Be prepared: this post is going to just be a ramble of stuff that I’ve thought of in the last several hours. You’ve been warned.
So, I went to church this morning – Yippee! It helped that I got an extra hour of sleep. This morning was the Sunday this month for Communion. Honestly, I’ve tended to approach it as just one of the “things we do” in church. Whether or not I was there for Communion never really made much difference in my life. That’s changing, though. The more that I experience God’s grace, the more “reality” there is in Communion. No, I’m not going Catholic with transubstantiation or anything; the act of remembrance during Communion is more meaningful now than it has been in the past.
Our pastor preached on “What Happens After We Die?” today. Can I just say that our pastor is an amazing preacher?! We are so fortunate to have someone who really researches his topics and then is able to explain them quite well.
But, of course, I have an issue. Why? Why can’t I just listen and keep my “mouth” shut? I don’t know. (I feel like Pippin in “The Return of the King” when Merry says - “Why do you have to look, Pippin? Why do you always have to look?”) Our pastor (very correctly, I believe) said that not only does the Bible tell us to not go to spiritists or mediums, but that they are just fraudulent. Our souls don’t hang out here on Earth to talk to living humans after we die.
But . . . what about when Saul consults a medium and the spirit of Samuel talks to him? (I Samuel 28:3-24) In this case, Saul disguises himself and consults a medium, which he knows is forbidden by God. Apparently, though, Samuel himself does appear to Saul and pretty much tells Saul that his armies will be defeated because Saul has disobeyed God (in more ways than just consulting a medium). Was this a real visitation? Was it a one-time deal that God allowed? Was the medium herself being used by God and Samuel didn’t really appear? I have no idea. But, clearly, Saul was sinning simply by consulting the medium.
My favorite quote from today’s sermon is “The believer is as close to Hell as he will ever get while he’s on earth; the unbeliever is as close to Heaven as he will ever get while he’s on earth.” Very true.
During the sermon, I was reminded of Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. I’ve read The Inferno and part of The Paradiso. What came to my mind, though, is that Hell is immeasurably worse than Dante imagines (and Dante has quite the imagination) and Heaven is immeasurably better than Dante imagines.
The author whom I think does the best job of getting the “sense” of Heaven right is C.S. Lewis. (You aren’t surprised, are you?) The very end of The Last Battle in which Aslan encourages the characters to go “further up and further in” and the garden that is larger on the inside than on the outside are powerful descriptions. I also like his description in The Great Divorce of the area actually right around Heaven. (The premise of the book is that souls in Hell, which is just dull and gray, can get on a train to visit the outside of Heaven. I don’t think Lewis imagined this as reality, but as an analogy. The real point is that the souls of people who aren’t interested in or can’t handle the wonders of true love in Heaven are already living in Hell.) To Lewis, being near or in Heaven is like reality being more “real”. The grass is hard, like glass and the sun is brighter than normal, but the souls in Heaven don’t feel anything different because their bodies are also more “real”, yet a soul visiting from the train finds this “real reality” painful. Confusing? Yeah. Read the book. Lewis is a master of description.
I hope you enjoyed your worship time today!