How often do you think of heaven? ‘In my Father’s house are many dwelling-places’ Our Lord says in today’s Gospel from John 14. ‘I go and prepare a place for you’.
When I think of heaven - and I’ve been doing a bit thanks to COVID 19 - I find thinking goes some way. Our reasoning powers can trace experiences of goodness, truth, beauty, holiness and love to find in them pointers to heaven. Suffering, strangely, builds on this reasoning, as does experience of the supernatural. My reasonable thought about heaven though needs the aid of the revelation of God provided in Jesus Christ. That aid is given us this morning in the promises of scripture, the fact we’re gathered despite COVID to celebrate the resurrection, and in the eucharist itself a foretaste of heaven.
Easter season is queen of church seasons on account of its heavenward focus. Even so every Sunday the Lord’s people gather on the Lord’s day round the Lord’s table - ‘This is the day that the Lord has made’, says the Psalmist, ‘let us rejoice and be glad in it. Alleluia!’ (Psalm 118:24)!
True to this holy season, though you can’t see my hands pointing today, I want to use words to point instead in summary of my book ‘Pointers to Heaven’ launched Thursday on Amazon with Bishop Martin’s blessing.
First of my ten pointers is goodness, and I see that in many here at St Richard’s. I think, if she or he is so good, what must perfect goodness be like for Hebrews 12:23 speaks of our being made perfect in heaven? Then as a former scientist who researched the truth of plastics I see the truth of matter’s design pointing to Mind existing before matter, the truth of God’s mind ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6) who’s placed discovery of heaven ahead of us.
Goodness, truth, beauty, holiness, love all five point us beyond this world. I wouldn’t be preaching this morning without encountering a holy priest when I was a young man. Something otherworldly about Fr Hooper reached into my soul drawing me to ordination through a strengthening of faith in ‘the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting’ (Apostles Creed).
Suffering, strangely, builds on reasoning so far. If there were no God or heaven suffering we bear or see daily on TV would be unconscionably dreadful in its meaninglessness. Alongside suffering, occasional experience of the supernatural points seventhly beyond this world. Throughout my life I’ve been blessed to experience answers to prayer, even the prayer ‘God if you’re there show yourself’. My prayer for St Richard’s as we approach Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit may anoint each and every one of us in answer to such a prayer - Come, Holy Spirit!
My last three pointers to heaven are scripture, the resurrection of Our Lord and worship. With a science background I’m familiar with testing theories by experiment. You can test God’s promises in the Bible like those for guidance, peace of mind or answered prayer. I can’t yet test his promise of future glory but I’m happy to extrapolate the curve on the ‘graph’ of God’s loving faithfulness from all the experimental data I’ve collected in my Christian life. Similarly though Christ’s resurrection goes beyond reason I am convinced of it as a reasonably evidenced historical event. Then the last revelation is what we are about in worship this morning, with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven. ‘The Lord’s people gather on the Lord’s day around the Lord’s table’, as preview of forthcoming attractions. Blest indeed we are called here to the supper of the Lamb anticipating heaven’s supper to be spread out for us at the fulfilment of all things!
Alleluia, Christ is risen - he is risen indeed, alleluia!