Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11
I don't really know if I have every experienced an angel visitation, at least not in the classic, gauzy vision with wings type of experience. I have been rescued, and taken out of circumstances that could only have been through a divine hand. I once was driving my car in Baltimore rush hour traffic when my car died in the middle lane on Cathedral Street. People were furious and edging toward violent when a man rushed out of his parked car, pushed my dead VW to safety and was gone. We had no real verbal exchange but I knew him to be an angel.
Peter is under heavy guard, the next to be crucified by an angry king who wanted to squash the controversy, and needed to subdue his critics. Peter, and the faithful, were making his life uncomfortable by spreading a Gospel of love and forgiveness in a world that thrived on power and greed. Peter is rescued in the middle of the night by an angel with supernatural powers who leaves him once he is outside the gate. Peter is strengthened and renewed in the short encounter. The faithful are also buoyed up and encouraged. God promises to find ways to rescue us, to encourage us and lift us up, even in the most bound and direst of circumstances. God and all the surrounding angels and powers are present as we are faithful servant of love and forgiveness.
Today, as we face tasks, monumental and tedious, heart-breaking and joyous - whatever is before us - may we remember how ready God is to stand with us and free us from our chains. May we ready our hearts to receive divine intervention, angel visitations and the touch of God's love in our lives. May we be faithful servants of God's loving embrace, bearers of divine forgiveness and welcome, so others may know the presence of the living God breaking through their bonds and chains.