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Where is heaven, what is it like and how do we get there? Part 3

11 July 2010

God the Trinity
Who is the God who comes to us and with us, who brings heaven with God?
The full Bible answer is that God is not just a Being who sits above the heavens – or the sole creator of all things. God is the Father of the Son with the Holy Spirit. God lives, in and as community, and makes a story through God’s kind of time. God is not remote, not the mere origin, as the creator Father, but the one who as Father shares in the history on earth lived by the Son in fellowship with the Father. God, the whole one God, comes here and now, in the Son, who is God’s eternal Word become a real particular human being. In Jesus we see God, because God here translates God into the basic human language, (which, surprise! surprise! is not English) but is flesh and blood, one person with others, talking and doing, loving and suffering, living, dying and rising again, living in the world of human beings, with God the Father, without God. Jesus is God coming to us still, bringing God’s heaven to us, in God’s way. That may not fit our conventional pictures of heaven, but in the storms of life, Jesus comes, as Thompson saw: And lo! Christ walking on the waters, not of Gennesareth but Thames. Or the Aire.

With and from Father and Son comes Holy Spirit, the living outgoingness of God himself, who gets through to us, even in our blindness and deafness, who sets up the ladder from where we are to heaven, and sets the angels, the messengers going up and down. The question about God is not just who is God, but how God is with people and how can people be with God. That is why it is good that in the unity of God is the Holy Spirit, the unending, unwearying outgoing of God into all the world. This is God who does not leave us to figure out, as best we can, something in this murky world about heaven and how we get there. This is God goes on working with us on how we can live with God.

This God is not a God we can get to possess: we cannot go into any shop and buy it and say it is ours. Any religion which offers you God like this, is selling idols. This God takes time, time to live and work in our time, so we have to give God the time of our lives. God walks with us, so we walk with him. We have a lot to learn, to experiment and discover about how to walk with God, if we are to do something more significant than produce a bit more religion in the world. We are seeking above all the kingdom of heaven, in our way on earth now.

On the way, in one way and another, God gives signs of his heaven, the light and the fire break out. God is here so heaven breaks out. Sometimes this is alarming, sometimes transforming, sometimes cheering, but never boring. And it is mostly practical.

God is love
It is practical when we remember and keep in mind a key clue about what ‘God’ means. God is love, said John (I John 4.8). This is not to say, God is an emotion, or God is a timeless quality, or God is a simple rule of conduct. In this is love, says John, that God loved us and gave his Son for us (I John 4.9-10). Love is action, useful action relevant to those who need to be loved not just to those who are loving.

God’s love is not like a little good deed, now and again, though every good deed is a little note in God’s great music. God’s love is the massive eternal action, the foundation of all creation, its culmination and the repairing and joyful presence at the heart of it. God’s love is foundational and commanding action for us all and through all time. So John says, simply, If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

So heaven comes down to earth, and from the future into the present. Heaven is what God brings wherever God comes, and heaven is what we share wherever we love as God loves.

Heaven in the present is not all there is to heaven. We have not tasted half of it yet. And we are clearly far from perfect in appreciating and valuing, treasuring and sharing heaven when God brings it close to us in this world, blesses us with its light and joy and thus gives us a chance to share it with others. We are chary in sharing, and even when we pass on God’s love to others, we often mess it up with so much of ourselves it does not come across as the genuine article. This is true of all Christian mission, whether on big or small scale: the good news of the love of God, Father, Son and Spirit, does get shared and passed on in this world, but often other things get passed on as well.

So the wait for heaven, there is still more to come, to be given. But this is not waiting in a vacuum, a great absence; it is like waiting for the main course, by enjoying the starter which makes us think, This is a good restaurant and a good chef, so the evening is going to get even better.

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

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