Sunday, October 16, 2011 – Grandpa invited me to attend vespers over at the main building of their retirement community. Vespers is a late afternoon service put on by a chaplain. A chaplain can be a minister, priest, rabbi or even a Buddhist teacher. Vesper, by no small coincidence, is the name of James Bond’s secret co-agent in the book Casino Royale.
Neil stayed back at the house with grandma, while I walked over to the main building to attend vespers with grandpa. I walked alongside him, as he drove his wheel chair. Having played football in his college years at Yale, Grandpa had been afflicted with neuropathy, a gradual deterioration of the nervous system that began with numbness in one foot. As the disease progressed, Grandpa reluctantly accepted the support of a cane, then a walker, and finally a wheel chair.
We entered the Vail Room and were handed a copy of the vespers service program. The sermon, being delivered by Reverend Andrew Rosencrans, was titled “The Art of Recognizing Angels.” On the cover was an illustration of “Peter and the Angel.” The first bible reading cited Judges 6, the story about Gideon and an angel that came to tell him he had been commissioned by God to lead the resistance. The second bible reading cited Acts 12, the story about Peter and an angel releasing him from his chains and sneaking him out of the prison.
The stories of Peter and Gideon took place during dark times. Both men were acting against oppressive regimes, and in both instances angels stepped in to help. In both stories, these angels had not been recognized as angels until they vanished from sight..
The reverend stated: “Sometimes we come to moments of crisis when an angelic intervention is urgently needed – sometimes God is with us in ways we only recognize after the fact – and perhaps one of the ways God sometimes chooses to be with us is through the agency of something we call – for lack of a better term – a guardian angel.”
My ears perked up at the mention of the word “agency.” I pictured a secret agency comprised of angels, and I imagined God sending an angel down to help Peter escape.
The reverend went on to define angels as messengers and to identify Peter himself as an angel messenger. Then he stated “sometimes we are called to be the angels that bear God’s message of good news to people in their own times of darkness and in their own moments of crisis.” He concluded his sermon by exclaiming, “Be an angel; let your message of good news be the light that helps dispel someone’s darkness; because the way God chooses to be present in someone’s moment of crisis, is through angelic messengers like us. AMEN”
The vespers service had been held in the Vail Room. Playing the homonym game, I thought about the word “veil,” which means to conceal, hide or disguise. We often talk about angels, hidden beyond a veil, yet keeping watch over us.
I thought about all this as Neil and I took Yury’s limousine service back to the airport to fly home. The driver’s name was Theo. He was a Romanian, and no relation to Leo. Theo and Leo. Golly gee. Theology?