At this year’s Memorial Service, guest preacher Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi invited New England United Methodists to listen to the angels.
In his introduction, Bishop Devadhar called Bishop Moore-Koikoi, who was elected in 2016, “an acknowledged leader on the Council of Bishops and an inspirational preacher.” Bishop Moore-Koikoi serves the Western Pennsylvania Conference.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi, whose flights were delayed by storms, admitted to being tired as she preached on Thursday morning, but her feelings were more than physical fatigue.
“I’ve been so sad and depressed and tired about what’s going on in the Church, I haven’t even wanted to get out of bed. When you’re feeling that way and
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when on top of that a loved one dies, it makes that sense even worse,” she said.
She spoke about the recent death of a mentor, Bruce Franklin Haskins, who had been ill for some time with heart disease. Even though she knew this, his death still came as a shock.
“It doesn’t matter when death comes, it still tears your heart in pieces,” she said. “And it can just make you tired.”
But the bishop offered “a word for the people’s pain,” and spoke of her belief in angels.
As a child, she often listened to “Fourteen Angels” from Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera “Hansel and Gretel.”
I developed a strong theology that includes angels,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said, adding that her belief persisted even when others called it primitive.
“For me, angels are a significant part of the way God operates in the world,” she said. “I believe God dispatches angels on our behalf to protect us, defend us, encourage us.”
“Can you hear the cloud? It’s a whole great cloud of angels, and they’re whispering on our behalf,” she said. The voices of those being remembered this day were likely among those whispers, the bishop said.
Then she spoke of hearing a lecture by David Wilkinson, a British theologian and astrophysicist. He talked about the concept of quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement is defined, the bishop said, as “a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles
are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state
of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance—instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole.”
“Here’s what it means,” she said. “Once you’re joined together, you can’t ever separate.”
“It doesn’t matter when they make the transition or how far they go, … they are still in relationship with us. When we are in pain, they are in pain. When we rejoice, they rejoice. We are all connected together; we are entangled by the Spirit of God, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
But those saints who have gone before us are not yet “where God wants them to be,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said, because they still feel our pain.
“They’re waiting for us to get where they are so they will feel no pain no more,” she said.
And when that happens, she said, it will put an end to racism, sexism, violence against young black men, and the despair of youth with no hope.
“None of us will be tired anymore,” said Bishop Moore-Koikoi. “We’ll all be together perfectly with God. It’s going to come, and it’s going to come real soon, but until that time, listen for the angels.”
from Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera "Hansel and Gretel"
When at night I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels watch do keep,
Two my head are guarding,
Two my feet are guiding;
Two upon my right hand,
Two upon my left hand.
Two who warmly cover
Two who o'er me hover,
Two to whom 'tis given
To guide my steps to heaven.
Sleeping sofly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me,
Whisp'ring they have found me;
Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,
Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.
God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me.
Read the text of Bishop Moore-Koikoi's sermon as originally written