A Glimpse of Heaven: Remembering Janice Rickman

Janice Rickmans Tie Dye Moment
May 24, 1946 – Dec. 8, 2018

One of my favorite authors and preachers, Frederick Buechner, has wondered what Heaven is like. With me, he believes we can get a foretaste of heaven right here on earth.  Buechner writes: “To speak of ‘heavenly’ music or a ‘heavenly’ day isn’t always to gush but sometimes to catch a glimpse of something.”

Upon experiencing something that is soooo good, perhaps we have all said, “Ahhhh! This is heaven!”  A bite of chocolate cake. A warm cookie with cold milk.  A lover’s touch.  A faithful friend.  A child’s hug.  A walk on a beach or in the snow. Resting one’s head on your mother’s shoulders. Undeserved forgiveness.  Unconditional love.  Unwavering devotion. Unexplained strength.

I heard a another preacher describe it this way: Heaven is sort of like this perfect room on the second floor of the house. It is a room upstairs where we are not yet permitted to enter from our position in a room here on the first floor.

However, there is this small, tiny hole in the ceiling of our room. And if we position ourselves just so under that hole.  At just the right angle.  At just the right moment.  If the light is just so. The shadows fade and we can see a little of that room. We can catch a glimpse of Heaven.

Greta will tell you that one thing that she will never forget is her mother recalling the moments after Greta was born, and specifically that moment Janice held her for the first time. As soon as the doctor handed Greta to her, as she held Greta in her arms, pressed her lips to kiss Greta’s forehead, and said Greta was “as warm as toast.”

Greta, you will always remember that, because your mother was describing a moment for her that was nothing less than heavenly. As she held you in her arms, as she loved you as she loved Bradley and Sarah, with a love that was out of this world, that hole in the ceiling got a lot larger for your mother. The light got just right, the shadows faded and heaven came down.

The Bible paints many portraits of the widening of this hole in the ceiling.

The prophet Isaiah prays for such widening:

Shower, O heavens, from above,

and let the skies rain down righteousness;

let the earth open, that salvation may spring up,

and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also;

I the Lord have created it. (Isa 45).

Ezekiel writes about the glimpses of heaven he experienced:

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1).

Malachi talks about opening a window to heaven,

…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing (Malachi 3).

John talks about opening a door to heaven:

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’ (Revelation 4).

And then we have those beautiful recollections of Jesus’ baptism as the Gospel Writers describe the heavens opening up. Mark literally says the heavens were “ripped apart” as the Spirit of God descended like a dove.

Greta and Sarah, I do not believe either one of you will ever forget the many ways that your mother helped to open up the heavens for you, to make that tiny hole in the ceiling a little wider, to move you to just the right position, to be in just the right light, at just the right angle, for the many times she caused heaven to only open but to actually come down so close to earth that you could feel it, hear it, smell it, and touch it.

When we study the Bible, from the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt, through the occupation of Israel by Babylon, to the oppression of Christians by the Roman Empire—from the tribulations of Job, the persecution of Daniel, through the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, to the trials and hardships of the Apostles Paul and John, the one theme that is constant is the divine strength, the holy resoluteness, the sacred presence of God in difficult times.

Greta and Sarah, you and Bradley, all of her grandchildren have witnessed this miraculous strength in ways that you are still trying to, but may never comprehend. Whatever storm came her way, divorce, death and disease, her love for you never failed, in fact, it never even wavered. Her love for you was indeed out of this world. No matter her circumstance she was always there with you, never away from you, always for you, never against you.

She possessed this supernatural strength, this holy fire, this divine determination to always be there to give any of you what you needed. Janice became a single-parent when Bradley was 11, Sarah was 9 and Greta was 2, and although she experienced the grief and sorrow of divorce, she never let you kids see it. She remained dedicated to her job as a legal Clerk and later with ABF to make sure that your needs were always met. If she ever went into her room, closed the door and cried, you never knew it. Her love was selfless. Her love was sacrificial. It was self-expending. It was heavenly. And there is no wonder that you look back on your childhood today, at her love and care and strength, and ponder, “How in the world did she do that?” In her strength, you were catching a glimpse of heaven.

During this Advent season, we celebrate another moment when the heavens were opened, when a choir of angels filled the skies to announce the birth of a baby.

John describes the announcement this way,

See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (1 John 3:1).

