If you follow the Lectionary Based Readings for Services on Sundays, you’ll notice we’ve been reading from the 14th chapter of Matthew where Jesus uses parables to explain the Kingdom of Heaven. We’ve heard six parables in the past two weeks: 1) the wheat and weeds; 2) the mustard seed; 3) yeast in the wheat flower; 4) treasure buried in a field 5) merchant finding the pearl of great price; and 6) fish of every kind found in the sea.
When I reflect on these readings, I picture Jesus struggling for the right words, because, as our tradition tells us, no matter how we describe the awesomeness of Heaven, we will fall short. There is no vocabulary to describe the amazement or awesomeness (and those words are inaccurate) of Heaven!
Tradition tells us in Heaven angels and the saints sing the praises of God “Hosanna in the Highest.” Or, Heaven is an eternal banquet with the Son at the Father’s right hand. Most of us know many people who have died. As Christians, we are preparing to be with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, where is this place called Heaven? What is it like? And, what are we expecting when we arrive?
Through prayer, reading scriptures, listening to great theologians, I have had different answers to these questions. I thought my first answer to these questions fell short so I kept praying and searching. My simple mind came to another place: for the diabetic, heaven is God’s hospitality committee welcoming the individual with an amazing bowl of ice cream with all of the toppings all the while singing the praises of God. For the person in a wheelchair, God’s welcoming committee is taking the person on an adventure walk through the most breathtaking scenery anyone has ever experienced all the while singing the praises of God. Whatever is missing will be restored to beyond completion and our hearts of gratitude explode singing the praises of God.
Through continued prayer, this is not where I am now, but I leave it here so you can spend some time asking the Lord to describe Heaven to you in a way that makes the most sense right now. It is good to pray about when we may feel we are in a world that seems so distant from Heaven right now … which leads me to my second thought on Matthew Chapter 14. Reread the parables and you will see in all of those parables something must be ended/gotten rid of so that something greater may happen.
How are we ridding ourselves of everything that does not lead us to the Kingdom of Heaven? Sure, following the Ten Commandments is a good start, but that’s it, just a good start. And, not just as the commandments are written, but everything each commandment entails. For example, I look at the fifth commandment and say, “Nope, haven’t killed anyone today. Let’s move onto the sixth commandment.” Hold up! Have I injured or wounded someone’s name or reputation by what I posted on a social media site? Have I watched in judgment, not of the action, but of the person, as I digest what the newsreel is feeding me today? Did I uphold their dignity, even if maybe they haven’t, as a fellow created Son or Daughter of the Father?
Now, as I look at the Ten Commandments in their totality of meaning, I must go beyond to rid myself of everything that doesn’t point me to the kingdom. For example, I want, let’s say, 10 houses. God desires for me to use some of his treasures He has entrusted to me to allow His other children to have decent housing. I want to be in six social clubs and play on three sports teams. God desires for me to spend time at Open Door, the Embassy and on another church committee. He desires for us to bring the kingdom of Heaven just a little closer to those around us by the way we spend our time and use our talents and treasure … all of which is His and has given to us for a purpose.
Being with him in the kingdom should be a natural progression of the life we live here; not a surprise or something completely different. We cooperate with His grace to show us how to live this life being for and serving others and one day, please God, be with him in Heaven.