Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Of Heaven & Earth

I probably have a muddled view of heaven. I’m reading N.T. Wright’s 2008 book Surprised by Hope. The Bishop of Durham (UK) challenges us to be about Kingdom work here on earth while we await Christ’s return - to earth. The latter is a promise we don’t fully claim. We put it on the theological back burner preferring to think of heaven as a place of clouds, angels and harp music. Bishop Wright says we’ve got it wrong.

Yes, at death we will be with God...at peace...at rest...but it’s only a respite, something akin to a temporary sleep. Wright says we’ve lost sight of the bigger promise; that is, Christ will come again - here - somehow joining heaven and earth. Just like Jesus, our physical bodies will be resurrected and we will become citizens of a new creation. Our imperfect bodies and this imperfect planet will be perfected. No skipping around on the clouds. Wrap your mind around that. I’m trying…

Creator God,

I confess that heaven and earth seem very separate to me. The cliché fits: they are worlds apart.

…but that’s not your intention.

We give voice to your purpose when we pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

It’s our job to craft some heaven here on earth, to follow Micah’s lead: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8) Jesus, you point us toward our neighbors, the poor and hungry, the sick, the stranger, the prisoner. You insist on radical forgiveness.*

…and that’s preparation for your ultimate plan.

We give voice to the blueprint at communion: “Christ will come again.”

It’s hard to grasp. We seem fascinated by apocalypse while resisting the real promise of Revelation: I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone…“Look! I’m making everything new.”
(Revelation 21:3-5, The Message)

Lord Christ, put me to your purposes in the present. Make your home with me for eternity. Amen.

* - from Matthew 22:39, 25:35-40, 18:21-22
Illustration - William-Adolphe Bouguereau, French Painter, 1800s