The Dean - The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn
Genesis 28.10-17; Hebrews 1.5-14; John 1.47-51
Can you remember what it was like before mobile phones, or rather before smart phones?
We can now message anyone we want to at the tap of a screen. The message flies off into the ether and the answer, hopefully, eventually, comes back. Gone are the days when you were sent out with a message for your neighbour or your grandma down the road, a message scribbled on a scrap of paper, a message memorised and partly forgotten when you’d run to where it had to be delivered, the garbled message that was delivered on arrival, the crumpled paper thrust into a waiting hand. And the arrival of a telegram, something that’s totally disappeared, the ‘Shall I wait for you to reply’ from the telegram boy on the doorstep. The strange, foreboding printout stuck onto the paper that you were handed.
The final one of Alan Bennet’s second series of ‘Talking Heads’ is called ‘Waiting for the Telegram’. It stared Thora Hird as Violet, an old woman in a care home, waiting for death and remembering the arrival of the message, of the telegram that told them of the death of her sweetheart during the war. It was a moving and poignant story.
The God we know, revealed in Jesus Christ, was called by John V Taylor in his book of the same name ‘The Go-between God’, the God who comes to us in Jesus, who abides with us in the Spirit, who moves between heaven and earth. But it’s in the angels that we see so much of this go-between action. It’s the angels who we understand and celebrate as the divine messengers, the ones that Jacob sees in his dream up and down the ladder, making the journey between earth and heaven, a vision that Jesus says to Nathaniel he will see as well.
Being angelic might be what we’d like our children to be, but being angelic is what we’re all called to be and is at the heart of what we’re celebrating when we celebrate the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. We’re called to be proclaimers, messengers, witnesses. In his final commission to his disciples, his apostles, before his ascension, Jesus sends them
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’
He says to them, go baptize, go teach, go he says with the implication that they’re angelic messengers, go-betweens with good news to deliver.
That commission was not just to them but to us, it’s the vocation of the calling, to be messengers of the good news, of the gospel. But what I also notice about the angels when we meet them in scripture is that they’re messengers of peace and courage. To the people they meet they say ‘Do not be afraid’, to the waiting world they say ‘Peace on earth good will amongst all’. It’s this dual message – peace and courage – that we need to deliver, however we deliver it, so that the world is full of angels, on mission, on message.