Longing for Heaven
December 21, 2010 § 2 Comments
For those that attend our church, they know that the last words I speak on Sundays, at the end of every message, are, ‘And that’s the Gospel…’ It isn’t intended to be trite – It is spoken with conviction and joy – And it is offered with the belief that whatever is true to the Good News, is the Gospel in some form or another – a message to be constantly rediscovered and then once again embraced in all of life.
Needless to say, the phrase has its own cultic following among our people in the way that my Benediction (actually Jude’s) does. From time to time I’ll momentarily forget the words to that blessing (that’s what ‘Benediction’ means), only to hear some young person in attendance fill in my blanks. I like that.
Back to that phrase – I was once stopped on a road by a Member that rolled down his car window and wave me to his side, only to say, ‘And that’s the Gospel,’ which of course brought great joy to my heart.
Recently, our pianist, a brilliant computer mind and an even more amazing musician, e-mailed me during this year’s first significant snowfall. His message incorporated my documented (translation: neurotic, obsessive, abnormal and psychotic) love for snow with that now well-known phrase. So his note went like this:
On the message line he put, ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ and in the content of the e-mail he wrote, ‘…and that’s the gospel.’
Naturally I laughed, but the more I thought about his words, the more I loved them. Beauty and Restoration go together in the scriptures. We speak in terms of a ‘new heavens and new earth,’ which is the promise of something far more lovely than can be described in our limited world. We experience moments – a moment of joy – a moment’s exhilaration – a moment of ecstasy at a ball game, with an accomplishment, in the marriage bed – an incredible meal – a breathtaking view – a glimpse of the future as we look at our children – a taste of peace in a Christmas Eve service. Sometimes these moments keep us going.
But we long for more – Paul offers that for now, though we look through ‘a glass darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13) – there is more to come. That longing is deeper than a moment. And those moments, lovely as they are, never quite satisfy those that know how unfinished they actually are. But they serve as hints – as promises – that one day in the new heavens and the new earth, what frail humans can only take in small doses in a fallen world, we will enjoy in eternity.
Conversely, because of Jesus and the promise of heaven, those painful moments are only that – moments. Paul calls them ‘light and momentary afflictions’ (2 Corinthians 4), and they too serve a purpose. Not only do they draw us into deeper dependence on Christ, and then subsequently deepen our character – they also announce to our spirits that no moment can overtake the eternal power of the Gospel.
Christians are famous for getting it all backwards, and many are often guilty of turning joyfulness into gloom, almost as though joy and spirituality can’t coexist. I try to avoid such thinking – it gives me indigestion (okay, I confess, that’s a nice way of saying that ‘I try to avoid such people’). Because that isn’t the story of Jesus. His sorrow is our joy. His death is our life. His resurrection is our hope. And His birth is the promise of something better. We long for more because we were created for more – and one day it will all be ours in heaven.
And that’s the Gospel.