Have you noticed how bossy angels are? In today’s reading from Acts 8, there is Philip minding his own business, when along comes an angel who imperiously demands that he gets up and goes, and so Philip does and look what happened next… In Scripture, all the angels greet with an instruction: ‘Go!’ ‘Get up!’ ‘Do not be afraid!’ even ‘Hail!’ They immediately get our attention.
I get the feeling, and you can see it in the grin on the angel’s face in the picture, that angels do not take no for an answer. They will wait and repeat the command if needs be, but in the end, you do whatever it is that the angel requires you to do. Well, after all, they are messengers from God.
I’ve experienced angels myself, especially when I have been working with children. They are very good at giving me a clip around the ear and telling me to ‘Shut up, Listen!’ which reminds me to stop talking and start listening, really listening to what the children have to really say, to give the children space in their own time and way to express what is most meaningful to them at that moment. I have a hunch that the angels are bossing us around now, telling us to Stop! Listen! Take Note!
We have to continue the fast of no sacraments, of virtual or no participation in the liturgy, of coping with the social dance required to keep our distance as we take a walk or navigate our way through the shops. But maybe this fasting has made us stop and think, thinking about what really matters, what is really important for us. I am hearing from lots of people about how they want something of the changes that they have had to make because of the lockdown to continue – such as a daily walk which includes noticing things, such as the phone calls that to those alone, such as the smiles and nods as we keep our 2-metre gap as we waltz round the shops. So many people are enjoying listening, to the quiet, the birdsong, perhaps hearing it for the first time. Perhaps noticing how blackbirds answer each other back, how they sing out an alarm call when danger is near. Noticing, too, the quietness of the roads.
I am also aware of the need for bossy angels amongst those who are working so hard in care homes, in hospitals and shops for those are the people who also need to stop and rest, to Go Home at the end of a long shift, hopefully being able to leave COVID behind, who need to listen to their bodies and know that it is ok to be tired, exhausted and worn out, for they are working so hard. They need to take note and take time out – they need it and deserve it.
So we need the bossy angels to get through this time – for those of us whose main job is to stay home and stay safe so that we may heed their prompting and reach out to those who need us; for those of us working within healthcare so that we may heed their gentle commands that we too must take care of ourselves; for those of us who are serving in shops, delivering goods and volunteering in so many different ways, that we heed the promptings to go where we are sent; for those of us trying to home educate, work from home, feed the family and clean the house, that we hear the call to stop and listen to those around us.
Bossy Angels of God, our guardians dear, to whom His love commits us here, ever this day and night be at our side, to light and guard, to rule and guide, Amen.
Written by Sue Price, Pastoral Outreach Coordinator at the Margaret Beaufort Institute and doctoral student with Anglia Ruskin. Her topic is ‘Hearing the Silent Speak: An exploration into the silent spirituality of disabled children’.