Once, when a curate, I dozed off in a PCC meeting and in my dream I found myself being shown round heaven by an angel. I don’t know what you expect heaven to look like – sun, sea and sand maybe? But as the angel led me on we approached an office block. ‘You have to work in heaven?’ I asked incredulously. ‘O yes,’ the angel said, ‘it’s all the hassle we get from earth.’
Angels at work
We stopped at the door to the first room. A sign announced, Receiving Section. Hundreds of angels were busy sorting out petitions on thousands of bits of paper stacked up high on their desks. ‘These are the prayers of people from all over the world asking God to do things,’ the angel told me.
We moved on down a long corridor and came to a second room. ‘This is Packaging and Delivery said my guide. ‘Here the answers to all the peoples’ requests are processed and despatched.’ ‘It seems just as busy as the last section,’ I commented. ‘Well,’ said my guide, ‘we reply to every request we receive.’
Passing on further down the corridor we came to a vast empty room with just one desk in the middle and just one angel sitting there, head buried in a newspaper. As I got closer I could see it was a copy of The Guardian. ‘He must be a Guardian Angel,’ I thought.
‘This looks like the job for me when I get here,’ I exclaimed. ‘If you get here,’ my guide responded, ‘you’ll not have to work at all, for humans heaven is paradise, the work is done by angels. We’re in the ‘Acknowledgements Received’ section,” my guide continued, looking somewhat sad. “After we respond to your prayers, very few of you humans bother to say thank you, normally you just ask for more and the ‘Receiving Section’ gets even busier …”
‘But what things should we be thanking God for?’ I asked. My guide, looked straight at me, fixing me in his stare…‘
‘If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a warm, safe place to sleep then you are better off than 75% of people. If you have money for little luxuries: chocolates, magazines; then you are among the wealthiest in the world. If you own your own computer, you are rich compared with most people. If you have never been caught up in a war, or in prison, or been really hungry you are ahead of 700 million people in the world.’
That’s an awful lot of people who haven’t enough to eat,’ I thought. Then I heard a voice say, ‘Keith can do that …’ There was a moment when I was confused. Hadn’t the angel just told me that humans don’t have to work in Angels at work in heaven? And then I realised that I was waking up and my dream had finished.
Not all of my story is literally true of course … I’d never fall asleep in a PCC meeting! But how we respond to all we receive from God reflects what we really think about God and all too often it doesn’t amount to much.
We often pray when we want something, when worried or in need, hence my imaginary angelic in-trays are full. And it’s right we should do so, God doesn’t want us to worry, but those requests for God’s help should be mixed with thank yous for all we do have. So it’s right that the angelic in- trays should be full – all of them. But the Acknowledgements Section should be as full of thank you's as the Receiving Section is full of requests. So let’s get that lazy angel a bit busier!