FAQ . . . “Is this Heaven?”

Sinus surgery recovery got the upper hand this past week and writing was simply too hard on my weary head.  This was unfortunate since we were treated to a lively, personal, good and enlightening message for Network Missions weekend at GateWay and I wanted to comment.  Buhle Dlamini made me laugh and made me think as I watched the video on the website.  I am still thinking of what can be done to embrace diversity in our GateWay community.  His words (Buhle made this point a couple of times) – “we need not go to South Africa; we can do this here,” are compelling.  Interestingly, this weekend’s sermon on Heaven blends into my thoughts on diversity.

One of the sad aspects of my recovery is it literally hurts my head to read (I would love to be able to read right now) and to write.  And sadly TV viewing has little impact so I have watched a lot of TV.  The only other “activity” that gives me relief (even sleeping is a challenge) is to sit in my easy chair, eyes closed, thinking quietly or praying.  I wish I could tell you I have been a real prayer warrior but I must confess I have been a real couch potato.  I say all this to lead up to share with you I watched Field of Dreams last week.  This Kevin Costner movie about a man who plows up his cornfield to build a baseball diamond complete with lights, is virtually required viewing for baseball aficionados.  Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, hears a small, still, voice, repeating “Build it; He will come,” meaning create a baseball field.  Naturally, this drives him crazy and as the story unfolds, crazy as it is, he builds it.  Shoeless Joe Jackson magically appears on the field and eventually, his disgraced teammates from the 1919 White Sox World Series team materialize to play ball in the middle of a cornfield.  These deceased “Black Sox” players were banned from baseball for life for allegedly “fixing” the outcome of the World Series so playing again, even nearly 100 years later, is pure joy.  In a very poignant scene, Shoeless Joe comes up to Ray after a round of practice and asks, “Is this heaven?”  Ray replies, “No, this is Iowa.” So what will Heaven be like?

Pastor Ed reading the words of the Apostle John out of Revelations paints an amazing picture that I still have a difficult time grasping.  Winged creatures, lion, lamb, jeweled structures, gold everywhere is simply beyond my comprehension.  But there is one aspect of the Heavenly future I can readily understand.  Revelations 5:9 reads And they (the winged creatures and elders, etc) sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”  Every is a very comprehensive word and I have no doubt, God means every and not some.  The Heavenly future will include believers from all nations, all tribes, all languages and all people groups in unity singing praises to God Almighty. 

I have no doubt God intended diversity to be the default setting for His creation of the world.  I have no doubt I live in a diverse community and this community is one part of a very diverse world.  I have no doubt God's plan celebrates diversity.  I have no doubt about diversity because Revelation gives us a glimpse into Heaven and Heaven is completely diverse.  Pastor Rick Warren has often said our current life is practice for our time in Heaven.  Embracing and celebrating diversity now is our opportunity to practice what we will be living out in Heaven.  Our current political, social and cultural environment does not embrace diversity but is mired in division.  Our churches and our church history have been bastions of separation based upon diversity.  It is time that we understand diversity is not going away because God created us to be diverse.  To be in opposition to another based on color, language, appearance, race or ethnicity is to be in opposition to God.  I have no doubt, taking one step at a time, one relationship at a time, multiplied by one church at a time; we can help bridge the divide.  Who are you inviting to GateWay?  I hope one day soon our worship celebration will be filled with people reflecting the diversity of Heaven.

Shalom.

Alan Adler

5542 West Ashland Court, Visalia, CA, 93277