I see my old friend Rev Dr Rab Mollan has written an interesting piece in Alf McCreary’s column in the Belfast Telegraph this week. In ‘A Question of Faith’ he seeks to answer the question: what is your idea of heaven?
Here’s a summary of his views: It’s a place of great peace, where I can worship God and admire what he has done, a place where I can ask ‘why’ to so many questions and have an answer, a place of great beauty, a place where the Father can be approached as if I were a child again, a place where I can sing endlessly, and so on.
Sounds wonderful, and I guess Rab wanted to portray heaven as something, not just to look forward to, but to enjoy in the here and now. For example, Jesus said: ‘If I cast out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you’. Now, we know that that’s exactly what Jesus did, so what he was really saying was, the Kingdom of God is here, and if the Kingdom of God is here then we can expect to enjoy days of heaven here on earth.
Is that too much to expect? No, I don’t think so, although given the antics of organised religion through the centuries there are many who were so focused on ‘pie in the sky when we die’ that they missed the beauty of the world around them in the present.
Look again at Rab’s list: a place of great peace. Didn’t Jesus say: ‘My peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled ...’? Therefore his peace is for now.
Next on the list: a place where I can worship God and admire what he has done. I have just returned from a business trip to Poland, and as I frequently do, in my down time I visited some of the beautiful old cathedrals. Now we can worship God anywhere and at any time, but sitting in the stillness of a building that has been saturated with the prayers and the worship of God’s people for centuries, I always find to be a most wonderful experience. There we can worship God, and there we can admire what he has done.
A place where I can ask ‘why’ and have an answer was the next one: I found a beautiful scripture recently that promises exactly that in the here and now: ‘Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come’ (Jeremiah 33:3).
However, the most amazing aspect of Rab’s heaven that is available today – a place where the Father can be approached as if I were a child again: I probably repeat myself when I tell you of a trip I made to Israel some years ago. I stood feet away from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the place was crowded and I saw a little boy getting separated from his father. The panic on his face was plain to see, and the father looked just as scared.
Suddenly their eyes met and the lad bounded towards his father, shouting in excitement, ‘Abba! Abba!’ Exactly the same Aramaic word that Jesus used to address his ‘Daddy’. That’s a picture of the intimate and loving relationship we can have with our Father, our Abba, today.
Days of heaven on earth? It can be so, it should be so and we don’t have to wait until the sweet bye and bye.
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