Through the gift of a baby born in Bethlehem, we are all born into the family of God. Through this baby named Jesus, we have been made family.

For 20 years, Janice worked as a legal clerk here in Fort Smith. When she left that position to work for ABF, she grieved. Why? Because her co-workers there in the legal office had become family to her. The same thing happened while she was at ABF.

Janice was not a member of the church or the denomination with which I serve as pastor. She was a proud member of the Church of Christ.

When she first moved to Methodist Village, one of her big concerns was that they were going to make her a Methodist. To illustrate this, the first weekend she moved into Methodist Village this past April, they had a tornado warning. The protocol for a tornado warning is to place identification tags on a lanyard around the necks of all the residents. When they placed a name tag around Janice’s neck, she wasn’t so much concerned about the possible tornadoes as she was about her name being printed under the word “Methodist.” She took one look at her badge and said, “I knew it. They have made me Methodist!”

So when I would visit her at Methodist Village and others would ask her if I was her pastor, she would immediately respond: “Oh no. He is my daughter’s pastor.”

This makes it all the more special some of the last words she spoke to me. She looked up at me said, “I love you.” Janice loved me, not as her pastor, but as family.

With those three simple words, “I love you”, she moved me. She moved to just the right spot, to that spot where the light was just right, to that spot where the shadows faded, and just for a moment, I could see through that hole in the ceiling, and I caught a glimpse of heaven.

This is the power of love. Love has the power to make strangers family. Although we have different faiths and different beliefs, love has the power to unite us all as sisters and brothers.  And when we love one another like family, when we treat one another as sisters and brothers, the heavens are ripped apart!

Since I have been a pastor here in Fort Smith, I have been impressed with the quality of care and love I have witnessed through the good people who work and serve at Methodist Village. They truly love and care for the residents as family. So each time I go out there, every time I visit, I catch a glimpse of heaven.

As I’ve mentioned, when Janice first became a resident of Methodist Village, it took her a little while to accept it. At first, it was a strange place, a place where she did not belong. After all, as she would tell me, there were “old people” living there. She assumed that her stay there would only be temporary. She would get a little rehab and then go home.

So, who could blame her for not immediately embracing nursing home residency and all of the activities and programs they offered. When she first arrived, if you wanted to visit Janice, you knew that you could always find Janice in her room. She wouldn’t be in dining hall with the other residents tossing a bean bag or playing bingo.

One day, when Sarah came to visit, like always she went straight to her room, but Janice was not there. She walked down to the nurses’ station where they would sometimes seat her, but Janice was not there. She searched the entire facility until she finally asked someone for assistance.

They said, “Well, today is Tie Dye Day! Perhaps she is with the other residents making a Tie Dye!”

Sarah immediately responded, “Oh, I don’t think so.” But they went down to the dining room anyway where everyone was tie dyeing, and there she was.

She was sitting there wearing this tie dye wrap, or scarf, or hat that she had made on her head. And she was holding this clapper in one hand, this hand that made a clapping noise when you moved it back and forth.

She looked up at Sarah. And waving the clapper in one hand and holding up a peace sign with the other, giggled and said, “I am having a tie-dye moment! And I am ready to party.”

Sarah responded the way that most of us respond these days when we catch a glimpse of something like this, something beautiful, something fun, something that warms our heart and makes us smile, something that is soooo good that we can only describe it as heavenly.  She pulled out her phone and took a picture and sent it to Greta.

And the good news is that this picture of Janice having a tie-dye moment, is a picture of Janice today. Through the tiny hole in the ceiling, we can see her today, sitting in the banquet hall of heaven, surrounded by family including her son Bradley, enveloped by eternal love, encircled by amazing grace, giggling, clapping, partying.

And because of that, we who grieve today know we are going to be ok. Greta and Sarah are going to be fine. Her grandchildren are going to be fine. Not only because your mother and grandmother has given you some of her strength and love (after all, you said you only needed a piece of it to be ok), but because you will be able to always see her, she will always be with you, each time something moves you to just the right spot, at just the right angle, when the light is just right, and the shadows fade, and this warmth comes over you, as warm as toast.

 

What Heaven Looks Like

barefootThe following sermon is for an All Saints’ Day Service remembering the seven members of the First Christian Church of Farmville NC who died during the past year.

