Monday, May 28, 2012

wired for heaven

Seeing that we don't really have a Sunday School option for our children right now, we've taken to reading and discussing a Bible story with them on Sunday evenings before bedtime preparations.  This week, Moses--whose insights we've chronicled before--had some things to share about "heaven."  

We were reading the short parables of Jesus in Matthew 13:44-46, which I have taught in other settings.  Both illustrations begin with the line, "The kingdom of heaven is like . . .."  Fixing on the word, "heaven", Moses inquired how it is that a person goes to heaven after they're buried.  That isn't really where we had intended to go with the parables, seeking rather to see "the kingdom of heaven" in its broadest terms as that which Jesus inaugurated already in his earthly ministry and which will extend for eternity.  We did indeed talk about the present reality of the kingdom, but Moses' interest demanded attention to the kingdom's future and personal dimensions as well.

I said that, because none of us have yet died, we don't really know what life is like beyond death.  Moses countered with stories we ourselves had told him--stories we didn't know he remembered.  "Some people have died and come back to life," he said.

"Yes", said Anna, "you mean like Jesus?"

"And [one friend who had had a near death experience].  And Tata Gumenke."

Indeed he was right.  Both of Moses's examples were of people who had ceased breathing for a period and come back to life.  And both persons had visions of God in their respective times of dying.

I don't recall ever teaching Moses about heaven as the abode of the righteous dead.  Yet he has absorbed that understanding of the word; it is the first meaning that comes to his mind when he hears "heaven."

For many Christians, post-death life is the goal of the gospel and itself the good news.  For Christians who have reacted against that understanding because it seems to ignore quality-of-life and justice issues from birth to death, the afterlife has perhaps virtually disappeared from Christian proclamation.  Moses's innocent curiosity and right remembering reminded me that the good news is for this life and the next.


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