God's varied messengers

December 5, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Acts 5:17–20; 12:1–11; 27:21-26

Acts 5

17 The high priest, together with his allies, the Sadducees, was overcome with jealousy. 18 They seized the apostles and made a public show of putting them in prison. 19 An angel from the Lord opened the prison doors during the night and led them out. The angel told them, 20 “Go, take your place in the temple, and tell the people everything about this new life.”

Acts 12

1 About that time King Herod began to harass some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, John’s brother, killed with a sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter as well. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 He put Peter in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers, sixteen in all, who guarded him. He planned to charge him publicly after the Passover. 5 While Peter was held in prison, the church offered earnest prayer to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was going to bring Peter’s case forward, Peter was asleep between two soldiers and bound with two chains, with soldiers guarding the prison entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel from the Lord appeared and a light shone in the prison cell. After nudging Peter on his side to awaken him, the angel raised him up and said, “Quick! Get up!” The chains fell from his wrists. 8 The angel continued, “Get dressed. Put on your sandals.” Peter did as he was told. The angel said, “Put on your coat and follow me.” 9 Following the angel, Peter left the prison. However, he didn’t realize the angel had actually done all this. He thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself. After leaving the prison, they proceeded the length of one street, when abruptly the angel was gone.
11 At that, Peter came to his senses and remarked, “Now I’m certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod and from everything the Jewish people expected.”

Acts 27

21 For a long time no one had eaten. Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have complied with my instructions not to sail from Crete. Then we would have avoided this damage and loss. 22 Now I urge you to be encouraged. Not one of your lives will be lost, though we will lose the ship. 23 Last night an angel from the God to whom I belong and whom I worship stood beside me. 24 The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul! You must stand before Caesar! Indeed, God has also graciously given you everyone sailing with you.’” 25 Be encouraged, men! I have faith in God that it will be exactly as he told me. 26 However, we must run aground on some island.

Reflection Questions

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (and we) met a charming, unusual character: “Clarence Odbody, Angel second class.” * Clarence had a very serious task: to help George see his life’s value clearly, so he wouldn’t give up. Without the theatrical touches (sometimes even in ways our senses can’t detect), things like that have happened in fact, not just in movie fiction. Acts recorded at least three key times when divine messengers freed or saved an apostle facing prison or death.

  • About Acts 27, scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “Paul’s vision is the turning-point in the story. Up to then they were going down into the darkness; now things are still bad, but there is a light shining, albeit a light visible only to faith.” ** On Sunday, we lit the Advent candle of peace. When has an angel, human or otherwise, turned your life from going down into darkness and toward the light of God’s peace?
  • Pastor Hamilton wrote: “Clarence talking poor George Bailey off the bridge in It’s a Wonderful Life starts to get a little closer to the angels of the Scriptures, but skip the part about him earning his wings. When we read about angels in Scripture, it is important to remember that the word angel simply means ‘messenger.’ Angels typically appear simply as people—no wings, just people.” *** In what simple ways can you be an angel, a messenger of God’s hope and love, this Advent?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for all the ways you send messengers to guide me, to turn my feet toward your path. Keep me sensitive to the times when you want me to be one of your messengers. Amen.

© 2022 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* From https://www.quotes.net/movies/it%27s_a_wonderful_life_5869.

 

** Wright, N.T., Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, p. 229. Kindle Edition.

 

*** Hamilton, Adam. The Journey: A Season of Reflections (Kindle Locations 200-203). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

GPS Insights

The Journey: A Season of Reflections

Today's Insights is an excerpt from chapter 3 of The Journey: A Season of Reflections, by Adam Hamilton. Copyright © 2011 by Abingdon Press.

When we read about angels in Scripture, it is important to remember that the word angel simply means “messenger.” Angels typically appear simply as people—no wings, just people. Sometimes their attire is majestic or glorious, but usually they’re just strangers with a word from God. Sometimes they come in visions. But sometimes they come in the flesh. The writer of Hebrews notes that some Christians in his day, as they welcomed strangers, had welcomed angels without knowing it.

In [Luke 1], Mary was perplexed by Gabriel’s words but not by his appearance; hence he appeared as a stranger who told Mary a word about God’s will for her life and who invited her to be open and willing to answer God’s call.

To my knowledge I’ve never met the heavenly kind of angel. But there have been many people whose messages changed my life. When I was fourteen years old, a man named Harold Thorson knocked on my door. He spoke with an electrolarynx (a device that looks like a microphone pressed to the throat, to allow speech for those whose larynx has been removed). He was going door to door in my neighborhood, inviting people to church. Though I did not believe in God I was moved by this man’s visit and started attending church, and my life was forever changed. While in college I was selling women’s shoes in a department store. Belinda came in to try on shoes, but before she left she also invited my wife and me to visit the Methodist church she attended. We’d been looking for a church. Her invitation, and our visit to her church, led to a call to be a part of renewing The United Methodist Church. How different my life would have been had Harold Thorson not gone visiting door to door or Belinda not listened to the nudge in her heart to invite me to her church.

There have been a thousand more messengers since then….Which leads me to a question for you: Do you take the time, do you pay attention to what’s happening around you, and do you listen so that you don’t miss God’s angels when they come speaking to you?

Today many of us are so busy, so preoccupied, or in such a hurry that there is no time to listen to how God may be trying to speak to us. Imagine if Gabriel had approached Mary while she was fetching water and she had said, “I’m sorry, I’m really busy right now. Do you think you could come back later?” Or if she had dismissed him as a crackpot when he tried to tell her about God’s plans for her life. And yet this is precisely the response many of us would have in our busy and preoccupied lives today. God speaks through Scripture, through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit; but God also speaks through people (and occasionally heavenly messengers who look like them). Pay attention! Listen, lest you miss out on God’s purposes for your life.