Come in

I am not sure that any of us fully grasp and understand the work of angels. If God by the Spirit is present everywhere why do we ‘need’ angels? Yet Scripture is full of references to angels, their interaction with people and they are presented like us as fellow servants of God. They carry out important missions for God and for us. From personal experience there is always a difference that is tangibly felt when angels are explicitly present. Their arrival often brings about a rapid shift in the atmosphere. When we had our offer on a third possible apartment in Oliva the owner had told us not even to talk with him. The estate agent said that in 14 years of working the area he had never experienced the negative reaction we were receiving on this and on a previous property. He suggested we were attracting it! I replied with that could well be possible, but stick with us and it will come through. Nothing changed until the day we sensed we were to connect with the angel of Cádiz, whom we understood was called Gadir (one of the ancient names for the city). We did so and as we left the location within the hour the phone rang and the estate agent’s opening words were “I don’t know what’s happened but the owner has just contacted me to say ‘tell them they can have the apartment'”. Maybe it would have happened anyway… that is so often the way with God. He leaves us to decide whether it was a maybe or we make the connection and learn something from the experience. An important part of connecting with the angelic seems to be location. We went to a specific place in the city to connect on that occasion and we also returned there just a few weeks ago again to renew the connection over another task.

Location, and often location that is liminal, is key. Jacob encountered angels when leaving and when entering land. Boundaries are always important. Another aspect that is very key is that of hospitality.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

This seems to be a reflection of Abraham who welcomed strangers into his home to discover later that the visitors were in fact angels. The opening of our home might lead to the visitors being angels, or there is an opening for angels as a result of hospitality. (I appreciate that it might not be possible to open one’s home for a variety of reasons, but generosity of heart to the ‘stranger’ is always possible.)

We do not have to understand why God uses angels when our theology suggests God could just do what needs doing, but if this is God’s chosen way we would be wise to just tag along for the ride. (Maybe also this might just highlight that our theology is somewhat off at this point?) The outworking of angelic manifestions might not be directly experienced by us but was brought about through us for angels do not just come for us to give us a nice feeling or a testimony, but work for those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1: 14). In Acts Peter has a confusing open vision but Cornelius gets the angelic visitation and explanation. Interestingly this happens through a home that has been opened for hospitality.

There are times, I suggest, when angels manifest themselves to people in human form. I have testimonies from people who have come to a place for the first time to be told ‘great to see you again‘ and to be shown the gift they left behind the previous time they were there. Fellow servants. Hospitality and generosity of heart unlocks the work of angels.

So many principles… what if a country opens its doors to strangers? What if a country were to close its doors?

Time for generosity I think.

An angel came knocking

This morning we read a headline about a certain politician who should have been facing trial for corruption but had evaded this by holding on to her seat as a Senator, thus giving her immunity, that she died suddenly of a heart attack. The Guardia Civil had announced that her administration had been involved in nothing less than organised crime. A certain group of MPs did not respond to the minute of silence for her but walked out of parliament. Maybe I can understand their feelings but the good/bad line runs through us all and however guilty she and her administration was I don’t think the walking out was a good response.

It is though a reminder that all of us have a limited opportunity to stand in the gap between the past and the future. There are so many challenges that come our way and it does seem necessary every now and then to re-examine one’s integrity and authenticity in relation to the land. I have been doing so recently. On the one hand knowing that the land cannot evict us now (took us all-but seven years to get there) and yet facing the painful journey of regular reminders that my level of language, and inabilities with respect to learning, can raise the challenge for authenticity. Ah well, we all have a few battles I suspect!

Angelic OrangesThen last night just as we are about to eat, we can hear on our steps, very, very slowly someone coming up the stairs. Eventually our door bell rings. There is an angel on the doorstep. For sure. He appeared as the 40 something old man from a very humble family down the street. Struggling with health, strength and I am sure financially, he passed over a wonderful bag of oranges/satsumas, saying

This is what the land gives to us.

Truly an angel and a message from heaven gratefully received. It remains though the need to know that all gifts call us to a new level.

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Hospitality & sharing

The sin of Sodom (& Gomorrah)? In Ezekiel it was that of the rejection of hospitality and lack of care for the poor and needy:

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it (Ezek. 16:49,50).

Whatever we make of the commonly highlighted sexual issues, this aspect of social contempt for the stranger is highlighted. Recently it came to my attention that Jesus statement over the cities of Israel:

I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (Luke 10:12).

is in the context of looking for the cities to give hospitality to the travelling disciples. I had never seen that before and it again underlines the need for hospitality, care, looking after the stranger. Judgement on cities of Israel, and historically a judgement on a non-covenant city (Sodom), hence these aspects stand as an indictment on any city or community.

A few notes that reflect some on Western society, and the statistics referred to could be multiplied many times over:

  • David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) has stepped aside – who would want a role such as that? It is easy to criticise from the side. During his time in office the Trussel Trust provides us with this statistic that illustrates a huge shift: those relying on food banks to supply them has moved from 61,468 to 1,109,309 people in the UK. There is a political divide over whether this is the responsibility of government or not, but the statistic remains as an indictment on society. That 1.8% of the population should be in that situation cannot be something that escapes the eyes of God.
  • In the nation that is perhaps viewed as the most-advanced of Western nations apparently 50% of food goes to waste (Guardian article). Contrast that with the command of God to allow the poor and needy to glean what is left.
  • 1 out of every 3 children in Spain are are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to latest EU figures (Reuters).
  • Spain faces major issues as it has failed to meet the figures set by the EU and to pay for debts has ‘borrowed’ on more than one occasion from the social security pot. Latest figures suggest that by 2018 that pot will be empty. While at the same time those assessed to have ‘large fortunes’ has grown by 40% since the crisis of 08.

Coming back to Sodom the kind of homosexuality in view cannot be separated from that of power abuse. Control and domination was certainly part of what is going on and this might be why the sexual activity itself is not commented on in Ezekiel or Luke but the response to and care for the stranger, the poor and the needy is the centre of focus. Power, control, maintaining power; pro-life but pro-war and the death penalty; following a redemptive God and yet having huge populations within non-redemptive-prison-systems…

There will always be solutions suggested, a reviving of an -ism, the repackaging of an old one, or the proclamation of a new one. How different are the two big ones, capitalism (and now in its predominant ugly face of neo-liberalism) or hard-line left socialism? One has the god of the free-market, the other the god of the state. They both promise to reward those who comply but only ‘reward’ a few. Enough have to be rewarded to maintain the status quo and enough can be consumed to keep the machine functioning. And neither escape the eyes of the Lord. That is the imperial spirit. In the old days one of my points on the kingdom and church was that ‘the kingdom produces the church’. If we are to know something by the fruit it produces we have to look long and hard at what is often produced.

I am sure we are headed to another manifestation of the crisis we are in. It is not a new crisis coming, but a fresh manifestation of that crisis. The institutions will be opened again for us to see inside. The outcome? Probably dependent on how like / unlike Sodom we are at the core.

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