By Dan Carpenter in Thinking About Sunday on 7/17/11
Both guarantee and a question, looming before all of us, implacable and unavoidable, death is rather intrusive in it’s nature. Though nothing could be as natural, as intimately connected with life, it somehow sits outside us. Viewed by men time and again as an entity, an observer or a foe, death is I think a victim. A victim of our very human imaginations, of our deep seeded desire to understand the world around us, to know - insomuch as we can - the truth.
As a result, death becomes a test for us, for all of us. Not in the facing of it, not in how brave we might be or in how we deal with our mortality but in the manner that we perceive the mystery. A test of character - of restraint. A restraint in our desire to imagine, fantasize and speculate. To stay grounded, real, and connected with what we know - and what we don’t know.
On Sunday Tyrone spoke to us about the specifics of Heaven - of what we know and what we might expect. His intent was, I believe, to address the human needs raised by this mystery - to assist us by helping our creative and overly imaginative minds find peace within our future, in the thought of what we can define about our final destination. The definitions he provided allow us a ground to stand on, they bring peace to our contemplation of the mystery. These truths allow us to picture ourselves in that faraway tomorrow, surrounded and emerged within the very heart of creation - the picture of which is an utter mystery - and to know that the person standing there will indeed be the same one as you are now.
That’s a rather important piece of information.
And the chatter after the service demonstrated why. I heard all sorts of things - folks with insight and others with speculation and critique. Amid this chatter I found the message made most clear. And, surprisingly enough, it was the critics who did the job - running a commentary
of pet theories, pure fantasy, and direct critique of the message. A critique of how ‘mundane’ the information was, one fellow actually said, “Well, duh!”
Which was a moment of epiphany for me. I realized that in my own way i was doing the exact same thing. In hearing it so baldy from another I learned something important. None of it is “duh” - not even a little bit. Not at all. “Duh” and the few facts we have of the afterlife simply don’t belong in the same statement - they are worlds apart.
Few though they may be, the details Tyrone taught are what we know. Without them we’d have nothing. Nothing at all - only speculation and fantasy.
Which, considered like that, is a pretty remarkable thing.
Its a perspective that gives these details renewed meaning for me. All of the sudden it IS rather amazing to consider that we will, for sure, be embodied, have a voice, have community, and retain memory in heaven - details that previously I’d taken for a given are suddenly a revelation.
Because all of our assumptions about heaven are exactly that - assumptions. Everything we ‘know’ about heaven outside of the details provided in scripture are fantasy. Entirely.
Heaven, like our living faith, requires a bit of blind acceptance. A willingness to not know, to be patient, to not get lost in fantasy and most of all - to be careful with our assumptions. And heaven, also like our faith, is right in reward for those who can - our faith is living and loving proof of that. At the end of the day I don’t know much about heaven. Truly, though I try my best, I probably dont know much about God either - but I do know his presence in my life. Taking that knowledge of our connection to him as a taste of what will come, that’s clearly something worth waiting for - through all the hills and valleys, challenges and triumphs, of the life in front of us. We know what our destination is - it’s unavoidable. And thanks to scripture we know a few things about that as well - and in the meantime we get to know God now, a living reward here in this life - a loving presence and Father, and a taste of what is to come.