Friday, August 24, 2012

The Dark Angels

Friday, August 24, 2012 -- Week of Proper 15
Saint Bartholomew the Apostle

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Friday of Proper 15, p. 981
Psalms 140, 142 (morning)       141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
Job 2:1-13
Acts 9:1-9
John 6:27-40

OR, the readings for St. Bartholomew, p. 999
Morning Prayer:  Psalm 86;  Genesis 28:10-17;  John 1:43-51
Evening Prayer:  Psalms 15, 67;  Isaiah 66:1-2, 18-23, 1 Peter 5:1-11

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

I used the readings for Friday of Proper 15

I have a friend who likes to talk about the transforming effect of what he calls "the visitation of the dark angels."  He talks about movements in life, when something apparently catastrophic or overwhelming happens.  So often that challenging event becomes the cauldron out of which something wonderful emerges.  Death and resurrection; light out of the darkness; brokenness and healing; lost and found.

We are entering into one of our tradition's most expansive considerations of this dark mystery, the story of Job.  Job explores the problem of human suffering and the question of God's justice in the face of great tragedy.  As the story opens, horrible catastrophe falls upon Job as a result of a wager in the heavenly court about his integrity.  His goodness is what brings him calamity. 

We will witness the anemic responses of those who attempt to defend the conventional view of God's justice -- that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked.  We will descend into the belly of suffering, anguish and alienation with Job.  Eventually, whether it is satisfying to us or not, we will hear Job's witness of a mystical encounter with God that dissolves him into silence.  Is it a full or an empty silence?  Readers have argued for centuries. 

Today we hear Luke's version of Saul dramatic encounter with God.  Saul has participated in the stoning of Stephen.  He is vigorously persecuting the followers of Jesus.  He is defending his traditional faith.  He is cleansing and purifying his people.  But something has cracked inside him.  Maybe it was the purity and faith of Stephen as he spoke of a heavenly vision while being killed.  Maybe it is the conviction with which these people hold to their faith in Jesus.  Maybe it is his own dissatisfaction with his self-absorbed project to be the perfect person.

Saul is stopped in his tracks.  He is blinded by the light.  The actor become the acted upon.  Passively he is led by the hand and told what to do in his blindness.  He is entering into a new life.  Saul, the enemy of the Way will become Paul, the greatest evangelist of the early church.

Jesus says in John's gospel that it is God's will that he should lose nothing of all that he has given him.  And that God has given all into the Son's hands.  Jesus gives the gift of eternal life rather than judgment, the bread which gives life to the world. 

God will go to extraordinary lengths to bring us to ourselves and to give us this eternal life.  God is darkly, mysteriously present, especially in the catastrophic and tragic.  Christians point to Jesus on the cross as the fulcrum of God's Being, absorbing all of our evil and suffering.  God turns death into resurrection. 

Job will curse and wish he were dead.  Saul will walk blindly into an unknown future.  Jesus will feed others with the bread from heaven until he is sacrificed and becomes the bread from heaven.  Out of the cauldron emerges something wonderful.  Death and resurrection; light out of the darkness; the broken healed; the lost found.


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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

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The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Lowell, I like your friend's dark angels . . . that works for me.

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God will go to extraordinary lengths to bring us to ourselves and to give us this eternal life. God is darkly, mysteriously present, especially in the catastrophic and tragic. Christians point to Jesus on the cross as the fulcrum of God's Being, absorbing all of our evil and suffering. God turns death into resurrection."

Very powerfull Lowell. My "suffering" always leads me back to me and more importantly God whom i must turn to for peace. Sean T.

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Morning Lowell,

Yet it is usually so hard when you are in the darkness to see the wholeness/future? that God sees. I think sometimes I can feel the holy presence during the dark times, more easily when I am with someone else in their despairing moments, yet our own are so perplexing. I am blessed that my fluid faith flows through everything, thanks for reminding of that the other day.

And you are my blessing during these morning reflections.


At 10:26 AM, Anonymous mike wertz said...

Job is really difficult reading. I did like the part about the wild donkey living in arid lands away from the traffic. That seemed clear enough.

Interesting to me was that what I could get out of it pretty much parallels what I have been reading in the Bhagavad-Gita – God is not only great, but everything under, over and around the sun – to mention a small part, and we cannot possibly understand the wisdom of God. All you can really do is recognize the majesty of all that God is and do what is in front of you with that in mind.

It seems also to say that God is up close and personal. Actively involved.

I loved the way that God made the friends give up some stuff – after Job had prayed for them.

How did they know about ostriches?


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brought to mind a line from Wordsworth re a "dark inscrutable workmanship" that is always present in our life. Here is the quote:

there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!


At 10:27 PM, Anonymous mike wertz said...

what a great poem Lewis, thank you.


At 7:23 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the great comments on the Dark Angels. For many of us, we come to a place where we can say that we are in some way grateful for certain sufferings, because they have made us who we are.



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