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Sermon: Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

Texts: Genesis 28:12-13; Psalm 103:20-22; Mark 1:13

(Gary W. Charles, Cove Presbyterian Church, Covesville, VA, 1-28-2018)

As a young man, I thought talk about angels to be rather silly. The more I read Scripture, my views began to morph. Whether angels are in Jacob’s dream, heading up and down on a divine conveyor belt or are the messengers from God who arrive at Sarah and Abraham’s tent and in the field of Palestinian shepherds or are those sent by God to tend to Jesus when he is alone in the wilderness, angels are often among us. My time at Cove has only reinforced that belief.

In her poem, “The World I Live In,” Mary Oliver contends that there is only one way that you and I will ever see angels. She writes:

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wider than that. And anyway,

what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

twice I have seen. I’ll just

tell you this:

only if there are angels in your head will you

ever, possibly, see one.

Daily, I see angels at work at Cove. They do not wear gauze wings or sparkling

haloes, but by any measure of angels in Scripture, they are messengers of God:

  • whether women marching in DC and Charlottesville, reclaiming their God-given image and refusing to accept anything but respect and fair treatment from men

  • whether those painting and posting a huge “We Choose Welcome” sign outside our sanctuary, a sign that made folks like our Muslim neighbors, Bilal and Angela Manaaki, feel welcome and safe to come to Cove and share their faith with us

  • whether Lucille and Sheila, Joe and Angelo, from First Baptist Church, Covesville, who shared their voices with ours to sing praise to God for the life and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • whether Kathryn Korbon who is completing her many years as Treasurer and a remarkable Treasurer at that, one who has not only managed the money faithfully but who has believed in this congregation to embrace an identity more expansive than our numbers

  • whether Art Stow, Principal at Red Hill School, who is working with me to create an area wide tutoring program, so children with the greatest need will experience the greatest support. Just ask Ellen Shields and Ann Messina about the Red Hill School and the kids who would welcome some reading help and the teachers who would celebrate our presence

  • whether Cove Preschool nurturing and loving young children and their families in our area and providing scholarships so that all children are welcome

  • whether Kristin Dinwiddie who told me before I arrived at Cove that she was ready for someone new to oversee Cove’s social media, and yet nonetheless has worked tirelessly with a friend of mine in Atlanta to create a new website for Cove, so she can now finally step down and leave this work in a strong place for someone new

  • whether Fran Hooper who completes her time on Session today, a time that has included leading the Worship Team but has also included chairing the Pastor Nominating Committee. I am especially grateful for her refusal to live in the orderly house of what seemed possible and for the PNC’s and your willingness to dream

  • whether Kelly Eplee who also completes his time on Session today and daily inspires the Building Goodness Foundation not only to build homes and schools and hospitals in places where they are needed the most, but to build hope in communities that have been told it is not worth their time to dream

  • whether Eva Riddervold and Marissa Duffield who were confirmed at Cove and whose gifts to Cove are experienced in many and wonderful ways

  • whether Linda Blondel playing everything from Bach to “Glory to God Whose Goodness Shines on Me” with beauty that moves my heart

  • whether the Cove family at lunch in Cove Hall enjoying the taste of the most exotic dishes I have ever eaten at a church pot luck meal, from Walter’s Beaver dish to monthly wonderful culinary concoctions from Tommy Huggins and John Wicks

  • whether Christmas at Cove and the delight of seeing a sanctuary full and entranced by John Grisham recounting his own childhood Christmas story in “Another Brother for Christmas” and Susan and Kelly bringing us to laughter as Scully and Mulder in “The XMAS Files”

  • whether the powerful reminder of baptism when the waters flowed over Ollie and water flowed down the cheeks of many members here

  • whether the courage and conviction of Will Retzer to take on the mantle of church Treasurer, confident that you and I will continue to support him as we have supported Kathryn

  • whether the fabulous photography of Danny and the moving poetry of Rachel that inspire us with visions and words too fine to describe

  • whether Jane or Josh or Jill, who each lend their gifts to Cove from pulpit and pew with incredible generosity

  • whether Marilee chopping weeds or leading Session through the weeds of one more governance matter

  • whether Diane producing our Sunday bulletins and delving into our church history with unstoppable persistence

  • whether the 250th Anniversary Committee planning not only the commemoration of an important time but thinking forward about Cove fifty years from now

  • whether Erika and Eva, Jessie and Marissa, and Jessica caring for infants and toddlers who show up on Sunday withsuch spontaneity, love, and joy

  • whether The Onion Man distributing bulbs to the suspecting and unsuspecting or Jean announcing, “We did great” or “We can do better!”

  • whether our amazing choir led by Beth Neville, a choir that reminds us that those who sing, pray twice

  • whether the quiet angels who would cringe if I mentioned their names from the pulpit, but by whose notes and casseroles, loads of wood and phone calls of care make life better for people who need a lift

  • whether Chris Hill who joins Cove’s Session today again, having done so many times before, or Will Dinwiddie, who will be ordained to office as elder and will bring his passion and gifts to Session for the first time

  • whether Heather who inspires us with her voice on Sunday but who helps young women and men find their singing voice throughout the week

Well, the list is much longer but I will stop here and remind you, to paraphrase the

words of Mary Oliver, “The world Cove lives in and believes in is wider than the

world of reasons and proof.” It is a world of dreamers and, I would argue, of angels,

albeit imperfect, sometimes distracted, generally well-intentioned angels, but angels


And for each angel among us, I give thanks to God.


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