Angels and the “Evil One”
At the vestry meeting last month I was asked what I thought of evil. We were reading Matthew 13:34–53. We always study the Bible together and how we decide which passage to examine is a bit random. This was chosen, I think, because lately I have had angels on my mind, particularly in light of the experience we had at the Feast of Epiphany. Multiple cameras captured from different angles, at different moments in time, the most interesting image within the fire… And so I’ve been thinking about angels, which is probably how we ended up with Matthew 13. But to have angels, in the case of this Bible study, was also to have the “evil one” present.
Before I wander into my response about the “evil one,” I’d like to reflect a bit on angels in scripture. They are considered messengers for God, and in their presence there is light, a dramatic light, not familiar to the human eye. They almost always begin the conversation with “Do not be afraid.” It is a good opener, and a fairly good indication that who you are talking to is an angel. They are like humans in that they are eternal beings. They are unlike humans in that they do not possess free will, which is why they are perfect messengers.
The book of Hebrews makes the claim that while we are under the restraint of death, we are “little lower than angels,” but when we own and internalize the reality of the resurrection, our status is changed and we—that is, humanity—are placed nearer to God, through the grace and power of the Son (Hebrews 2:7–9). It is our freedom to choose God or to reject God that affords us this promotion and also the associated responsibilities and pitfalls.
Angels have powers that are greater than ours in all areas. They have a different relationship with the elemental forces of creation and so move differently in the world than you or me. And yet, despite this power, they cannot overcome us. That is the story we learn at the Jabbok River, where Jacob meets the angel and they wrestle throughout the night. The angel wounds Jacob, dislocating his hip, but he cannot overcome Jacob (Genesis 32). We are weaker than angels in every way, save one, that we are God’s children—free—and angels cannot overcome our freedom.
The power and capacity of angels is best seen in the book of Revelation, where the Archangel Michael takes on Satan’s forces during the war in heaven and defeats them (Revelation 12). It is a war ready-made for the big screen, and something supernatural, awesome, and beyond our capacity, and yet not powerful enough to overcome us.
Which leads me to my comments on the “evil one.” The natural question, of course, is why God would allow evil forces to be in the universe. The simple, if not simplistic, answer has to do with God’s love for us. Love cannot exist without choice, for love cannot exist without being freely chosen. And so, because of love there must be freedom, and yet freedom without options is not really freedom. As we find in the Book of Job, there is temptation that lives and lurks in the universe as a way of setting choice in front of us. Now if the choice had no teeth, if there weren’t consequences for our choices, then there would not really be choices, only ruses to trick us into thinking we were choosing love (and therefore God). In reality this then would be no choice at all. So God takes the risk of letting evil exist in the heavens with one caveat—the same caveat put upon angels—that it cannot overcome humanity. This is not to say that evil cannot rule humanity, for indeed it can, with human acquiescence. But it cannot overcome humanity with the brute force it has at its disposal.
The best rendering of this evil versus humanity depiction I have seen lately came by way of C.S. Lewis’ book Perelandra. It is the second book in his adult science fiction trilogy, called “The Space Trilogy.” In the story we see a man, Weston, who has fully given over his soul to the power of evil, and how Ransom, the protagonist, battles this evil-possessed man tooth and jowl. Ransom is the weaker, and yet evil cannot defeat him or fully overpower him. In the end, Ransom… wait; I’ll let you read the book to see what happens.
Here is the point, angels make sense to me as do their evil counterparts. They have a role that fills out the heavens in a rich and wonderful way. But their role is to provoke our souls to love, to inspire in our imaginations mystery made manifest and to give us determined hearts to choose God against the wiles, tricks, and profound consequences of evil. So, know that in the face of evil, we are to stand strong, as God’s chosen beloved children, knowing that evil can hurt us, scare us, and tempt us, but it cannot overcome us.
One last thought: bad people can hurt us, scare us, and tempt us, and they can overcome us. We see that all of the time in this world, particularly in war. And these people have chosen evil. Our response to them, however, is different than our response to evil incarnate, like seen in Perelandra. We seek to annihilate evil incarnate every time. We seek to love humans who have fallen into the grip of evil every time, never wavering in our desire to win them back for God. The worst they can do is kill us, and that, as people of resurrection know, is never a thing to fear.
All for your consideration.
