February 26, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Angels


Bible Study: Psalm 34:7; 91:11; 148:2-5; Matthew 18:10; 26:47-54; Luke 20:27-38; Hebrews 1:14; 2 Peter 2:1-12

This column is offered with a smile and sincere apologies to Frank Church, editor of the New York Sun, who wrote a vaguely similar piece in 1897.

Dear Lesson Writer,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there are no angels. Papa says, "If you see it in FaithVillage, it's so." Please tell me the truth, are there angels?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe in what they can't see. They think nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be adults or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, people are mere ants in their intellects as compared with the boundless world about them, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there are angels. They exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give your life beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no angels! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, and no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.

Not believe in angels! You might get your papa to hire photographers to try to take a picture of an angel, but even if they could not find any angels to photograph, what would that prove? If nobody sees angels, does that mean that there are no angels? As a rule people see only what they expect to see.

Some of your little friends may point out that Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life," Denzel Washington in "The Preacher's Wife," Nicholas Cage in "City of Angels" and all the angels in the outfield seem silly (especially Nicholas Cage). What does that have to do with the ways in which the Spirit of God is present in magnificent, holy, unexplainable moments, in a gentle whisper or a wisp of light during a tragedy? The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor adults can see. Did you ever see hope touch a broken heart? Of course not, but that's no proof hope is not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

There is a veil covering the unseen world. Only faith, poetry and love can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No angels? Thank God! They live and live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, they will continue to make our hearts glad.

Brett Younger is associate professor of preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

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