What I’m Thinking: Ready for Angels

Jesus told Nathanael that he would see angels descending with the Son of Man. Well, after last week, I would welcome some angels.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about how much I looked forward to the end of the year 2020, how much I hoped that 2021 would bring respite, relief; would bring renewal after all the strains and stresses, the losses and the sorrows, of 2020. Instead, just six days into the new year, we witnessed a violent insurrection in the nation’s capital. We saw people storm the Capitol building itself, the symbol of representative democracy, at the very moment when the nation’s elected representatives were engaged in the most fundamental activity of a democratic republic, and that is counting votes.

Who egged on this assault? The President of the United States.

2021 is not off to a good start.

In the first chapter of John’s gospel (John 1:43-51), after Jesus was baptized, some others who had come to hear John the Baptist preach and to also be baptized by him became aware of this Galilean. John proclaimed him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and so a few of them began to seek him out and to inquire of him and to listen to him and to encourage others to do the same. In this section, Philip asked Nathanael to come and see (that’s a frequent phrase in John’s gospel, “Come and see”) this person from Nazareth. “Well, can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael wanted to know.

Jesus welcomed him with the words, “Here is an Israelite with no guile,” and mentions that he had been aware of Nathanael underneath a fig tree. Well, this won Nathanael over. “Are you impressed when I said that I saw you under a fig tree?” Jesus asked. “Well, you will see greater things than this. You will see the angels on the arrival of the Son of Man.”

To be frank, I’m ready to see some angels. I’m ready to see the Christ.

Just a couple of things to think about this week. First of all, there is only one Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. It is not any contemporary living figure. To say anything otherwise is a blasphemous untruth, a lie of tremendous spiritual consequence, a lie that fed the violent assault and the deaths of five – no, six – people this week. There is only one Lamb of God.

But second, we do not get to see the angels when we want. We see the angels when the angels are at work. Lincoln called for “the better angels of our nature,” and we have not seen that. But more to the point, Nathanael, as Jesus was telling him about angels, was at the beginning, not the end, of that journey. Nathanael’s journey would lead him to a great confrontation with the imperial powers that ruled his nation. Nathanael ran. Jesus was crucified.

But Nathanael would return when he learned that God’s love is stronger than all the hatred of human beings, when he learned that God’s power of life is stronger than imperial impositions of death.

So, what am I thinking? I’m thinking that, as much as I’d like to see the angels, there is still much ahead of us. Long roads between Jerusalem and Galilee for Nathanael; long roads to right the wrongs that this society has accommodated and indeed enabled for far too long.

Those who invaded the Capitol must be held to account. Those who incited the invasion must also be held to account and that includes the President of the United States.

That’s what I’m thinking.

I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on January 11, 2021

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