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22 Angels

by the Rev. Paul McLain

 

Sometimes our liturgical calendar seems to dovetail with the events happening around us. Sometimes, the contrast between the feast and seasonal days in our calendar and what’s actually happening in our world can jar and unnerve us. That is the case this week. Today is Ascension Day, a day when we celebrate Jesus triumphantly ascending into heaven to rejoin his Father after conquering death. But Tuesday of this week could be called Descension Day, when 19 children and two teachers were senselessly killed in Uvalde, Texas. We are all still reeling, and it’s hard for us to picture any type of ascension in the midst of utter sadness and horror.

 

We are left wondering, has Jesus ascended and abandoned us? Far from it. Jesus’s ascension gives him a bird’s eye view to see the whole world, especially its suffering and sorrow. From his perch, he cannot help but weep.

 

The theologian N. T. Wright puts it this way: “Jesus has gone ahead of us into God’s space, God’s new world, and is both already ruling the present world as its rightful Lord and also interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. Only, when we grasp and celebrate what the ascension tells us about the continuing human work of Jesus in the present, are we equipped for the task of justice.”

 

I must confess that my first draft of this post was entitled “21 Angels.” Last evening, a parishioner reminded me that a 22nd person died in the shooting, the gunman himself. It is hard for me to see him as an angel right now. But if I can ascend enough to see him through the eyes of God, I get closer to the words from the Prayer for our Enemies in the Book of Common Prayer: “Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you.”

 

Jesus is now joined by these angels. Their innocence, their hopes, and their love live on forever. They join him in lifting us all up beyond a cruel world of assault weapons and hate and imagining a world filled with peace and building one another up, overflowing with deep care for the fragile lives of everyone around us. Our task is to join Jesus and these precious angels in lifting our world up to be a place where children and teachers are safe, where love triumphs over hate, and where heaven and earth are, at long last, one.


20 thoughts on “22 Angels”

    1. You’re welcome, Zada. It’s hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you.
      Give Peanut a hug from us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, David. It’s so hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you.

      Your work of art is on the wall behind me as I write this. Ruthie and I treasure it. Thank you!

      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, Julie. It’s so hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you.

      It was wonderful to see the photos of Mack’s graduation! So proud of him and happy for your family!

      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, Ginny. It’s so hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you.

      Thank you for being a loving and caring presence to the children of Calvary through your ministry as a teacher here.

      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  1. For me the saddest thing is that we’ll never know what these angels could have done on earth to make it more like heaven.

    1. Kate, that is so true. We can only imagine what they all might have done. It’s a heavy loss to this world that I still don’t understand. Let’s hold each other up in our sadness, and try to find some hope where we can.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  2. Thank you, Paul, for that last paragraph…that last sentence. I have been so angry since this horrible tragedy and that does not help. God help us to do all we can to address the gun violence epidemic in the United States of America.

    1. You’re welcome, Linda. It’s so hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you and helped you through some of your understandable anger. Let’s pray and act for an end to gun violence.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  3. I have too been wondering about this one of too many tragedies, thank you for showing us the BEST way for us to deal with this.

    1. You’re welcome, Roz. It’s so hard to know what to say on a week like this. Glad this spoke to you. Hope we can all find a way forward together.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

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