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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