Heaven on Earth

18 07 2013

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

They are words from the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC, and they’ve been pricking my conscience since I first read them several days ago. A little research has revealed that the quote is believed to have been written by – yes, a pastor! Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister in the mid-19th century, composed a sermon on racial injustice that would foreshadow this nation’s 4 year civil war; and he included this phrase to motivate his listeners to action, and to keep them from giving up.

I’ve also discovered that this is one of President Barak Obama’s favorite quotes; and whether you support him or not, I believe this quote is an accurate reflection of his theology . . . as it is of mine!

I like Parker’s sentiments because of all that it implies about Jesus’ words that the kingdom of God is ‘at hand.’ The quote serves as a reminder that while at times . . . the wrong seems oft so strong . . . God is working God’s purposes out in creation. The Holy Spirit is still moving over the face of the earth, guiding and directing all that is toward that day when “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The words admonish and inspire me to stop waiting for life on the other side of eternity, and to make sure that I’m working on THIS side!

You see, for too long, the church has been preoccupied with . . . life on the other side. We’ve been so focused on heaven – a place we go when we die, where streets are paved with gold, where we’ll finally be reunited with all of our loved ones who have passed on, and where there really will be a mansion with our name on the front door – that we’ve neglected life here, in this world.

Rob Bell, in his book “Love Wins”, puts it best – “When we talk about heaven . . . it’s important that we begin with the categories and claims that people were familiar with in Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. (And) they did NOT (emphasis mine!) talk about the future as somewhere else, because they anticipated a coming day when the world would be restored, renewed, and redeemed and there would be peace on earth.”

Further, when asked about ‘eternal life,’ Jesus takes a question about ‘then’ and makes it about the kind of life that is being lived now! Why? Because his desire was the earth and heaven become one. His desire was that God’s will be done just as it is in heaven. His desire was, and still is, that whatever we believe about the future, would determine how we live in the present!

Friends, as we struggle with injustice, racism, homophobia, and countless other issues that lead many in the faith community to conclude that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, let’s all remember whose world this is. Remember that while the moral arc of the universe is indeed long, and hard, and while it may at times may appear to be bending in the wrong direction, it still leads to the heart of God. Good and Godly people are everywhere. And one day, justice WILL win.

So let’s keep working for the sake of the Gospel. Let’s continue to live into the kingdom that is at hand. Let’s do what all those bumper stickers tells us to do . . . to stop being so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good . . . to be the change we long to see.

Actually, let’s just . . . BE THE CHURCH . . . for Christ’s sake!

Let’s just BE . . . the Church; and make heaven on earth, a reality for everyone!


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