Revelation 22:1-7 NRSV

To be honest, the promise of going to heaven one day to live forever has not always appealed to me. Floating on a cloud playing a harp for all of eternity does not sound like good times. Furthermore, I have always been leery of Christians who seem to make going to heaven one day the whole point of what it means to be a Christian. It sounds rather selfish to me. And when I consider the selflessness of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, I believe that type of theology actually misses the whole point of what Christianity is all about.

I have also never desired to live in a mansion or walk on streets of gold. Again, because of what I know about Jesus’ identification with the poor, such opulence turns my stomach as a follower of Jesus.

However, there is one description of heaven in the Bible that I do find rather interesting, even attractive.

The most vivid, and perhaps the best description of heaven may be found in the last chapter of our Bible.

What does heaven look like?

Although the description is certainly symbolic, it is nonetheless beautiful. There is a holy city, and in the middle of the city’s main street, there is a river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

What does heaven look like?

On both sides of the river, there is the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, and the leaves on the trees have the power to heal the nations.

What does heaven look like?

Nothing accursed will be there. There will be no more hate; no more bigotry; no more ugliness; no more backbiting and powerplays; nothing that is vile, foul or evil.

There is nothing accursed in heaven, because the throne of God, the compete rule of God, and the Lamb, who is Jesus the Christ, will be there.

And here’s my favorite part. There is nothing accursed in heaven, because all of the servants of Christ will be there; together, gathered around the throne worshipping the Lamb face to face,

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like John Barefoot.

According to the gospel of Luke, when the angels announced that heaven was coming down to earth, they said: “I am bringing you good news of great joy.”

Almost a year ago, I believe those of us who went Christmas caroling to John Barefoot’s house were privy to a glimpse of what the joy of heaven looks like. For, as we sang around John’s bed where he was confined after suffering yet another debilitating stroke, something miraculous happened. God showed up. Heaven came down. As we watched John donning a Santa hat and wearing this smile that was so amazing that it had to be divine, as we watched him sing along with the children the best that he could, with a joy, this amazing joy, a joy that had to come from heaven, Christmas became real to us. Faith became real. God became real.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks alike Alawoise Flanagan.

According to Isaiah, heaven looks like children who are being comforted by their mother: “You shall nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you,” says the Lord.

Alawoise lived her life providing motherly comfort, not only to her own family, but also to the residents at the nursing home in Farmville where she devoted much of her life. And in the end, it was obvious that this one who comforted so many was herself comforted.”

I don’t believe there is any other way to explain the very last words Alawoise said to me. Just days before she died, after suffering more than anyone one deserves, she opened her eyes, and spoke, not words of complaint or bitterness, but words of a loving mother, or of a child who has been comforted by her heavenly mother. After I asked her how she was doing, she immediately asked me: “And, Jarrett, how is your family.”

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like Albert Mosley.

Nearly every time before I left Albert, even in ICU after a stroke that would take his life, he would miraculously say to me those words that Jesus often spoke to his disciples: “Peace be with you.”

And the miracle was not only that Albert could speak those words of peace, but was how it was obvious to all that in spite of every tribulation he encountered, Albert actually possessed this miraculous peace. And he truly wanted to share it with others.

The only way that I can possibly explain how Albert endured his suffering is that the God of Jesus, heaven itself, somehow, some miraculous way, came to Albert and filled him with this peace that surpasses all human understanding.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like Donna Mosley.

As Jesus reminded us in the Sermon on the Mount, God looked upon Donna truly blessed her in ways that few of us here have been blessed. And I believe this is the real reason that no matter her disability, no matter how bad she felt, or how hard it was for her to walk, see, eat or breathe, when you asked her how she was doing, she would always respond: “I’m doing good!”

I believe Donna was a living testimony of Jesus words about heaven when he said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Whereas we may look at those with whose spirits that are allowed to soar to achieve success as the world defines success as blessed and favored by God, the reality is that God looks with favor and blesses not those who are born with perfect bodies, 20/20 vision, and silver spoons in their mouths, but those whose spirits have many challenges and obstacles. And notice that Jesus uses the present tense. Not they will be blessed. Not might be blessed. They are, right now, right here, on this earth blessed. And their future is the kingdom of heaven.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like Harry Albritton.

