An angel with attitudeBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Where's the Faith? Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
I like the angel in the Gospel of Matthew – it reminds me of the FedEx or UPS delivery person that rings our doorbell here at church. They are very focused on their job. They’re on a tight schedule. They come here to deliver a package, not to try and sell it to us!
Can you imagine if the conversation went like this when we answer the front door? “Hi, I understand your copier needs more toner. It must be frustrating to run out, especially when you’re so busy and in the middle of a big project. I know you have an excellent standard on the quality of your work, so here’s some really good toner in just the right colors you need – I think you’ll really like it.”
No, they are there to deliver a package, not to be a buddy or to empathize with us. They ring the doorbell, hand off the package, ask our name for the signature, and off they go to their next delivery.
The angel in Matthew’s gospel is like our UPS deliverer. They are focused on their job to deliver a message, in this case Good News! They are not there to sell it to us; they are not there to be our buddy or to empathize with us. They’re there to deliver a package, and it’s up to us to accept it, sign for it, open it and then use it.
Throughout Scripture, the Good News is only ever preceded with one short, direct sentence, “Don’t be afraid.”
“Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and you will name him John.”
“Don’t be afraid, Mary.”
“Don’t be afraid, shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be to all people.”
“Don’t be afraid, Joseph, take Mary as your wife. Her baby is conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name shall be called Jesus; he’s going to love people and show them a way to God.”
“Don’t be afraid,” the angels say. And then they deliver the package, you accept it, sign for it, open it and use it.
Now let’s take a closer look at this angel in Matthew’s version of the Resurrection. This is an angel who knows how to make an entrance! He comes in with a flourish! And this is a buff angel!
He swoops down and rolls back the large, sealed stone, creating a great earthquake. Show off! And after he rolls that massive stone away, he then sits on top of it, and crosses his big and strong angelic arms. This is an angel with attitude!
He notices the guards who are displaying certain physical symptoms of extreme terror that we won’t go into. Now, in this instance, he doesn’t tell them not to be afraid; maybe he doesn’t care if they’re afraid or not. That message is being reserved for someone else or, rather, two someone elses.
Perhaps the angel ignored the guards as if to say, “That’s what God thinks of your effort to put the Messiah in a tomb! A tomb as a final resting place for the Light of the world? I don’t think so!
Then for his main message, he turns his brilliant angelic eyes toward Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (who in Matthew’s gospel is probably the mother of Jesus) and says; “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, just as he said.”
Notice those three words, “… as he said.” In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tried to deliver the Good News package to the disciples more than once, but they refused to sign for it.
Why do we, like them, despite the witness of Scripture, tradition and our life of faith and service, still come to so many situations looking for death when we’ve been promised Life is waiting there for us? Is it because things didn’t turn out like we hoped? Circumstances went against us? Other people disappointed us or hurt us?
“You’re breaking up with me now? And through a text?”
“I’ve watched my diet and exercised three times a week. What do you mean I have cancer?”
“I thought I was in line for that position?”
“There were no signs that she was depressed. She baked a cake this morning.”
“Shouldn’t there be a heartbeat at twelve weeks?”
Why is it that we, like his disciples, only hear the first half of Jesus’ saying, “The Son of Humanity will suffer and be killed …” but forget what comes next? Why do we come to so many situations aware of the signs of death, disappointment and defeat, when we have been promised life and hope, and victory is waiting there? Is it because when we look to the future, with what we know of life, we only see that difficult situations lie ahead?
It feels like we’ve had more than our fair share of disappointments so far this year, doesn’t it?
My question for you is, what are you going to do with the angel’s message? Are you willing to sign for the Good News in the face of the losses that come our way? Answer the door. It could be an angel with a special delivery!
“Don’t be afraid. He has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. This is my message for you. Sign here.”
The angel’s work is done. And now yours begins. Will you sign for the Good News, knowing that your future is a series of situations, of ups and downs, that through it all, the Christ awaits you to meet defeat with victory, to meet disappointment with hope and to meet death with life?
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