16 November 2008 - Sermon preached by the Revd. Ron Ingamells during the ‘Angel Weekend’

Does James Bond have a Guardian angel? How else can he, in the latest film, charge across the roofs of Florence, with tiles falling off and take incredibly big jumps from one roof to another, escape his pursuers? Or, drive at enormous speak with shots being fired at him and half the car missing and escape again? Or, rescue the beautiful girl from the burning and collapsing building and still survive?

For the past 50 years I have avoided preaching about angels – partly because I took Harry Williams, the Cambridge theologian, seriously when he said he preaches only from his own experience – and I have never seen the stereotype angel.

I read ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ ( ) a year ago and returned to it this week – here Miss Garnet told her story intertwined with that of the Book of Tobit where Tobias goes on a long journey to find a wife accompanied by the Archangel Raphael – who in the reading earlier gave some very sound and practical advice!.

So on reflection, who am I to deny the existence of angels? They play a major part in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Gospels – especially at key moments of the birth and resurrection of Jesus. Angels ministered to Jesus after the Temptations and ‘gave strength’ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter’s release from prison is accounted for by the intervention of an angel.

Then those hardy, practical, earthy Celtic Saints – Ninian, Cuthbert, Columbanus did not doubt the role of angels. St. Francis… then the Angel of Mons (however one accepts it) and many ordinary people recount their encounters!

Martin Israel – Anglican Priest, pathologist, writer and one of the foremost spiritual directors in the last 30 years wrote a book entitled ‘Angels’ – he writes of them as ‘ministers of grace’ and reveals their influence on the lives of ordinary people.

Then there is the Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee – with whom I had some hard games of squash when he was a young curate in Norwich! He writes “Angels represent the divine mystery of god at work among us, the mystery and wonder of the unknown and transcendent. It is a disease of the Enlightenment that mankind has steadily moved away from celebrating mystery and denounces concepts that are not easily investigated. I am not for one moment complaining that knowledge, experiment and exploration are not marvellous and God-given adventures, in fact the opposite, I am saying that every new horizon of knowledge we discover, every minute detail of complexity we identify, is a matter of wonder and excitement, but the detail and astonishment of knowledge as it grows only serves to emphasis for us that we live in a creation where vast areas of life remain a mystery yet to be fathomed. Angels remind us of our place, they give us cause for humility and they give us reason for continuing to seek new knowledge always.
In ancient tradition every person is given the care and oversight of a guardian angel. I believe that arguing whether or not this is true is, be definition a sterile argument. I suggest to you that it is a very helpful concept in prayer, as we are encouraged by the thought that we are assisted and upheld, we have an advocate. But I suggest also that it is enormously helpful in a much wide sphere of living, the Christian application to the affairs of the world, political involvement and social responsibility”.

Martin Israel, many writers, artists and poets are much les reticent in accommodating angels that many theologians!

I had an original thought recently that angels are like poetry because poetry reveals truths that are deeper and stronger and more meaningful that straight reporting. Angels are visual poems. Alas, it was not original - for I looked in Vernon Sproxton’s short commentary on Revelation and he wrote “… we must leave our logic-chopping minds behind and open our imaginations to the influence of the poetic symbol… modern man has become so used to the scientific, descriptive reportage that poetry is the occupation of the few!

Angels help us to envisage the voice of god – a being that bridges the gap between heaven and earth, between the voice of god and ourselves.

During all my ministry I feel that I have been so privileged to say at the Eucharist “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we proclaim your great and glorious name …”

Yet the voice of God may come to us without an angel or heavenly messenger
        Through a very ordinary event
        Through other people
        Through prayer and worship
        Through giving or receiving care… often in the still small voice.
        Or in the form of angel!

        In the humour of God it may well be that I shall encounter one this week!!


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