Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Do you believe in angels?

The following is the script of a Radio Broadcast I gave recently on a local radio station:

Well any visit to an Anglican, Roman Catholic or Orthodox church usually brings us into contact with a stained glass window or icon or two depicting angels either praising God in some heavenly choir or appearing to an individual like Mary. Also just a glance at the Bible will reveal angels everywhere fulfilling God’s will in some way or other. Angels appearing the Abraham, before the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, bringing an answers to prayer or protecting God’s people in some way or other.

But what about today? Leaving aside the various books written on the subject by those who have tried to jump on the Christian bandwagon, angels are still a real part of people’s lives even if they tend to be rather reticent to talk about them

Take one old lady who was a member of one of my congregations and sadly passed away just over a year ago. Once when I visited her to take her Holy Communion, after we’d finished, I sat and chatted with her over a cup of tea. The conversation somehow or other touched on the subject of angels and I shared with her my experience of meeting with the author of a book on the subject, who was married to a vicar and had come and spoken recently in the Deanery. Quietly she shared with me her experience as a young teenager when, whilst living in Skewen she was walking home from Chapel one evening when she saw an angel passing over the building. She was with her parents at the time but because it was so unbelievable and she was so young she kept it to herself not telling anyone until that moment when she confided in me.

I immediately recalled an incident from my own youth when I had climbed a tall aging tree only to step on a rotten branch near the top. The branch gave way and I fell all the way from the top – some 20 or more feet up – all the way to the bottom. I say ‘fell’ but in effect I sort of floated as if cushioned on something, landing on my feet without a scratch. I thought nothing of it at the time until I became a Christian and then a phrase from the psalms caught my attention. It’s from Psalm 91 verse 11-12 and is quoted by Jesus as he resists the temptation of the devil in the desert. It says: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
That was my experience although I saw nothing or felt nothing at the time. Why should that happen to me? I don’t know. It may be that God wanted to preserve me for the ministry? I honestly don’t know. And I can’t categorically say it was an angel. But I believe in angels and I believe they are much more involved in our lives than we realise.

As I was thinking about this in relation to my talk today I came across a recent report based on research carried out by Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln into children’s spirituality. The report suggests
that not only do children see angels but that most adults dismiss such claims as “just imagination” so that children tend to keep their experiences to themselves.

Take Jonas aged seven. He recalled how two years before he and a teenage cousin saw an angel in the park. She was, in his words “pretty big” with white wings and silver spiky shoes and she spoke in a gentle voice. She was visible for half an hour before she went “straight back up to heaven.”
Or what about Sophie also aged seven who sees an angel at the side of her bed each night and feels comforted by the presence? But her parents’ response was: “Oh, that’s just your imagination darling.”

Jenny, aged nine, drew a picture of God standing on a white cloud , which looked like steps, set in the midst of black clouds. God’s hands were “tucked into His dress”; His hair was “grey, and it had blond bits in it”. This was Jenny’s description of a dream she had:

She explained: “I was at school. Then someone just came and took me out and took me up to heaven, and I was really scared. I saw all the people who had died and all the animals…It was flashbacks of when I was with them…I was scared, but I felt like someone was holding my hand every time I was scared.”

This dream was important for Jenny, because it represented a reunion with her two pet rabbits who had died, and it reassured her that they were alive and were being looked after in heaven. We were the first people Jenny told about her dream, “because some adults don’t understand what we’re feeling.
Her classmate Laura said: “I sometimes tell my Gran about my religious dreams, ‘cos she believes in God and goes to Church, but I won’t tell my Mum, ‘cos she doesn’t believe it’s true.”

In 2007 there was an article in one foreign newspaper which told of how “an angel with flowing red hair saved a terminally-ill child from certain death in a hospital cancer ward with no more effort than a hug, a kiss and the tenderly-whispered words: “God wants you to get up. You are healed … ” – but that’s just half the miracle.”
The article continues: “Within seconds of realizing what had happened, the 7-year-old girl’s father, an avowed atheist and best-selling author who once told Pope John Paul II that “God, if He exists at all, ought be shot” and called Jesus Christ “a third-rate carpenter with a first-rate lie” fell to his knees in full view of shell-shocked doctors and nurses, professing a new and undying belief in both God and Christ.
To ice the cake, Jean-Philip DeMarcourt is now preaching the gospel to anybody who will listen and openly wonders why The Man Upstairs chose to save his daughter from certain death and him from eternal damnation.
“Why us? Why did He save us?” Delacourt asked in a telephone interview from his office in Jerusalem. ”All my life I have done everything in my power to discredit even the idea of God.
“I made a mockery of the Bible. I said God was dead. I said if God weren’t dead, then He should be. And yet, He sent His angel to lift my own daughter up from death and restore her to health, not through a medical procedure, not through the handiwork of a doctor or a nurse, but through His infallible power alone.
“I saw the miracle unfold with my own eyes. I saw the angel with my own eyes,” he continued. “God is real.”

And the stories continue. In Haiti one man was discovered under the rubble of a collapsed building over a month after the earthquake. His rescuers could not believe how he had lived all this time without food or water. When they questioned him he told them that daily a person in brilliant white clothes came and fed and watered him.
Speaking to the Vicar’s wife who came to talk about her new book on angels, she told me that once she put an advert into a magazine to get in touch with her about any experiences of angels people may have had she was inundated with letters containing accounts of real-life encounters with angelic beings. Many of them had until then remained silent for fear of being thought insane but now, many with relief, they could share their experiences with someone who understood.

So do I believe in angels? Well I did anyway but these and other experiences related me across a ministry that has lasted 22 years have reinforced that belief and so whenever anyone tells me about one I give a knowing nod. There is more to this life than what we can see. But do we have the eyes and the faith to see it?

4 comments:

joan wester anderson said...

I agree with everything you've said in this wonderful posting but one---my first angel book, Where Angels Walk was published in 1992, at a time when angels had been overlooked for decades. (It was the only angel book that ever went on the NYTimes best-seller list.)It took real courage for my interviewees to allow themselves to be interviewed, especially when I insisted we use real names. I went on to write six more books in this series, and by the 4th or 5th book, yes, "everyone was jumping on the Christian bandwagon." But believe me, it wasn't the easiest thing in the world for me to visit a New Age bookstore, and talk about angels in the Bible! (It still isn't.)
So please dont accuse everyone of jumping on a bandwagon. I agree that many did, but not all.

Joan Wester Anderson
http://joanwanderson.com

Looking for God said...

I stand corrected Joan and retract my overgeneralization. I was thinking more of the Uk scene but even then I am sure, as you quite rightly point out, not everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

Many thanks.

glutenfreewelshy said...

It's funny, because when I hear of people speaking of angels part of me automatically thinks they're talking hippy nonsense, and I assume they're referring to angels in isolation of a Christian faith. But if I really think about it, I shouldn't be so quick to judge because I do believe in angels and the accounts you listed of peoples' experiences of angels are amazing. Even if these accounts are from people without a belief in our God maybe this is one step on their journey towards him. Plus, they are blessed in and through seeing them.

I love you story of when you fell from a tree. That's pretty cool. x

glutenfreewelshy said...

It's funny, because when I hear of people speaking of angels part of me automatically thinks they're talking hippy nonsense, and I assume they're referring to angels in isolation of a Christian faith. But if I really think about it, I shouldn't be so quick to judge because I do believe in angels and the accounts you listed of peoples' experiences of angels are amazing. Even if these accounts are from people without a belief in our God maybe this is one step on their journey towards him. Plus, they are blessed in and through seeing them.

I love you story of when you fell from a tree. That's pretty cool. x