January 21, 2018

Go Tell It: Angel Wings


Last week we discovered that we are called to be on watch for God’s action in our lives and in the world. We are then to Go Tell it on the Mountain like the Christmas song says. Today, we continue with the shepherds’ experience with the announcement of Jesus’ birth.

The carol says, “The shepherds feared and trembled/When lo! above the earth/Rang out the angel chorus/That hailed our Savior's birth.” Sometimes when we are just doing what we do every day, God breaks in. We may not always hear angel choruses, but we can sense the touch of their wings.

There is another song that talks about angels among us. Surely the Presence by Lanny Wolfe  reminds us that we can see God’s glory “on each face”. There are times when we feel that “I've touched the hem of God's garment,/I can almost see God's face.
The words allude to the Gospel story (Mark 5: 25-34) of the woman who had been ill with hemorrhages for years. “If I can but touch the hem of his robe, I will be healed,” she thinks. Indeed when she touches Jesus’ clothing and is healed. Jesus knows that someone has touched him and been made whole even though, as the disciples say, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ Then the woman comes forward in fear and trembling. She is face to face with Jesus who assures her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

The shepherds were confronted by the power and love of God announcing Christ’s birth. The woman was face to face with the One who makes whole. Both were changed. The shepherds left their flocks to see what the angels were talking about and the woman returned to her community, healed and no longer unclean and rejected. When we hear the angels and see God's face, we are transformed and are again part of the community. 

As the Lanny Wolfe song notes, “In the midst of His children/The Lord said He would be./It doesn't take very many/It can be just two or three./And I feel that same sweet spirit/That I felt oft times before./Surely I can say/I've been with My Lord.” Jesus promised “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” In the group of shepherds, in the crowd of people around Jesus, and in the community that the woman was reunited with, God was present.

In our own gatherings God is there. In the Beloved Community spoken of by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., God is present. With our friends and companions and strangers we can experience the ‘touch of angel wings’ and hear the ‘angel chorus’ proclaiming ‘peace on earth’. Then we can together ‘go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere’.

When have you felt the touch of angel’s wings or heard the whisper of an angelic chorus?

January 14, 2018

Go Tell It: Watching


This Epiphany we are looking at the carol Go Tell it on the Mountain, an old Spiritual. Last week we looked at the refrain and how mountains are important in our interaction with God and in spreading the Good News.

This week, we find the shepherds who “kept their watching/Over Wandering flocks by night/Behold throughout the heavens/There shone a holy light.”

The shepherds were going about their daily work of tending their flocks. They were not expecting anything unusual to happen. We can imagine them around their fires after the sheep have been herded safely into the night enclosure. Probably they were eating and talking about family. Perhaps they were sharing a concern about some sheep who was limping or had been caught in a bush during the day.

There are lots of things we might watch for. If company is coming, we watch for their arrival. Like the shepherds, we can watch over our children or families. We may watch over our co-workers or our own work to be sure it is done correctly. Perhaps we need to watch what we say or how we do something so we don’t make a mistake.

In the Book of Habakkuk in the Bible, he says, “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved.” (Habakkuk 2:1) Proverbs 16:17 notes, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who watches his way preserves his life.

In Hebrews, we are told, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) Jesus warns "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matthew 24:42-44)  

It seems then, that one very important thing to watch for is the will of God. We should keep watch over our own and one another’s souls, and be alert for the coming of the Son of Man. We are admonished to keep watch for what God will say and be watchful on the highway of life. Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Luckily, we don’t have to do it alone. God is right there beside us, via the Holy Spirit, to help us keep watch.

Jesus himself promises that he will be there to guide and protect. “I am the gate for the sheep…I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me." (John 10:7, 9, 14)
Like the cat in the image (by John Henley) sometimes we have a very limited scope of vision. That is when we need to be most alert, and also the time when we can most fully depend on God’s guidance and protection.

The Shepherds in the carol, while going about their nightly duty of watching their flocks saw “throughout the heavens there shone a holy light”. We don’t know what we might see as we keep watch for God’s action in our lives and in the world. That is part of the adventure. Let’s keep watching! Then when we see what God is doing we can ‘Go tell it on the mountain”!