28.10.10

Glimpsing for Heaven--What do you see?


Status update says, “Just saw the awesome trailer for…” and I start to rush over to Apple Trailers to see it too. Why? Because it must be important, right? Right? So I stop myself mid-Google and stare at the half-typed search words. Who am I kidding? I don’t care. I really don’t. I don’t care who the American Idol is this week, or what Brittney Spears was caught saying, or what Barak Obama swears to now, or which Taylor Swift song just showed up on YouTube. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about what app will now let Mafia War ratings cross over into Farmville for a bit of Cow on Horse violence.

Not to be too harsh—maybe, maybe these are really important things. For the sake of argument, let’s assume they are. So they are important, and lots of people are Googling and ogling over the pictures and sounds and tweets of people real and imagined. Looking around the bakery where I’m sitting—it sure seems that way. Of the patrons whose screens are facing me, only one has a non-Facebook-Google-email window open. All the rest franticly sip the overnight gossip with their side of morning coffee while crumbs of irrelevance and bagels fall from their fingers. Oh that one poor sap—the guy slaving over the spreadsheet—is missing out.

Then again, I guess I am too. I’m thinking that heaven will be like a memory fest where Jesus gets to sit down and tell the entirety of history starting with, “A long time ago, in the universe I created…” But this story is not like the kindergarten class—where stern faced teachers remind children not to shout out parts of the story even if they’ve heard it before. In this telling, we’re supposed to interrupt.

Jesus says, “So then I was talking with Cain and told him how sad I was by the emptiness of his sacrifices…” and Abel shouts out, “I was there. I saw that. That was the day when the wheat was high in the field and a flock of geese flew past my brother and me as we were walking out in the field.”

Only it won’t be just the “important” stuff—births and deaths and murders and victories, wars and rumors of wars. He’ll say, “And then on October 28th, 2010, I sent a flock of birds flying over Des Peres Missouri while the leaves were changing colors right in front of anybody willing to watch....” And the audience is silent. Nobody saw it. Nobody but God. That unique flock of birds, moving in just that unique way that—if you watched long enough from the right angle—spelled “Roll Tide” or “Hello friend.” These incredible images of life are the eternal currency of heaven—memories of fleeting glory, like momentary glimpses over the shoulder of God as he conducts the orchestra of history.

Okay—so the Taylor Swift Farmville Wars search is important. And somebody will be called on to shout out the memory of that event during the telling and retelling of the ancient tale of God brining redemption to all creation. But how many other details go unnoticed because we are so busy living our lives through other people? Heaven isn’t like the Thanksgiving table—where too-oft repeated details of mark and memory cause the audience to groan and eye-roll with the “not again.” Captive, we’ll all sit with unblinking attention, gasping with awe-filled amazement at the facets of redemption carried from this life into the next through the vehicle of memory.

But I’m thinking someone will need to fill in the detail of the perfect Fall tree on Burgundy Lane that—on October 28, 2010—was bare on top, red in the middle, yellow below that and green at the bottom. A tree that, like the whole of all the seasons of a year, captured for a moment everything in the morning light of a sun that was filtered dreamlike by thin sheets of mist. In fact, I’m banking on it, and turn my eyes to that glory of eternity that, like Christ himself once did, somehow found itself as part of the unfolding story of redemption. In turning, I’m missing something else—I’m sure. But one can only see one thing at a time.

Jesus says, “…and then I made the light fall just so and it landed…” and he welcomes my interruption as I stand amongst the redeemed throng of the sheep and say, “I saw that.”

The crowd leans forward in awe. Christ laughs. And the unfolding retelling goes on.

What will you see today?

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