Last year, during Advent season, groups of Epiphany family caregivers joined together in community to share the issues and concerns they encounter supporting and assisting their loved ones. In all, 25 people participated in the three-part series. While some chose to attend every session and some came to one or two, what was consistent throughout was the realization that there are many families at Epiphany providing physical, emotional, and spiritual care to elders, siblings, and children in often complex and challenging circumstances. Many participants were new to this role, others had been caregivers for many years, still others had finished one caregiving situation and moved on to the next. The love and dedication caregivers brought to their tasks was abundantly apparent in every group, but themes of loss, grief, guilt, anger, loneliness, conflict management, and fear about the future were also common, as was the need for information on available community resources.
It was truly my honor and privilege to facilitate these groups and to be a part of these spirit-filled gatherings and conversations. The gift of compassion from caregivers to those they care for (indeed, those they serve) is a balm of understanding that reaches far beyond the confines of a Sunday morning group in the Fireside Room. I would like to thank all of you who attended the groups and express my deep gratitude for your courage in sharing your stories and opening your hearts to the stories of others. At the conclusion of the series, several people expressed a desire to continue this kind of educational support group, perhaps on a monthly basis. Toward that end, I will be sending participants a short survey as to preferences and needs. Please look for that in early February and, if you did not attend the caregiving series but would like to help shape an on-going group, please let me know so I can be sure the survey reaches you as well.
Also, be aware that there is now a “Caregivers” section in the Christie House library. (Thank you, Ann Lockhart!) Included are seminal volumes on caregiving, such as The 36-Hour Day, Final Gifts, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, My Mother/Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine and The Conversation, in addition to several publications recommended by group participants: Being Mortal and Passages in Caregiving. All are useful resources for families seeking a broader understanding of caregiving concepts. In addition, short essays on caregiving will be available; please feel free to remove anything of interest and make a copy for yourself. Finally, I hope to have DVD materials on dementia available for your use in the near future.
As always, please contact me if you would like a private consultation about caregiving or if you have other questions or concerns that might benefit from the perspective of a faith community nurse.
In health and peace,
Kathryn Barrett, RN, MSN, Parish Nurse
Christie House office hours by appointment: Mondays at 10 am–4 pm or other times by arrangement. Please make an appointment by calling 206-326-9557 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. —Diane Carlisle, Verger
The Youth Group Gives
For their service at last year’s Have a Heart, the youth group received 5% of the proceeds to give to organizations they chose.
Our youth group decided to send money to First Place and The Micah Project because we felt that it was benefiting two different communities. We split most of the money we earned from Have a Heart and donated it to these places. First Place is a school that helps kids whose families are in the process of finding housing and re-evaluating their lives after homelessness. I had the chance to work First Place for a day through my school. The Micah Project is a Haiti relief program that my “uncle” and Dad’s best friend The Rev. Joseph Constant founded in 2005. To me both of these programs are special and worth our donations because of the help they have given the communities that are suffering from natural disasters and having a hard time in life.
The youth group also decided to contribute to Hoi An Orphanage, an orphanage in Central Vietnam for children that suffer from the after-effects of Agent Orange. Winston Roberts and Alex Wang have been to the orphanage and told the group about the needs of the kids there.
Thank You for Doing the Worship Survey!
In the fall and early winter of 2014 parishioners completed a survey about worship and participated in focus groups to discuss services that will begin when Epiphany’s renovation project is done.
For all who completed the survey and participated in focus groups and beyond, thank you so much for your time and input! The detailed input from the survey has been forwarded to the clergy and staff to be advisory in worship planning.
Your thoughtful survey responses and care of and for the parish were abundantly evident to us. Of the 415 parishioners in our directory, 125 responded with a wide range of comments and information. Parishioners indicated preferences but not rigidity. Parishioners were open to a future third service and added suggestions about what might make that successful. All elements of the worship services were seen as equally important with nothing to suggest; for example that a third service should routinely specialize in music or education. There was not a strong indication of whether an evening or additional morning service would be preferred. There was recognition of the practical challenges of adding a service at either timeframe and a desire to safeguard that which works well.
It’s a joy to be in an expanding and lively parish. As we temporarily flex our schedules and locations to accommodate the carefully planned and long awaited construction, we will have additional experiential data to add to the worship planning for our newly reconstructed spaces. While the work of the worship survey committee is completed, stay tuned with clergy and staff for ongoing worship planning news!
No Book Donations, Please!
Many of us read a lot. We have lots of books at home. Right now, please, please don’t bring your used books to Christie House. There is no space in the library. It’s in constant use for multiple purposes, so there isn’t even a place to store the bags or boxes.
So take them to Goodwill, donate them at the Seattle Public Library, or give them to friends. But please don’t bring them to Christie House.
