Glimpses of heaven
A few years ago we refurbished the sanctuary of Liberton Kirk, and one of the new features I have grown to love are the curtains for the two big windows at the front. These curtains, gold in colour, are drawn for the 11am service so that the screens can be lowered for the projectors, and, on a sunny day, you can still see where the curtains join together from the bright chink of sunlight down the middle of each screen. It warms my heart every time I see this, because I often imagine that heaven is separated from earth by a curtain, and that there are occasions when the wind of the Spirit blows, moving the curtain so that a glimpse of God’s glory bursts through.
A couple of week-ends ago we seemed to be mourning the loss of a number of well known figures who passed away quickly in turn. It began with the death of Mel Smith, the comedian, and he was followed in quick succession by Cliff Morgan, the Welsh rugby star, David Frost, the reporter, and David Jacobs, the music presenter. There is no doubt that world is a poorer place without them, but their deaths got me thinking about the names of some of the well known members of our church at Liberton, who we are also missing – names from the past month, like Betty Laurie and Derek Pape. The world, and the family of the church, is a poorer place without them too.
As well as fond memories, however, they have left behind something far more precious – hope. I often say, (usually at funerals), that the reason that I believe in heaven is because Jesus did, and that I think he knew what he was talking about. C.S Lewis suggests that glimpses of heaven are there for all to see…
Whenever we see true beauty there is an aching sensation of homesickness for something or somebody we have never had and never will have – the instinct for heaven. We live with it and it is our constant companion.
Jesus was also quite challenging when it came to who he would like to meet there. Listen to his words on the subject…
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10.32-3)
Notice how he is not talking here about how good we’ve been, or even how pious or religious we are. Rather, what seems to matter to Jesus is simply whether or not we have been faithful to him.
Something else I often say at funerals is that, if we don’t believe in God, our service can only be about the past, whereas, if we do, it can be about the future as well. In the past few weeks we have had the privilege of being involved in a number of services at Liberton, which have been as much about the future as about the past.
So thank you to the friends we have lost. Your farewells have not only been celebrations of the life of the faithful, they have also been occasions when I have felt the wind of the Spirit and the glow from the chink in that curtain.
And, finally, here’s a question to leave with you (and me). How will our lives be celebrated, and will those occasions only be about the past, or will they be about the future too?
With much love