Having returned yesterday from Wyoming County, West Virginia, one of the most impoverished counties in our country, the words of Harry Albritton are fresh on my mind. Some of you here remember.

How many people do you know who after listening to a presentation at church about a mission trip opportunity to repair homes in the rural Mountains of West Virginia became so moved, so agitated and concerned that he stood up and spoke out, saying that he didn’t want to just put a Band-Aid on the poverty, but he wanted to actually do something to cure the poverty? He wanted to strategize, energize and mobilize to end the poverty, to repair the breach, to restore the streets, and make it a place where future generations could thrive.

He wanted to set up meetings with the CEO’s of corporations, with state and local government and investors and encourage them to build new factories in the area and offer employment. And if that did not work, he wanted to lobby Congress to provide tax incentives to create ways to re-locate the residents to the jobs.

Someone spoke up responded, “We can’t do that!”

He said, “What do you mean ‘we can’t?’ There’s no such thing as ‘can’t.’ You mean, we ‘won’t.’”

Only Harry.

It was the prophet Isaiah who painted this can-do portrait of God’s heavenly justice by admonishing God’s people: “to rebuild the ancient ruins, to raise up the foundations for future generations, to be called the repairers of the breach, restorers of the streets to live in” Isaiah 58).

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like Earl Umphlett.

Jesus tells us that God loves a quiet, generous giver.

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do it in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:1-3).

Earl would quietly attend our Wednesday night suppers at church with Donna. As soon as they walked through the door, they would be greeted by Kim, our church administrative assistant who takes up money for each plate which costs $6.00.

Kim says that every time before Earl would for pay him and Donna, he would say the same thing. He said: “Look, I will make a deal with you. I don’t have any money on me today. But Donna will wash all of the dishes.” Then, when he’d catch Kim off guard, he would whip out a hundred dollar bill, put it in the basket, and say, “Keep the change.”

The only reason that I know this is that Kim told me this every Thursday morning after this happened. She says: “And he never says what all of the extra money is for! When he first did it, I thought he was pre-paying for him and Donna for an entire year of suppers. But, every week, he keeps doing it.”

This was just the type of Christian Earl was. Unlike some who brag openly about how much they give to the church, Earl gave quietly, unassumingly, inconspicuously. Earl did not have a pretentious, hypocritical bone in his body. Earl modestly served his Lord reticently, yet compassionately and generously.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like Joseph Scott Thorne.

When Jesus found himself in the wilderness, Mark says that angels came down from heaven and waited on him.

Heaven is a place where no one is ever in need, because there are a multitude of angels waiting on us.

Although Scott was disabled, I could stand up here for the rest of the day and talk about the countless mission projects that Scott served on here in Farmville waiting on folks in need. He volunteered through the First Baptist Church, Monk Memorial Methodist Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the Farmville Community Soup Kitchen. Scott spent incalculable hours volunteering his time to serve this community, many times working all through the night, painting, refurbishing, repairing, restoring, and landscaping.

Scott also shared his talents by working on many homes that needed repair throughout eastern North Carolina. Additionally, Scott volunteered at a homeless shelter in Tarboro doing whatever they needed him to do.

Along with local mission projects here in eastern North Carolina, Scott traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi to repair homes with this church after Hurricane Katrina. Scott also traveled to Moldova on a mission trip with the Oakmont Baptist Church of Greenville. Scott’s mission in life, despite his disabilities, was literally doing anything he could to serve someone else.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven looks like a river of life, bright as crystal. Heaven looks like a tree of life with branches of healing. Heaven looks like the rule of Christ, the Kingdom of God. And the good news is that heaven looks like the servants of God, worshiping the Christ.

John Barefoot taught us that heaven looks like amazing joy. Alawoise Flanagan taught us that heaven looks like a mother’s comfort. Albert Mosley taught us that heaven looks like a peace that is beyond our understanding. Donna Mosley taught us that heaven looks like eternal blessedness. Harry Albritton taught us that heaven looks like the prophet’s justice. Earl Umphlett taught us that heaven looks like selfless generosity. And Joseph Scott Thorne taught us that heaven looks like angels waiting on us.

They all taught us that heaven looks like Jesus. Heaven looks like who God is calling us to be as the church. Heaven looks like extravagant grace and unconditional love. Heaven looks like the selflessness of Christ, the mission of Christ.

So, maybe living forever is not so bad after all.

