Wednesday, December 24, 2008

wide open

Please read Isaiah 29:13-14 and Revelation 21:9-25

There is an old Sci-fi short story about a crew that has landed on Mars. They are surprised to find that the air is breathable. They are shocked when a scout comes back to report that a town has been found. As the crew rushes to explore, they are even more amazed that the streets, the houses, the town are just like home back on earth. One by one, each astronaut finds a house that is populated by family from back home. Is it a mass delusion perpetrated by the Martians or is it heaven, since the family members are all those who have died?

For centuries, humans and especially believers, have struggled with the idea of life after death, of heaven. What would it look like, smell like, be like? For some, because of the descriptions in today's passage from Revelation, it is a wonderful, bejeweled city, with streets paved in gold, with beauty that can only be hinted at by John. For others, heaven will be that place where all pain is healed, all tears wiped away, all the broken people will be made whole, where someone like Teddy will become the person God intended before others and the world damaged him.

While I still remember the vivid dream I had as a teenager of heaven being that place where I was invited to step out of the crowd and lead the marching band from the movie 'The Music Man,' I now am hoping that I will find a great big library (with no due dates), a comfortable rocking chair, lots of pastries, and an unlimited supply of chocolates. I would guess each of us has that place, that person, that hope, that joy we will find when Jesus returns to take us home on the occasion of the Second Advent.

But amid all conversations about heaven being the place where only 'certain' folks will go; amid all the dogma about some being destined (pre- or not) for that other place (where one certainly will not find much to enjoy); in the midst of a culture that seems to be so wrapped up in who will be left behind that we cannot see those who are being left out right now, I notice one verse in particular in this passage.

"It's gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there."

If the gates of the new Jerusalem are never shut, then it seems to me that we are reminded, at the very end of Scripture, that God is going to make it possible for everyone to come home. And if there is no night, but only day, then aren't we being told that even those who have lived in the deepest shadows can find their way to God's heart and hopes for them?

We have become so convinced that we know what heaven will be like and just exactly who it is that God will let in there, we may be just like those folks who were so surprised, shocked, and amazed at the first Advent, when God showed up in a barn, surrounded by dirt and grime, being born as a little baby into a working class family who will soon be hunted by the authorities.

Maybe, just maybe, when it comes to heaven, life beyond death, and the second Advent, God will do exactly what he says through Isaiah - something so shocking and amazing we might not recognize it.

Prayer: In the quiet of this day and night, as we wait to celebrate the shocking way in which you came so long ago in Bethlehem, keep our hearts, our minds, our hopes open to the amazement which you still have in store for us, Approaching God. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

Stushie said...

Hi Thom, are you talking about the Martian Chronicles, or the Silver Locusts as it was originally called?

Have a Merry Christmas.