Today (November 8th) is my birthday. And today, an article from Christian Century found me. It is an article about Heaven, and the need for heaven to be real.
I’ll link it here.
And Quote the last two paragraphs:
“Sometimes I wonder if the church’s witness is failing because we don’t know how to translate a theology of heaven for the times we live in. Our culture’s images of heaven are so saccharine, so sentimental, so boring. What would it be like to move beyond clouds, harps, and chubby baby angels? To hold out the possibility of actual peace, reconciliation, and abundance for all?
To affirm the truth of heaven is to fire our spiritual imaginations for this life. To remind us of why we endure. To resist the binaries of faith or action, hope or engagement, and to live richly into the paradox that the kingdom of God is both here and coming, both within us and beyond us. To insist that our desire to flourish is a God-given, holy desire rooted in the promise of a life to come.”
I don’t think about heaven a lot. I teach it in my classes, I preach it on occasion, but I don’t dwell on it. But yet, recently I’ve been think about it, and then this article found me.
The need for heaven, not as an escape (which I often worry is the goal) but as the sort of reality that pushes us to live into it now through a mix of spiritual practices and missional advocacy is what I long for. I know that for some heaven is a return to their idealized dream of their heritage, for others, it is a collective peace, and for others it is a space that they got right, but in the end, my hope is that these push people to have an imagination.
I’m not writing this is a “Heaven is For Real” manifesto, but, and I’ll teach this in my Bible study today, we believe in heaven so we can know why we endure.
I think this is why this painting speaks to me. It is “When I look Unto the Heavens” by an unknown artist who created it around 1920. Admittedly, I found this painting through Googling “Twentieth Century Heaven Art” and seeing what came up. Do you ever do that? Google a thing and art attached to it? It’s beautiful (and a little terrifying).
I don’t know who this person in the painting is, but I was struck by the amount of color in the night sky. It reminds me of the painting of Jesus praying in the garden that seems to hang somewhere in the Methodist churches of my imagination. There seems to be hints of green (at least in my reading of it). A green that reminds us that we can reach out to the heavens, because we are growing toward them.
I also see is someone searching. Someone who knows there is more. They know there is something beyond this present iteration of life and who wants to imagine what that looks like. They want to keep going. They want to live into the heaven they imagine, even as it’s changing.
I think that might be part of my vocation. To help people imagine heaven again, and to build that heaven now. A heaven, that even as we are building it, is changing, growing, and exploring.
I chose to believe, as I learned several years ago, that hope is a learned behavior and a belief that we are not done.
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