Good morning! Last week I asked you to “practice heaven.” How’s it going?
I believe heaven is a place where we are fully immersed in God’s love. So that’s what I have been practicing. I am assuming heaven is all around and I just have to open myself to it. It has been interesting.
Some heaven is completely obvious. Vacation Bible school is happening at the church this week and that’s heaven all around with 54 children filling our halls. We have dozens of faithful helpers, among them teenagers who dote on the kids and are clearly rock stars in the children’s eyes. VBS begins each night following Kathy’s lead with song and dance and dancing has been amazingly fun. I am sure there is dancing in heaven. Supper has been heavenly, too.
Some heaven is more subtle. Since I am “practicing” that I am immersed in God’s love, I assume every person I encounter must be too. And honestly, sometimes I have to squint to see heaven in others. There is this age-old question about who we will meet in heaven. I once belonged to a bible study where that topic came up for debate every so often. Someone would offer the name of notorious villain—the Unabomber, Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and we would debate what their chances were of being welcomed into heaven. One day it occurred to us that people who judge who gets into heaven are probably jeopardizing their own possibility of going to heaven. We ended the debates.
So this week as I practice, I am assuming heaven citizenship in every one I meet. It has opened some doors.
And heaven is also demanding. I think we tend to think of heaven as this perfect place that suits our taste and sensibility, the next room over only with better decorating. The more I practice heaven the less I believe that. Heaven is the fullness of God’s love, not our preferred eternal vacation destination.
God’s love means justice, and human dignity and compassion. It means clean water and nourishing food and shelter. It means respect for the least. It means relinquishing the abundance that I have so that others can have enough. It means sacrifice and sticking my neck out and speaking up for others. Heaven beyond a place designed just for me. Heaven beyond my narrow view of heaven. More than I could ever imagine. Better.
In the last week, God has shown me things that are not heavenly. Things like hunger and poor housing and discrimination. God has not only shown me these things, God has me wondering how these things might become more heaven-like and what I role I have in making that happen.
A pastor I once had said, “If you don’t see God in this life, you won’t see God in the next.” Maybe that is true of heaven too. If we don’t live heaven in this life, and offer it to others, we won’t arrive in heaven in the next.
So I am practicing heaven. I hope you are too.
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Ave
West Des Moines Iowa 50265
We worship at 8:30 and 11 and we would love to worship with you!
This week at WDMUMC
Our sermon series, KidTalk, what children can teach us about God and faith and church, continues. Our intern Rachel Hollingsworth will preach about what life is like for a 21-year-old disciple. I will be there too and I am excited to hear what she has to say.
Vacation Bible School ends tonight. Many thanks to all who have taught and lead. You ROCK!
And if you haven’t signed up to serve at our food booth at the Iowa State Fair, please do! Simply go to our website, wdmumc.org and sign up. We need you at the fair!