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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teach me to love thee as thine angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame;
the baptism of the heaven-descended Dove,
my heart an altar, and thy love the flame.

George Croly’s “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart”
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

In Hebrews we are reminded to be kind to strangers, because people have “often entertained angels unawares.” I think that’s probably the way to do it. Angels are scary. I think when an angel hands you its business card, right under its name, in big. bold type, are the job title (“Angel of the Lord”) and the words “Don’t Be Afraid.”

Of course, angels always seem to have a job to do, so they probably don’t worry much about being entertained (aside from their ubiquitous head-of-a-pin mambo parties). In fact, angels are so purpose-driven that it might seem that they could possibly be the narrative constructs of an ancient people trying to wrap their minds around some of the working methods of God, using what they knew of the earthly hierarchies of power as a template.

I mean, maybe. Metaphor is a powerful way of understanding very large ideas. Like metaphors, angels are powerful, they are useful, they do their job. They are instruments, nothing more. And maybe that’s seductive, in a way. Who wouldn’t want to be God’s instrument, to know without doubt what God wanted us to do, and have the power to carry it out?

Seductive and dangerous. People who are convinced that they are God’s instruments have wrought the greatest evils in human history. So what do we want when we ask “teach me to love thee as thine angels love?” To be like these terrifying agents of power? Is there any role for which we are less well-equipped to fill?

So what do we want when we ask “teach me to love thee as thine angels love?” Simply, to be taught. When we are taught, we are changed, we are transformed. Taught to love. Transformed from the self-involved creatures we are to the selfless messengers of God—because that’s really what an angel is.

Lord, we doubt, we equivocate, we are fearful creatures. Keep teaching us to love and to be fearless in service. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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