Sunday, August 19, 2007

What Will Heaven Be Like?

Here in this city in the Bible Belt, the local grocery stores often have tables near the registers with "inspirational" books for sale. Tonight this one caught my eye, What Will Heaven Be Like? The copy in the store had a sticker affixed to it that read, "Seven Common Myths Debunked!"
Since I needed to go home to feed my children, I didn't take the time to look into the pages of the book to see what those myths were, nor did I get to read just how Mr. Hartman became such an authority on heaven. Does he read the same Bible that I read? Because my Bible is quite vague on that topic.
This is the theological emphasis that is prevalent in my city; that the life hereafter is all that truly matters. The whole point, or at least the most important part, of faith is to get a fire insurance policy against going to hell. And the way to obtain this fire insurance is to say the magic words (the "sinner's" prayer) and *poof* you're a Christian.
I'm noticing this more now than I have in the four years we've lived here because I'm realizing that I have been wrapped in a liberal cocoon, surrounded mostly by Christians who, for the most part, think like me. Of course, at Presbytery meetings, I am around folks who have a different perspective, but I tend to stick to those who, again, are a lot like me. It feels safer that way in today's PC(USA.) Safe, but not very healthy.
In my new gig as a hospice chaplain, my job is to meet people where they are spiritually and minister to them in a language that is familiar and comforting. Considering the religious ethos of this metro area, most of my patients and their families have quite a different take on things than I do. But you know what? When I act and speak in a manner that seeks to reflect the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I find that in the sacred days before death, we are speaking the same language.
A daughter of one of my patients asked me the other day, "Are you born again?" Any other time I would have bristled, but at this moment I said, "If by that you are asking if Jesus Christ is my Savior and if I believe in the God of eternity, then the answer is 'yes.'" At another time and place, this answer may not have satisfied her, but in these sacred days as she walks this journey with her dying mother, she was comforted.
There are very real, very important and very painful issues that divide us as Christians. This is how it is and I believe I am called to work toward the goal of a church and a world that reflects the justice, peace and compassion of God; oftentimes in opposition to brothers and sisters in Christ whom I believe have it all wrong. And they I.
But I wonder...maybe I'm getting just a small glimpse of what heaven is like by walking these journeys with the dying and their families. That in the final analysis, our lives will come to an end and all that matters then is that we are precious children of a loving and merciful God.
Somehow, I doubt that Jack Hartman wrote about that in his book.
ETA: For some reason blogger will not let me put spaces between my paragraphs. Sorry of it's hard to read.

8 comments:

Serena said...

" ... in the final analysis, our lives will come to an end and all that matters then is that we are precious children of a loving and merciful God" Amen. (My Bible is "quite vague on the topic" of Heaven too!)

Nice reflection. This is why I love my current position as Pastor for Congregational Care also.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

well Jack joins several in our culture for whom gnosticism has it's appeal. that whole idea of 'having some sort of secret knowledge' and letting us in on it kinda thing... that stuff drives me nuts!!

anyhoo... glad you are finding ways to 'reframe' the born again thing into your own words.

Singing Owl said...

What hot cup lutheran said. Sad, isn't it, how these words and phrases take on a life and meaning totally apart from the original? I mean, Jesus said it, or more "born from above" and it has become something...else. I used to use the term all the time. No longer. Anyway, I am glad you are there, and I know God will use you for whatever time you remain. I'm just catching up on the medicaL posts. Glad mostly good news!

tngirl said...

Wow, Iris, you are starting to really 'grow where you are planted.' I'm so pleased that you are able to move into that sacred space of chaplaincy and call it, make it, your own. Peace to you!

revhipchick said...

wonderful post iris! beautiful.

Rev Kim said...

This is such a beautiful post. Thank you.

Towanda said...

i think you have it just right about experiencing a little bit of heaven. here in guatemala i have been mostly around folks whose theology is incredibly much more conservative than mine. hasn´t mattered a bit, because we just worry about loving each other...

Diane said...

my Bible is vague re: heaven too. people in the church get frustrated when I say, we actually don't know much...
this was not hard to read. it was poignant, deep and real.
thank you.