A Way Into the Eternal?

Post date: Apr 12, 2013 2:11:21 PM

“The home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

When called on to officiate at a funeral, I almost always use these words somewhere in the service as a witness to the resurrection. I find these words of John's vision to be among the most comforting ones in the Bible, especially when hard pressed by a present reality of death, mourning, tears, or pain. It gives me great hope to hear that there will come a time when death will be no more, that in God’s long-range plan for creation, suffering and sorrow will cease to be, replaced, we are told, by God’s shalom, by God’s peace.

Of course, my head is rationally insistent that such a time has not yet arrived - we do still experience those hard realities. Yet my heart hears with unabashed joy that the first things have passed away. I don't think it's the death of Jesus that so captures the human heart; death is a common-place thing. It's his resurrection from the grave which is so compelling. I wish I could understand it, but try as I might, I can't - my head is in total agreement with the poet Swinbourne: “Dead men rise never”. And yet my heart is convinced that Jesus did. In the silence of that tomb, in the darkest hours before dawn, the first things passed away, and God began to create the world anew. It's probably the best news I have ever heard.

Though I'm sure none of them realized it at the time, when the women came to the empty tomb that first Easter morning, they were standing on the threshold of a whole new life, one never even imagined before. As Tom Wright put it, what everyone expected at the end of time, God had done for Jesus right in the middle of time, and it changed everything. It opened up a way into the space between what was and what is and what will be - Jesus opened a way into the "kingdom of God", and I pray every day for the courage to live and grow and follow him into that eternal space where God's peace permeates heaven and earth.