June 17, 2011

A Little Slice Of Heaven

My Sister sent me this e-mail yesterday and I needed to share and comment;

A friend from work just came up to me after lunch and said:

"Soo... your brother.. he preaches about heaven and stuff right?"

"You should tell him, that you can find heaven in all sorts of different places, please tell him I found a little piece of heaven hiding in the Great Canadian bagel shop"

To this preacher/blogger this was just to good of an invitation to ignore. So why don't we talk about, 'Heaven and stuff'.
I do talk about heaven. Maybe not as often as this person thinks, or in the way I think they mean. In fact, I just might talk about heaven the way they suggested more often then they realize. 

Let me back up a little.

This person's comment about finding a little piece of heaven at the Great Canadian Bagel (a sandwich shop for those that don't know) is more profound than it may seem at first glance. They are saying that Heaven is not just 'out there' somewhere but that it is also here, in small hidden pieces. Also, presumably their desire for me to know that was likely an attempt to get me to pass that along to other people.

I couldn't agree more.

There are two basic streams of  thought when it comes to how Heaven and Earth intersect. One is that they are totally separate. Heaven is somewhere out there. It is good, perfect, and eternal and one day we'll get to go there. Earth by contrast is here, and for now we're sort of stuck with it. It is not very good, downright bad at times, evil at others but thankfully it is only temporal. Soon the earth will be wiped away which (at least for some) is for the best since the Earth is lousy and Heaven is better. In this stream of thought our job as Christians is twofold; first we are to show people here that they can pick up their ticket to heaven (salvation) and second we are to hold on for dear life (avoid sin) until our ride out of here arrives (our death or the return of Christ). 

A lot of people would agree with this stream of thought. But I think you have to cherry pick the bible to arrive at it. It ignores a lot of passages, and a number of overall themes.

When I searched for 'Heaven' images this was the funniest one that came up.
It is Bunny Heaven. Seems like a nice place.

The second stream of thought is that Heaven and Earth are not so separate, instead they overlap and God has been working towards bringing Heaven to Earth. I won't lie, I have been slowly converting to this point of view. N.T Wright is a large advocate for this point of view, and has been swaying me as I have been hearing him speak and reading his books. 

Finally, I can say that this view has clicked in place for me. When I survey the bible I find that it fits. It fits with a God who plans to walk in the garden with his creation. It fits with a God who makes covenants. It fits with the vision of Isaiah. It fits with the stories of restoration of creation found in Isaiah and in the Book Of Revelations. It fits with the incarnation of Jesus.

Now if this is true, if Heaven is coming to Earth instead of destroying and replacing Earth, our job changes pretty significantly. Instead of trying to survive this doomed existence, and convince others to join in, we are called to be incarnational.

It means that Heaven is both coming, and is already here. Which means that our job becomes highlighting and growing those pieces of Heaven.

We can point to the beauty we see around us as evidence of God's plan for us. Likewise we can highlight the peace we can feel on a lazy summer day, as a hint of the peace that is to come.

We can help foster loving communities in our churches, and extend Christ's love to our neighborhoods.  Likewise we can work to eliminate things like poverty, hunger and other injustices. Acts like these help us to grow pieces of Heaven.

Where do you stand. Are there little pieces of Heaven here on Earth like my sister's nameless co-worker and I think? Or are Heaven and Earth too far apart to imagine such nonsense? Are we just holding on till Jesus returns? Or are we trying to carve out pieces of the Kingdom of Heaven right now?