Saturday, December 11, 2010

Looking at an Angel

Today's reading: Revelation 10

I often wonder where we get our cultural understanding of what an angel looks like. Most of the time it is that sweet cherub creature or the towering figure in flowing robes with wings. But in today's reading there is no mention of robes or wings.

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs, like pillars of fire. Revelation 10:1 NRSV

This angel doesn't have wings but he is "wrapped in a cloud." That makes sense. If clouds float about in the sky, then you might expect to see an angel wrapped in one of them.

There is no halo but a nimbus of multi-colored lights around his head. John speaks of this as a rainbow (in fact all of his descriptions of heaven and heavenly beings is quite colorful).

All of this is fine until you get to his face and legs. His face was like the sun and his legs are like pillars of fire. So, his face must be so bright you can't look at it directly. Perhaps his legs are filled with the motion of the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the burning bush and the voice that comes out of it that tells Moses to take off his feet because the ground is holy. Maybe the angel's feet would make any ground he touched holy.

In any event, this is not a warm, fuzzy creature or anything like another human being. This is a messenger of God who has a loud proclamation to make. God's messenger is very much set apart from the rest of us.

God, what are we to understand about angels? Today's scripture is so different from how we think of your messengers. Thank you that you care enough about us to provide ways to get your message to us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

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