Many years ago, a bishop I knew told the following story. She said, “When I was a little girl, I was frightened of our basement. In fact, I was frightened of the dark. And my grandmother told me I should just trust God, and that God would protect me. I tried with all my might but always felt alone, afraid, and overwhelmed by the darkness and what lay in the unknown. After some weeks passed my grandmother asked me if I had put into practice what she had said: that I should trust God to protect me and grant me the peace that passes all understanding. I admitted that I hadn’t. Then she said, ‘Child don’t you realize that before every human being there is a procession of angels leading the way and shouting so that all the heavens can hear, ‘make way for the image of God.’ And, I haven’t been afraid of the dark ever since.”
I write this just one week from the feast of St. Michael and all angels; a.k.a. Michaelmas. Angel, in Greek, simply means “messenger.” These messengers from God occur throughout the bible. From the one standing at the entrance of the garden of Eden with a flaming sword preventing Adam and Eve’s return to the garden, to Gabriel and his task of announcing to the ever-blessed virgin Mary that she will be the bearer of Emmanuel, God’s savior. Peppered throughout holy scriptures these messengers of God bear God’s saving word and his command to his people. Sometimes, they even show up to help as they did for Jesus in the wilderness after his forty-day fast. Although God’s messengers pop up all through the bible, we have the names of just four, who we call the Archangels of God. Michael, of course, who we commemorate on September 29th and whose name means Who is like God?. And there’s the memorable Gabriel, whose name means God is my champion, and his role he played in the birth of Christ. Yet there are two others, albeit, not as well-known because they appear only in the Apocrypha (the 16 books of the bible that were written in the inter-testimonial period and are included in the Catholic bible): Raphael, whose name means God heals has a role in the book of Tobit; and Uriel, whose name means God is my light, and appears in 4 Esdras. Outside of that, all we know is that Jesus refers to twelve legions of angels at the time of his arrest. Just to give us a point of reference, a legion in the Roman army was a unit of 3,000-6,000 men. Needless to say, heaven must be packed with God’s Messenger Corps.
I don’t know about you, but as we round the bend toward the end of 2021 and yet another year of Covid, I feel I could use as much celestial guidance and help as possible. It doesn’t have to come in the form of one of the Archangels, I’d settle for a lowly private from the Messenger Corps. From my perspective, we are certainly going to need help, and a lot of it. Regardless of what form the aid takes, as we make our way through our daily lives, we can all rest assured that leading the way is a whole troop going before each of us shouting “make, way for the image of God.”
REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.