratitude to Dennis and Susanne and the creative team who have helped achieve this. It is a big step forward for the mission of this church.
It is great to have Miles back and he is taking over the choristers as well as the choir. He is keen to hear from any who would like to join and also from instrumentalists. It is our hope that this year the music at St Mary Magdalene will really develop as we seek new ways to praise God.
Please sign up on the sheet at the back of church for the cream tea at ‘Miles at the Riverside’ on Friday 13th February 3.00pm . The cost is £6.50 for a cream tea – 2 scones, jam and cream with tea or coffee. Please pay at the Bookshop.
“You said in your heart, ’I will … I will …’” (v.13) RSV
Not all angels are good! It is recorded in scripture that Lucifer was a leading angel who, as his name implies, was an angel of light. However pride got the better of him. He was cast out of heaven and fell like a star to earth. His sin was to be in love with his own beauty and power. He desired to usurp God: “I will ascend to heaven; above the star of God I will set my throne on high” (v.13).
He continues to operate, often masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), but he is in fact the Prince of darkness. When he ‘fell’ he took with him a host of other angels. Lucifer is now Satan/the Devil, and his fallen angels are demons.
The aim of these evil spiritual creatures is to destroy humans and the good earth that God has created. They deceive and undermine faith and obedience. There is therefore a very real unseen (spiritual) battle going on of which we are mainly unaware. However, its effects upon us are considerable.
This battle is well described for us in the book of Daniel. There we read of Michael fighting against the Prince of Persia. The conflict lasted 21 days (Daniel 10:13), before Michael prevailed and was able to come to Daniel.
Although “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), he is (in Christ) a defeated foe. Jesus tells how he saw “Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10:18). We are on the winning side. As we fight the good fight, we do so with all the angels and archangels. As it is written, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7).
Thank you for your great victory O Lord over all the hosts of darkness. Keep me in that victory by your mighty hand. Amen.