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Heaven Ain't Enough

At least, it isn't for me. On my vacation in Long Beach, I came across a flyer for a local church. It was creatively designed on glossy cardstock, and the back declared that even you (the reader) could get into heaven if only you followed Jesus. As if the afterlife was the only place Jesus ever offered to take us. And I thought, "if this is the sales pitch, I ain't buyin'."

Maybe I'll feel differently when a higher percentage of my loved ones are on the other side, but right now, heaven in the hereafter isn't worth the cost of discipleship in the here-and-now, and salvation from eternal damnation just isn't in my theological imagination. Following Jesus for some off-into-the-future reward, or merely to avoid the possibility of punishment after death, isn't worth how frustrating it is to humble myself constantly and be reminded regularly how bad I am at it.

No, I need the Kingdom. I need the mercy of God in my life today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Following the Way needs to be its own reward, otherwise it will never be enough. Other people's praise and thanks won't be enough, my list of accomplishments won't be enough, and my self-righteousness won't exceed my internalized sense of unworthyness.

I need the Kingdom. I need to feel my reliance on false hope - that I can be and do enough on my own - breaking open, so that I might allow myself to be borne again by God. I need the peace that comes from trusting that I am loved by God no matter what I do, and that serving God is what gives life its richness. Not the hereafter, but the here-and-now. Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber's book Accidental Saints has been a powerful and gritty reminder that embracing our need for grace is not about feeling like a failure, but about feeling beloved.

We are in an important historical moment for Christianity, a moment where the ethics of the Kingdom (aka God’s Kin-dom) require new articulation. The “heaven-first” approach has led to “me and mine” thinking, which is both threatening to our common life as a nation and is profoundly un-Biblical and un-Christian. This is the time to name the transformational power of the Gospel for life here on Earth. This is the time to come together, not go it alone.

May the witness of Christ break through our ego's stranglehold on life, allowing us the freedom to be carried by the tide of God's ocean, on which we all are adrift.

In Peace and With Love,
Pastor Andrew