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Careful now, there’s angels in that there sky

by davesandel on September 29th, 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021                               (today’s lectionary)

Feast of the Archangels (Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael)

Careful now, there’s angels in that there sky

Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head was white as wool. His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat.

Lightning and thunder racked the Austin sky last night. A deluge followed, and when I opened the door to our patio, the sound of storm poured through our apartment. No pitter-pattering this rain, not a shower but a flood. Still, in the midst of all this sound, I felt calm and peaceful.

The machine shed on our farm had a sheet metal roof. When the rain came down, I left whatever work I was doing outside and settled into a lawn chair, put there for just this purpose, beside our orange wagon. Dad sat in his chair, and I sat in mine, and we waited out the rain in peace. When the rain stops your work, you can relax. That’s what I learned on those stormy Illinois afternoons.

War broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against the dragon, the huge dragon, the ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

Decades later I read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, a novel of parallel action on earth and in heaven. In heaven the angel general Tal leads the Spirit’s forces against the rebel demon general Rafar, Prince of Babylon. As we often say about the Bible, “I read the end of the book. God wins!” So too in Peretti’s first novel:

All around them the battle raged; demons – and Rafar’s great victory – fell like smoking, burning rain from the sky. But for one very short moment of awe and mutual horror, Tal and Rafar remained frozen. They had met at last! And neither could be entirely sure of winning this contest. Rafar dashed across the sky like a bleeding bird, and Tal went after him, wings rushing, dashing this way and that through falling demons and charging angels.

The angels receive power as the people pray.

Several more clashes of the fiery blades … ripping hides, tearing garments, more darkness. Saints! Pray! PRAY!

And they do pray, and Rafar loses his strength, and Tal defeats him. The city of Ashton avoids disaster, and the angels head off to another crisis, this time in Brazil.

With a burst of brilliant wings and three trails of sparkling fire, the warriors shot into the sky, heading south, becoming smaller and smaller until finally they were gone.

As the rainstorm in Austin lasted through an hour, and then another, I imagined the skies above the storm, above the big thunderclapping clouds, the peace of black clear windless night, staring up at stars a trillion miles away. I imagined floating up there, or flying actually, and watching the clouds just below. I thought of praying then and beckoning with both my arms, for God’s grace to fill us all.

In the presence of the angels I will sing your praise. All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, O how great is the glory of the Lord.

On our patio the thunder bellowed. The angels, led by the three named in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael and Raphael, filled the sky above the storm with song. Lifted up by that symphony I prayed again, and asked for mercy, and peace that passes understanding, and in those moments I could understand the angels’ words:

The bear will be gentle, the wolf will be tame, the lion will lie down by the lamb

The host from the wild will be led by a Child, I’ll be changed from the creature I am

There’ll be peace in the valley for me some day, there’ll be peace in the valley for me.

I was thankful for Peretti’s willingness to tell his mellow drama, and that I read it all those years ago, and that in in my imagination I could take leave of the machine shed then, my computer desk now and float high in the sky, buoyed by prayer.

And you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

(Daniel 7, Revelation 12, Psalm 138, Psalm 103, John 1)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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