Monday, December 20, 2010

Listening to Angels

I have to start this morning by saying that I am not a huge fan of angels.
In my faith life they simply have not played a major role.
I find them a little hokey.
Kind of like those religious bumper stickers you sometimes see, “too blessed to be stressed”, “put the Christ back in Christmas” etc..
So I was struggling with how I was going to talk about angels this morning.
One thing I know for sure is that Angels do play a major role in the Biblical story.
Angels are God’s messengers, in other cases they are sent to protect, and in the case of Jesus after his temptation they are there to tend and comfort him.
So I cannot say that angels are not important for our faith.
They are important enough in the Biblical text.
This morning we see that they played a major role in the birth of Jesus.
If not for the angel then the story would have unfolded very differently.
Joseph is convinced by an angel not to divorce Mary but to take her as his wife.
We don’t think about Joseph that much in this story Mary seems to get most of the attention, but Joseph like Mary has to be open to this extraordinary thing that God is doing too or else it would not have happen.
Joseph has to accept that Mary’s story about being with child and a virgin are true.
If not then Mary will be outcast and possibly stoned to death for committing adultery.
Instead Joseph is open to the Angel’s message and follows God’s plan even though it seems rather crazy and inconceivable to him.
I guess we can be thankful that Joseph did believe in angels and did believe that God was speaking to him.

It is good for all of us to hear that God uses a variety of ways to speak to us, to get our attention so that we will follow God in our lives even when it seems inconceivable and crazy.
This past couple of weeks we sent out eleven people with $100.00 each and told them to use the money to help other people.
I can’t wait for all of you to hear all of these amazing stories of people doing such great work for God.
I have heard a couple of people tell how they used the money.
Every story is different, but one thing that connects them all is that people felt called by the spirit to do the good they did.
People felt God directing them in some way to help certain people.
I know that all of you are going to be moved by all the good that those 11 people did.
What has also been amazing is how much was done with so little.
$1,100 is not a lot of money.
Yet so many people were helped with it.
So much good was done in this world.
I was thinking this week about all the people that our congregation has helped this year.
It really is extraordinary.
The amount of good we did.
I feel blessed when people come to my office often times looking dejected and hopeless and because of all of you and your giving I get to help them.
This year I was able to give people gas for their cars, I was able to help people move into new apartments, I was able to buy some food for people, I was able to help some people out with other needs, all because our congregation is so generous with God’s money.

This doesn’t take into consideration all of the others ways we have helped the clothes we collected, the food we collected, the coats, hats, mittens, health kits, kitchen items, thermal underwear, games, and socks.
Doesn’t make you feel good to hear of all the ways that we have helped others.
Doesn’t make you feel good about being part of this faith community that doesn’t just talk about God but follows God.

I think all of this is possible because we remain open to the ways God is calling us to follow.
Maybe some of you have seen angels in your dreams telling you what to do, and how to help.
Maybe some of you get a sense of what it is God is telling you what to do.
Perhaps some of you received some sort of sign from God.
Whatever the mode of delivery we can all be sure of one thing.
God is speaking to us all the time.
God is always calling us to follow down some extraordinary path.
Just like God was calling Joseph to trust that God had a greater purpose and plan for his life.
We too must trust that what we do is for something greater than we can imagine.

The truth is that all those people whose lives we have touched individually and as a congregation we don’t know what it really meant to them.
We don’t fully know what our acts of God’s love and grace will do for them in their lives.
Something simple like giving a coat might totally change someone’s life.
Who knows what God has in store?

Here is something I absolutely believe about angels.
We can be angels in this world for one another.
We can be messengers of God’s love and grace.
We can be comforters to those in need.
We can protect others when they are at their most vulnerable.
I know that at times there have been people that have showed up at just the right time and delivered exactly what I needed.
I always believe those people to be heavenly sent.

This week on NPR I heard the story of a woman who lived in the Midwest.
During the major snow storm that they experienced she took people into her home who were stranded on the street in front of her house.
She took them in and gave them coffee, some toast, and a warm place to spend the night.
In fact, she even gave up her own bed so her guest would be comfortable.
It seems crazy in these times to let complete strangers into your house.
When she was asked about it she simply said, “It was the right thing to do. The neighborly thing to do.”
She said the thanks that she got from those she took in meant more than anything else.
Indeed she was an angel to those who were stranded.
She was God’s comforter, and helper.
We have angels in our midst all the time, all around us.

This week a great person in my life died.
His name was Ronnie Simeonson.
Ronnie was a member of Triumphant Lutheran Church in Salem New Hampshire.
This was the church my wife and I grew up going to.
Ronnie was a special person.
He was heavenly sent.
Ronnie had multiple disabilities both physical and mental.
He spent his life doing God’s work.
Every Christmas Eve Ronnie would sing “O Holy Night”.
He had perfect pitch; I have never heard that song sung so wonderfully with such feeling and heart.
My wife and I were talking about how blessed we were to know Ronnie in our lives.
He taught us so much about not judging people on the outside, but knowing their heart and their soul.
He was a great soul and to me he was sent from heaven.
I guess he was an angel.
I think we all have special people like this in our lives who teach us about God.
We all have people in our lives who help us to be more compassionate, more open to God.
There are lots of angels in our midst.

You see by the end of this sermon I totally convinced myself not to be so cynical, closed minded, and dismissive of angels.
How about you?
At the very least I hope that in this time of advent, in this time of expectations of God’s wonderful work we will be open to the ways that God is talking to us, calling us, and asking us to follow down unexpected paths of grace and mercy.

May you be visited by angels.
May you be open to God’s messages that are all around us.
Most of all may you follow God down some unexpected crazy paths.

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