St Michael’s 23rd July 2017
Reading – Revelation 4:1-11
What is the most beautiful or breathtaking place in the whole world you have ever been to? What is it that made it so special?
Six years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Israel. There were so many amazing places to visit: the site where Jesus is said to have been born; the tomb where Jesus was laid; the mountain where Jesus ascended into heaven – all of them powerful and never to be forgotten reminders that the Bible tells the story of a real person who lived a real life so many years ago.
But to me the most special place in the whole trip was down by the shore of Lake Galilee. It was such a beautiful and tranquil location – plus the fact there were loads of cute rock badgers looking on. Of course what made it even more significant was knowing that Jesus Himself walked on this very shoreline – calling the local fishermen to follow Him, preaching the good news to the crowds, healing the sick and the demon-possessed.
I don’t know if I will ever make it back to Israel. But I do know that thanks to Jesus I have been given the opportunity to go to somewhere even more wonderful. And for this journey, I won’t need a passport or a package tour. I won’t need to go searching in the ruins of history. No, Jesus offers me the chance to go to none other than where my Heavenly Father lives. And it won’t be some exotic foreign place with a different language and strange local customs. It will be in the deepest sense of the word home, a place where I can belong forever.
We often call this place heaven, and in our first reading this morning we hear how a man called John is shown a vision of what heaven is like. How he describes heaven is perhaps very different from how we usually imagine this place. We might think of angels on fluffy clouds playing harps, or a long road up to some pearly gates. John’s vision is far stranger and perhaps even slightly disturbing. There is a rainbow, and flashings of lightning, and a sea of glass. There are bizarre-looking creatures flying around constantly singing. And in the middle there is a throne with someone sitting on it – God Himself.
Now I’m not going to explain every detail of John’s vision. What we have to realise is that John is trying to describe the indescribable. Heaven will be so different from any place we have ever seen before it is hard to put into words what it is like. But the main point John wants to get across is that heaven is real, and we’ll see why that’s so important in a moment.
Of course I realise many people have tried to describe heaven. People publish whole books about their experiences of apparently seeing God, and there’s always a ready market for such material as, for obvious reasons, I guess most of us really do want to know more about heaven. So the question is: how do we know John’s vision of heaven is the right one? Why should we trust His description more than one we find, say, in W.H.Smith’s? Read the rest of this entry »