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In the Company of Angels

An Angel at the Shore
by The Rev. Margaret Jones

I really have not thought seriously about angels since they started to appear on refrigerator magnets and potpourri boxes. But when I brush aside all of the cherubic faces and feathery wings, I admit that there must be good reason that angels appear in significant scenes throughout the Bible, especially around Jesus' birth.

I've read in biblical commentaries that the word for angel in Greek means messenger, and that is obviously how we meet them in Scripture. Why would God "use" such messengers? Maybe because they were the only way God could get God's message across to humans...the only way we would pay attention. But then one wonders why most of us have never seen winged creatures like those portrayed in the great paintings from the past.

Perhaps the "angels" who appear in artistic renderings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are just figments of those artists' imaginations. Then as Enlightenment thinking belied the possibility of winged creatures, the idea evolved that messengers come from God in a variety of form—hence, the 20th century explosion of interest in angels as people who deliver God's messages to us. Far from cherubs with wings, these angels appear as men, women, and children who give messages we are unwilling or unable to accept in other ways.

As I write, I am reminded of the day I went to collect sea glass on what I considered "our" beach in Maine. A man was standing there, with a woman he introduced as his wife. I had never seen anyone on that small rock-strewn space before and was not happy to see a stranger there. When we talked, I learned that they were renting a house nearby and had walked over at low tide. He said he was a geologist at a midwestern university, so I reached down and handed him a large black rock with a white band running through its middle. "They call these rocks lucky in Maine," I said. "What made that white band?"

"It's a rock that once split or broke apart. The white sediment in the middle is sand that rushed into that split. In effect, the rock was made whole again."

"How old would it be?" I asked.

"Oh," he said, "a minimum of a million years."

Since then, I have brought home almost one hundred of those rocks. I give them to people and say, "Here, take this rock and remember that God has been healing things for millions of years." I never saw the man again, nor have I ever seen anyone else on the beach. But I know that those rocks have given profound comfort and strength to people, and every time I give one away, I remember that man on the beach.

An angel? I don't know, but whenever I hear about angels, he's the first person who comes to mind.


Copyright ©2006 Margaret Jones



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