Sunday, November 07, 2010


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!


Joyce said...

My husband and I were interested in this presentation we read recently to our children in our nightly Bible story. We had always assumed that Samuel was indeed talking to Saul, but we were probably wrong. The following makes a lot of sense.

From The Bible Story by Arthur Maxwell (copyright 1955 by Herald and Review Publishing):

“….In those days a woman who claimed to be able to talk with the dead was called a witch, and because this claim was false, God had said that such people should not be allowed to live in the land….
“….”Bring me up Samuel,” Saul said.
“Of course she could do no such thing. God would not have let a wicked woman disturb His sleeping prophet. The figure she said she saw was not Samuel, but an evil spirit that looked like Samuel.
“As for Saul, he did not see Samuel. He just believed what the woman told him. Then thinking he was talking to Samuel, he said, “I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war with me, and God is departed from me,….therefore I have called thee…..”
“If Saul thought he was going to get some good advice or some encouraging word, he was mistaken. The voice that spoke to him, claiming to be Samuel, had nothing but evil tidings….

Hope this helps.

P.S. This is the second time I am typing this. The first time, the power went off just as I finished and I lost everything…

Catherine said...

I think the interpretation you give is a valid one. What gets me, though, is that what "Samuel" said was in accordance with what God had previously said. But, as my husband likes to say when I come up with these theological conundrums, "Would a God you can understand be worth your worship?" So, that's another mystery for me to ponder and read about. But it doesn't change the fact of Jesus and his work to save us - Thank God!!

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