Why the Risen Christ Ate a Piece of Fish

fish1

Luke 24:36-53 NRSV

I often wonder what people mean when they say they are “spiritual.”  I hear people say: “I am not religious, but I am a very ‘spiritual’ person.”  “I don’t attend church, but I am quite ‘spiritual.’”

As a Christian, I sometimes find this odd as not even the risen Christ seemed to be all that spiritual. In fact, as our scripture lesson points out, the gospel writes, especially Luke, seem to go almost out of their way to point out the very physical, not spiritual, nature of the risen Lord.

Luke points out that Jesus asked the disciples to touch him and see that he had flesh and bones; not some spirit or ghost.  Jesus showed his disciples his hands and his feet which were scarred from his crucifixion. And then to still prove that he was there in the flesh and not in some spiritual form, he asked the disciples for something to eat. Then they give him a a piece of broiled fish that he eats in their presence.

The question that I want us to ask together this morning is: What is Luke trying to tell us by giving us this unusual and somewhat strange presentation of Jesus to the disciples? Why does the risen Christ eat broiled fish?

I have heard some preachers say that Luke was giving us a clue of what heaven is going to be like and what we will be like when we, like Jesus, are resurrected.

When I was growing up, my home church had a week of revival every August.  We had services Sunday Night through Friday night and we would always conclude the revival with a fish fry on Saturday.  Six long nights: 30 minutes of singing, one hour of preaching, and then thirty more minutes of altar call. I remember that these annual revival services used to scare me to death. The guest preachers would come into town and preach that heaven or hell was right around the corner and we better get ready. Although I’d never feared going to hell, as a nine, ten, eleven year old, going to heaven was not a place I wanted to visit anytime soon.

I used to hate going to revivals. On top of being frightening, it was hot, had to dress up, wear a tie, for six long nights, two hours a night. The only thing that got me through the week, and I suspect a few others, was the big, delicious fish fry that awaited us on Saturday.

Every year, without exception, preachers would come and scare me with their heaven-or-hell-is-right-around-the-corner sermons.  However, I remember that one preacher preached a particular sermon that made me feel a lot better about going to heaven. It was Friday night, and bless his heart, he was trying to connect the revival service with the fish fry that everyone was looking forward to the next day. He said that one of the most appropriate things we can do at the end of these services is to have a fish fry. He said, “After all, most all of Jesus disciples were fishermen. It also seems like Jesus himself liked to fish. And when we all get to heaven at the resurrection, we are all going to sit down with Jesus and eat fish, because after he was resurrected, Jesus ate some fish with his disciples.”

I wanted to shout, “Amen!”  Because that preacher answered one of those tough theological questions that no one could answer for me, a question that was more important than where did God come from and who was Cain’s wife: “Are we going to be able to eat in heaven?”  For all of us who live to eat instead of eat to live, this was good news. The answer is yes. We are going to be able to eat fish. For someone who loves seafood, it took the fear of dying right away.

I love this idea; however, I believe Luke is trying to tell us something more. I believe the fact that Luke tells us that Jesus offered his physical body for examination and eats fish in the disciples’ presence, tell us something very important about who the risen Christ is and who we are called to be as Christians.

First of all, Luke wants us to know that the risen Christ is in fact the same Jesus who died. The Christ the disciples saw was the same Jesus who suffered and died a horrible, degrading death on a cross. We need to get this for the risen Christ’s identification with the suffering Jesus is critical, not just for sound theology, but for defining the nature of the Christian life and who we are to be as Christians.

If the risen Christ the disciples now follow is not the same as the Jesus who suffered and died, then the Christian life takes on forms of spirituality that are without suffering for others, without a cross, without any concern for the suffering of this world. If the risen Christ is not the Jesus who died, then our eyes would be focused only on heavenly matters and not on the problems of this world.

Even Paul, who makes few references to the historical Jesus, insisted in his letters on joining crucifixion with resurrection. Paul always proclaimed “Christ crucified.”  The risen Lord that we worship has nail scars in his hands and on his feet. Thus, Luke points out that Jesus said, “See my hands and my feet.” The empty tomb is directly tied to the cross. The wonderful message of Easter is forever joined to the suffering of Good Friday.  To follow the risen Christ is to follow the one who bore the cross.

