God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 26 August 2015; Luke 21:1-14, 17:20-21; Heaven, continued
Scriptures for Sunday: Matthew 22:1-14. You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 and ESV
Supporting scriptures: Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 17:20-21. You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 and ESV
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” Parables of Jesus that start with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….”: NIV2010
Hymns for this Sunday:
UMH 723 – Shall We Gather At The River
UMH 174 – His Name is Wonderful
UMH 66 – Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
(use melody 220, all 4 stanzas)
We are in the middle of the series of messages titled The Basics of Faith. The reason I think it is important to revisit these concepts is because our church does not live in isolation. All of us have complex and nuanced reasons for why we have faith and how we live our faith and devotion to God. Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world, we tend to focus our attention on the things that distract us [take our attention away] from God. As a result we are no longer challenged to think about our faith and our place in God’s creation. We have faith, we just don’t think about it much. Instead, we try to fit our infinite God into our finite brains. We lost our ability to articulate our faith in a way that is meaningful and understandable to those who were not raised in the pews. That is one of many reasons why there is a disconnect between the Church and the world that we live in.
Last week we talked about Kingdom of Heaven which happens to be one of the major themes in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus spoke often about the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life during his earthly ministry.
When we talk of Heaven, most often I hear about the Pearly Gates and the Streets of Gold. That understanding is based on a description from the Book of Revelation, chapter 21 (around verses 15-21). It appears only ONCE in the Bible.
By contrast, the Bible records Jesus describing the Kingdom of Heaven using common, insignificant and unremarkable objects and events (parables about the Kingdom of Heaven are found in Matthew 13, Matthew 22 and Luke 13, John 5, John 11, John 22 to give a few of examples – “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” / ”In my Father’s house there are many rooms…”).
One of many parallels that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. Matthew records this parable in chapter 22:1-14. The parable opens with, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”
Another parable in which Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a feast is found in Luke 14:1-24. In verse 16 it is recorded that Jesus taught a parable that started as, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.”
Matthew records another parable of Jesus about ten young women waiting for their bridegroom in chapter 25:1-13. Five of them were not prepared and when the “wedding banquet” (see verse Matt 25:10) started, they were locked out. Again the metaphor that Jesus used is that of a “wedding banquet.”
The metaphor for heaven that Jesus often used is a feast or a party, particularly a wedding party: food, laughter, music, joy. That brings me to my last point.
There is a story of a man who talked to an angel and asked to see for himself the difference between Heaven and Hell. The angel took a man down to a room with two doors. One door was marked “Heaven,” the other door was marked “Hell.”
First the man was given a glimpse of Hell. It looked like a great dining hall. The hall was full of round tables, each piled high with the most delicious foods — meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, and desserts of all kinds! It smelled delicious.
People were seated around those round tables. Their bodies were thin, and their faces were skinny and creased with frustration, everybody looked malnourished. Each person held a very long spoon but their arms were splinted with wooden slats so that they could not bend their elbows to bring the food to their mouths. It was terrible to watch them suffer among all that abundance.
Next the man was given a glimpse of Heaven. The surprising part was that Heaven looked almost identical to Hell; it looked like a great dining hall. The hall was full of round tables, each piled high with the most delicious foods — meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, and desserts of all kinds! It smelled delicious.
People were seated around these round tables. There was laughter and people looked well fed and happy. Some were singing, telling jokes and the air was filled with the sounds of joy. Again each person held a very long spoon with their arms splinted with wooden slats so that they could not bend their elbows to bring the food to their mouths. The difference between Heaven and Hell was that the people in heaven had figured out how to use their long spoons to feed and to minister to each other, while the people in Hell were focusing on their own misery and misfortune.
Both Heaven and Hell are the places where the souls of the deceased dwell. People in Heaven welcome God in their midst. People in Heaven recognize and see God in each other (Image of God sermon). People in Hell do not welcome God in their midst, nor do they recognize God in each other, they focus on their own misery.
Knowing what the afterlife is like has an effect on our earthly lives, it changes how we live our lives, how we interact with each other, how we spread the Good News of Jesus, how we celebrate the presence of God among us, and what we do to usher the presence of the Holy Spirit among us.
Today in the reading from the Gospel of Luke we heard Jesus teach, “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). We also saw that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a feast that we will all share. When we sit down and break bread together Jesus happens. Think about that the next time we get together for a covered dish dinner.
Last year (July 30, 2014 to be exact), the Holy Father Francis published a short reflection with ten (10) rules for a happier life. Rule number nine is titled, “Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs.”
The Holy Father writes, “We can inspire others through witness so that one GROWS TOGETHER IN COMMUNICATING. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing” (Inqistr.com).
One of many ways to facilitate that kind of dialogue is gathering together to break bread. Jesus happens when we break bread together. We break bread together during the Holy Communion, and we break bread when we gather for special meals. We feed each other and in the process we allow God to nourish our souls. When was the last time that Jesus happened in your life?
Our hope, the Good News of our faith, is that there is indeed Heaven and that there is a way for us to spend Eternity with God. Our hope, the Good News of our faith, is that Heaven is in our midst and we are invited to be God’s spokespersons while we are still here on Earth. Our hope, the Good News of our faith, is that we are invited to work towards the Kingdom of Heaven in our communities, just like yeast works through the batch of dough. Our hope, the Good News of our faith is that we are challenged not only to feed, but also to be fed by others.
Inqistr.com. “Pope Francis Lists His 10 Tips For Happiness Drawn From Personal Experience. No 9. Will Pleasantly Shock You .” 01 08 2014. Inqistr. http://www.inquisitr.com/1384969/pope-francis-lists-his-10-tips-for-happiness-drawn-from-personal-experience-no-9-will-pleasantly-shock-you/. 09 07 2015