HEAVEN HERE. HEAVEN NOW.
We are all traveling somewhere. Traveling home from work. From Work. To the mountains. Away from the mountains. To a restaurant. Or leaving a restaurant. Life is a series of arrivals and departures. The days are the gates we go through to get there. It started in a garden with two fabled
characters. We know them as Adam and Eve. Adam was brown haired and had a six-pack. Eve was dirty-blonde and had a knack for eating
fruit. Well, at least that’s what we’ve been told.
We have this idea that life is about coming and going. Arriving and leaving. Since we have arrived here on earth we have been waiting to get out of here. We have been pining away for the red light to turn green. For the seatbelt sign to turn off to inform us that the plane has stopped taxying and we can finally go. Yet, this pervasive language that has writhed its way into our culture and language has left a scar we can no longer see.
The world is in pain. Eleven year old girls in Nigeria have sex so their families can buy groceries. Eight year old boys in Pakistan work in factories that make button-down shirts that find their way into our name brand stores. Some coffee farmers don’t even make enough to afford bread for the family. They end up eating coffee beans to stay alive. Which may stop cancer but also creates bloated helpless babies who can’t even cry, because their bodies are so dried up inside. And we as Christ-followers want to get out of here?
Jesus believes we have what it takes to stop this. A Rabbi was once asked, ” If God is so good then why is there so much evil in the world?” The Rabbi stopped and pondered the question for a moment and then proceeded to answer with a smile. He said: “God’s answer to this question is the creation of man.” If we unknowingly promote a mentality where we always want to get out of here and God created us to be here, then what are we saying about God? What are we saying about the world, and even ourselves? God believes that we can stop pervasive evil.
God believes we that our actions can heal. This is the presupposition in the story of the Good Samaritan. It teaches us that hidden in our acts of compassion is the ability to save one another. To bring hope. To bring peace. To redeem. To restore. To bring light into dark circumstances. But, if we are expending ourselves in evacuation theology then the only one who benefits is the one who is getting out of here. Yet, all over scripture is this idea that we are responsible to and for the “other” who is need.
There was a traveling speaker in the first century who used metaphors in most of his writing. In one of his letters, he is talking with a group of people who just can’t seem to get their act together and uses a word picture of a body to share the importance of our need for one another. And how if we do choose to work together, we can change the world. This isn’t a language of arrogance, but an idealogy of empowerment by the very being the created us. When Jesus says that he gives us his peace, the word for give in the Hebrew is bara. It means to create. It echoes back to Genesis 1 where God is creating. What Jesus is basically saying is that all of us have what it takes to go and create peace where is none. This is the same word that Moses uses in his description of God creating something out of nothing. And trust me, there are a lot of places where there seems to be no peace, no love, no grace and no redemption.
And so Jesus invites us to go into these place and create peace. Create love. Create grace and manifest redemption out of nothing. God believes that we are capable of this. But, to do this, we have stick around We have to be willing to make heaven come here. We have to stay and be with those who are living in hell on earth and create heaven where there seems to be none. This is what it means to experience heaven on earth. In fact, in the book of Revelation the author says that a City (our idea of heaven) comes here. God dwells with man, like in the Garden. He comes here to be with us. And He invites us to be there for others. So, what will it take for you to be here. To be here now.