Thursday, February 27, 2014

Heaven Happens

Who do I feel sorry for? Anyone who is missing Wednesday evenings at HNEC. 

In last night’s dialogue about next Sunday’s gospel -- Matthew’s story of Jesus on the mountaintop with Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John and God the Father -- we heard and had discussion about Heaven. The rector recalled the movie Field of Dreams and the lines, “Is there Heaven?” and the response “Heaven is where your dreams come true.” 

This stirred my memories so powerfully that sitting there in my pew I had to close my eyes and go off alone for a few minutes, to Heaven actually. I’ve seen Field of Dreams several times and each time, I like it more, it’s the most touching, moving film I’ve ever loved. When I see it I can hardly bear to have it end; but that, as Peter found out, is how Heaven is. Especially do I love that line, “Heaven is where your dreams come true.” 

I know that there is Heaven, and that up on the mountain with Jesus, Peter doesn’t yet quite understand about Heaven. He thinks Heaven is that place on the mountaintop where you can build booths, tents, a dwelling. He doesn’t yet understand that Heaven is not a place at all, Heaven is something that happens, such as what has just happened to him there on the mountain with Jesus. Heaven wasn’t the mountaintop, Heaven was being there with who was there, and being taken into the midst of it to witness and wonder and be overcome with awe and love. And to be able to tell about it later; or just to remember. 

Peter was a young man at the time, but he would mature in age and wisdom, and by now he would understand. I am older than Peter was that day on the mountaintop with Jesus, and I’m pretty sure I understand now better than he did then. Heaven is not a place, surely not My Laughing Place under the scraggly cedar tree down front by the Bay where I go when I have deep sorrow or stress and extreme need for Gethsemane-type consolation. And Heaven is not where I will be after this life; I may have "reasonable and holy hope in joyful expectation," as our burial liturgy says; but I don’t know about that, and it's beyond my control and beyond my imagining, and it isn’t where my dreams come true, and I’m not really interested in it. Heaven happens. I know. Heaven has happened to me many times in life. My iPhone dings and there's a text: "I'm here." A Ford station wagon drives up into my back driveway, loaded with my girls. Linda stands on the pier waiting as the Jamestown ferry arrives from Newport. Joe runs toward me at top speed and leaps into my arms the day my ship returns from WestPac. A college offical pins Malinda’s RN pin on her uniform. Joy says, a few minutes after Kristen is born, "Does anybody want to hold her?" Tass walks safely off the plane from London. Kristen’s car drives up from Atlanta. The speaker announces at Tassy's college graduation, "Honors in Biology. Magna Cum Laude. Phi Beta Kappa" as she walks across the stage. The entire congregation of an Episcopal parish stands and says, "Charlie, Bishop in the Church of God, on behalf of the clergy and people of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, we present to you Thomas Carroll Weller, Jr. to be 
ordained a priest in Christ's holy catholic Church." Heaven? Heaven happens. You can't build a booth and stay: you just have to be there. 

 Heaven? Happens almost every Wednesday evening at my church. And every Sunday morning when Father says, "Come on up, kids!"

In a shadowy spot of that stained glass window there's a rowboat with two men fishing. They're not there now, and you have to look for it, but the memory is there and it's very real. Heaven is not forever, Heaven is one off. It happens. You just have to be there. When it's over, it's over until next time.  


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