Heaven

There’s this song by Brett Dennen that I’ve loved for some time now. I think I heard it on my way to work one Sunday afternoon. It’s one of those songs that sneaks up on you after some time. Don’t get me wrong. Initially, I really liked it. It isn’t that it had to grow on me. Just that I’ve been stewing in its meaning and personal application for awhile now and I was finally able to put into words some of what this song reveals about my faith and how it’s practice affects the general perception of what we currently call Christianity.

I don’t believe everything I say.

I’m not trying to deceive but rather I’m trying to find an answer I can believe in. Often, it’s a way to invite others into the conversation. And frequently, where truth works itself out in community, perceptions can be challenged and tested and the fringes can be shaved down leaving the integrity of the woven fabrics of belief intact. This is kinda how it works with the music I listen to also. I don’t believe or agree with every lyric of a particular song, but I can’t ignore the truth mixed in because of the points on which I disagree.

Truth can be found by eyes of discernment even when masked by the trappings of modernism.

We have so distorted the hope of heaven that most people don’t really want to go there when they die. Most people believe heaven to be a very boring place – flying around in a sheet, playing a little harp doesn’t sound exciting to me either. We define horrific or challenging events as “hell on earth” but we don’t seem to ever use “heaven on earth” to describe anything. Maybe because we believe the good of this life is better than the best heaven has to offer. Maybe because we don’t know how good heaven really is.

Maybe because we hope that heaven is nothing like what we’ve been told.

Either way, we need a better insight into what Jesus and the ancients thought was so remarkable about heaven.

Many people hold that heaven is simply a state of mind or being. Many believe that it’s a mystical (almost mythical) location above and beyond the realms of this planet. But what hope does any of this offer those who are willing to give everything to model the life of Jesus, even to death?

Clouds?

Harps?

No, thank you.

Tasteless,

senseless,

meaningless afterlife?

This is not the imagery that Jesus uses. This is not the hope the Hebrews have for the reconciliation of God to Man at the end of all things…

…is it?

There are two stories that are strikingly similar though they were written thousands of years apart. One opens the Story and the other concludes it.

In the first part of the story, there is a tree in the middle of a small, remote village.

This tree gives life to everything it touches.

At the end of the story, the village has grown into a major city but that old tree is still there, just as strong and just as alive as it ever was,

passing down life to everything that lives and healing to every nation.

There’s a tree in the middle of the Story also. This tree, however is stained with death and decay.

This tree bears the fading Seed of the hope of freedom.

The Seed, buried in the ground and then made alive again to produce in humanity the fruit of the redemption of all things. The book of Hebrews in the Bible tells us that we get a glimpse of the light of heaven, a taste of its delicacies when we participate in the Work of God on the earth. Early in the book of Ephesians we hear that the goal of Christ’s sacrifice all along was to bring heaven and earth closer together, no longer divided by the gulf of our indiscretions. The love and presence of God and the unending provision He supplies no longer limited, rationed or withheld.

The enslaved,

given freedom.

The hungry,

fed.

The missing,

located and rescued.

We are responsible for translating this freedom to those around us. To avoid and prevent hoarding the news of our rescue.

Our ancestors were evicted from the village in the beginning because of this attitude. And yet somehow, by the end of the Book, the gates to the city are wide open and her citizens move about in the freedom originally initiated by our Creator.

This is heaven.

Freedom.

No longer bound by rules we cannot keep. This new freedom is ruled by love and respect. Love of self and neighbor, providing for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant,

faithful to the love and action of God.

We have it within each of us to unite heaven and earth because Christ in us has already done the Work.

If heaven has no room for those without a bed it is tyranny.
If it offers no hope for the hopeless it is a lie.
If it refuses the dignity of life it is a prison camp.

Heaven extends beyond era, class and human existence. It has always been with us and will be ours when we’re gone.

It is found in the work of reconciliation both here in our hands and beyond our reach.

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