—Ann Lockhart and Libby Goldstein
P.S. We always need more magazines! There is a collection bin in the back of the Church.
An Update from the Building Team
This month we’d like to let you know about some of the work that is being done in the Great Hall. In future editions of the Monthly Message we’ll look at other spaces that are being renovated, including the Fireside Room, both kitchens, the Church, the Chapel, and the St. Francis Garden, as well as specific feature improvements like the Chapel organ and the new hearing assistance system in the church.
The most obvious change in the Great Hall will be the installation of carpet. The Building Team and church staff spent a significant amount of time considering the costs and benefits of putting carpet back in the Great Hall, even going so far as to conduct a short experiment by temporarily installing carpet in the Great Hall for a few weeks last spring. The response to that experiment was almost entirely positive, with many people observing that both the Great Hall and the rooms below it were quieter and easier to converse in during those weeks. The carpet will change the maintenance needs in the Great Hall, but we are selecting a carpet that meets our needs both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The flooring will actually be carpet squares, and we’ll purchase extra material so that it’s possible to replace small sections that get damaged over time.
Another significant improvement in the Great Hall is the permanent installation of Audio and Video equipment. We are working with CCI Solutions on the A/V system, and are planning to install speakers and a projector in the ceiling. The projector will be visible but the speakers will be recessed into the ceiling and only the speaker covers will be seen. The new A/V system will improve the experience for people who attend presentations in the Great Hall, and will also make the space safer by reducing the number of cords and cables that are laid on the floor during those presentations.
The lighting design in the Great Hall includes two basic elements. New sconces will be added to the walls, and the existing ceiling pendants will be cleaned and repaired, including the glass panels in those fixtures. Originally all of the glass panels had some design on them and over time many of those panels broke and were replaced with plain glass. All of the plain glass panels with be replaced with printed glass that matches the original design.
Lastly, we will improve the storage of tables and chairs under the stage. The carts that tables and chairs are stored on will be improved and the door molding on the front of the stage will be repaired or replaced.
Please remember that our website has a great deal of construction related information here: http://www.epiphanyseattle.org/renovation/
The Next 100 Years Building Team Ed Emerson, Laura Blackmore, Bob Barnes, Jim Marlow, Ben Bradstreet Contact the Building Team at email@example.com
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
February 8, 2015
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 147:1–12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16–23
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
February 7: Women’s Monthly Retreat
Come as you spiritually are for fellowship with other women of the parish. All women are welcome! Continental breakfast will be provided. Contact Karen Forbes with questions.
February 8: Adult Forum – Spirituality, Work: Incompatible? They Don’t Have to Be
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work, but many of us are also spiritual people who desire to live from our deep connection with God. Presenters Kathleen Hosfeld (President of Hosfeld & Associates) and Brian Meza (Head of the Science Department at Seattle Prep) are deeply spiritual professionals who will share their stories and tools with us and facilitate an hour of engaging conversation, reflection, and sharing. Join us at 10:45 am in the Church.
February 8: Evensong
Join us for the ancient office of Evensong with Epiphany Choir at 5 pm in the Church.
February 8: Have a Heart
Join the fun—appetizers, wine, prizes, music, and trivia!—at the annual fundraiser for Service & Outreach Ministries at 6 pm in the Epiphany School Gym. You can still get tickets or raffle tickets here.
Events Down the Road
February 12: How to Listen to Classical Music
In four interactive one-hour sessions, Jim MacLean will offer some basic information along with time to listen to selected musical pieces. The goal is to enhance listening skills to better appreciate classical music as the ultimate complete art form. Participants are encouraged to bring their own favorite pieces to discuss with the group on Thursdays, February 5, 12, 19 & 26, at 6:15 pm in the Christie House Library.
February 15: Adult Forum – Fasting
At 10:45 am in the Church, Doyt will share about the historical and spiritual significance of fasting–just in time for Lent.
February 17: Mardi Gras Pancake Dinner
dThis is a party and youth fundraiser! Come and support the Youth Pilgrimage Fund by buying a ticket (in advance, if you can) to the Mardi Gras pancake supper in Christie House at 5:30 pm. You’ll find great people, tasty food (bacon and King Cake!), and Mardi Gras music—the perfect event for families! Tickets are $5 for children, $10 for adult, available at church or at the door.
February 18: Ash Wednesday
Lent begins in less than two weeks with the imposition of ashes. Come to either the morning or evening liturgy, followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation at both. Click here for times and locations.