The Lamb is leading us on an exodus out of the heart of empire, out of the heart of addiction to violence, greed, fear, an unjust lifestyle or whatever holds each of us most captive. It is an exodus we can experience each day. Tenderly, gently, the Lamb is guiding us to pastures of life and healing beside God’s river. — Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation
In this world we’re just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby, I was afraid before
But I’m not afraid anymore
Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth
— Ellen Shipley/Richard W. Nowels
Preachers are often told they should stay out of politics, that religion and politics are two different things altogether. That’s because people rightly feel preachers shouldn’t tell you which party to vote for. Yet as the first ever NSW and ACT General Secretary Rev. Frank Butler once said, saying ‘these things matter’ should not be confused with ‘saying vote for politician x’.
Yet from time to time, we must comment on the political life of our country. How do I know that? The Bible tells me so. It tells me in quite a few places; one is the Book of Revelation.
John the Visionary sees
the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.… I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.’
In his vision, John sees heaven coming down to earth. Of course it does! In his own model prayer, Jesus tells us to pray along these lines:
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven…
Is seems that earth is the business of heaven, that heaven wants to be on earth. Or does the joy of heaven spill over to the earth?
And where is heaven anyway? The ancients thought it was just above the sky, which was bounded by a dome over the earth. So God was ‘up there’, while we are down here.
Today, we know differently. The universe is vast, vaster than we can imagine. Einstein once said that he knew of only two things that were infinite: the universe, and human stupidity. But he wasn’t sure about the universe…
Michael Battle, an African-American theologian, says:
My simple definition of heaven is this: where God is present. After all, heaven is God’s abode—where God hangs out. Should we desire heaven on earth? Yes, we should desire to hang out with God.
Heaven can be on earth. (I’ve had Belinda Carlisle’s 1987 song ‘(Ooh) Heaven is a place on earth’ as an ear worm all week. If you’re the right vintage, I may have given you the same ear worm. My apologies if so.)
Heaven can be on earth—but so often it isn’t. The earth is good, it’s beautiful, but it’s scarred. Now more than ever. So we hear of riding sea levels, and Pacific nations vanishing. We have a United Nations report that warns of a million species at risk, and whole ecosystems collapsing.