Ok, preacher, I get that, but what does that really mean to us and how should that affect the way we should live as Christians?  Here it goes:

I think it is perfectly fine and healthy to think and dream about going to Heaven one day.  It is fine to have the hope that someday, somehow, some way there’s not going to be anything more to fear or dread. It is wonderful to know a time is coming when there is going to be no more crying, no more pain, and no more death. It is great to sing those great hymns of faith, the ones we sang during our six night revival services, such as “When We All Get To Heaven,”  “In the Sweet Bye and Bye we Shall Meet On that Beautiful Shore,” “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “Shall We Gather at the River,” but if Heaven is the only place our hearts are, if going to Heaven is the only reason we are Christians, then we have missed the whole point of who Jesus Christ is and who we are called to be as Christians.

As Christians, our eyes are to always be focused on the suffering of this world. Our Lord is not only the one who is exalted and glorified, but our Lord is the one who was rejected, suffered and died.

When we look at the frail bodies of the hungry, we are looking at the frail body of Jesus.

When we see the parched lips of the thirsty, we see the parched lips of Jesus.

When we walk by the homeless beggar on the street, we walk by Jesus.

When we meet people who are disabled, physically, mentally, and socially, we meet Jesus.

When we encounter minorities who have been oppressed for their religion, for what country they’re from, for their sexuality, or for the color of their skin, we encounter Jesus.

When we visit the sick in hospitals, the forgotten in prisons, the elderly in nursing homes, the widows and widowers who sit all alone day after day, we visit Jesus.

When we reach out with grace and forgive and love even those who have committed unspeakable sins against us, we reach out to Jesus.

When we make the church a place of grace for all people, especially for those who have been marginalized or demonized by society, culture and bad religion, then we make a place of grace for Jesus. When we do it for the least of these our brothers and our sisters, we do it for Jesus.

And there’s more, much more…

Since we know that the risen Christ we serve is a Christ who knows suffering, who knows what it is like to be a human being, and experience the evils of this world, when we find ourselves overwhelmed by the suffering and pain of this world, we can have faith that Christ is there suffering with us and feeling our pain. And giving us hope and understanding and grace as only a loving God who knows suffering can give.

When we are overwhelmed by grief and loneliness, Christ is there.

When we reach the ends of our ropes and feel that we can not take it anymore, Christ is there.

When we hear words from our doctor’s like:  heart disease, cancer, diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s, inoperable, and terminal, Christ is there.

When human mistakes seek destroy relationships with the ones we love, Christ is there.

When it seems there is nothing holding together our marriages, Christ is there.

And when we are faced with the knowledge of our own imminent deaths, and feel abandoned, even by God, when we want to cry out with a loud voice, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Christ is there.

This is why Luke places so much emphasis on Jesus’ physical nature. This is the reason the risen Christ ate a piece of broiled fish with his disciples. Although it is a good thought, Luke does not write this to tell us that when we all get to heaven we will all get to stuff our faces with seafood. He is telling us a more important message: a message that the disciples got and gave their physical lives proclaiming.

This is why every disciple, except for John, who experienced the risen Christ were killed for preaching “Christ Crucified.”  John died for his preaching all alone on the island of Patmos in prison after writing the book of Revelation.

May each of us, like the disciples, hear Luke’s message this morning. And may each of us, like the disciples, give our physical lives, our bodies, broken, our life, outpoured, proclaiming with our words and by our deeds, “Christ Crucified.”

Snowflakes from Heaven

snow-covered-road

J.B. Priestley once wrote: “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

Yesterday, Stantonsburg Road was littered with empty Natural Light cans, leftover trash from Bojangles and McDonalds, and the carcass of a possum or two. This morning it is a majestic, untarnished pathway through a winter wonderland.

Yesterday, my lawn was brown, covered with ugly winter weeds and strewn with fallen tree limbs and dog droppings that I have been too lazy to pick up.  This morning it is glistening white, void of a single blemish.

Yesterday, the flaws and faults of this fragmented world were all too apparent. This morning everything seems to be forgiven, blanketed by grace. And although this world is still a very dangerous place to drive and to even walk; this morning, the hopeful wonder and potential beauty of this world is obvious.

Yesterday, my excited facebook friends posted prayers for snowflakes to fall, believing that they somehow come from heaven. This morning there is no doubt that heaven is exactly where they come from.