Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 121
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 John 5:24-29
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Those last few words are frightening aren’t they ? “those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation”. Yow ! Who of us has not done even a little bit of Evil ? As Jesus said ““Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). You remember no one did, instead they slunk away, ashamed. As we all should be, we all live in a glass house, where God sees everything, everything. Oh dear ! A house where stone throwing is a foolish thing; remember that next time you get on your high horse and forget your own shortcomings.
But back to the ‘resurrection of condemnation’ are we all doomed ?
C. S. Lewis wrote a book called the ‘Great Divorce’. A fascinating interpretation of Heaven that fits with my own understanding of Heaven and I hope yours too.
As we have all sinned when we die we can expect the ‘resurrection of condemnation’, a resurrection where it is dark, dank and dreary, where nothing redeeming takes place. But if we are wise and long for God’s presence, we can continue our journey, this time, toward Redemption. We start our journey loaded down with all the things we did wrong, bad actions, bad thoughts, bad habits, bad relationships. Along with our Guide, an angel no doubt, we gradually, piece by piece, let go of what is wrong. It’s not easy. Like giving up an addiction we cling to what was bad in our lives. We give ourselves excuses. Like, “She deserved it !” Or “What else could I do ?” Or “It was about time”. Or “If I didn’t bring him down a peg or two who would ?” Or “They had more than enough, they wouldn’t miss what I took”. Or “They got their stuff through stealing, I might as well take my share too”. Or worst of all “They made me do it !” Worst because no one can make you do what you don’t want to do, so it’s worst because you deceive yourself. A caveat, what might be even worse is to say “I don’t care and good riddance !”
But if we do care we will want to leave that place, and we will with our Guide. Bit by bit, piece by piece, we will drop the stains on our Souls. And as we do we will start to see in the distance, behind a range of mountains, a faint light. And as we work at it and travel further the light will get brighter all the time. If you have lived a long life you may have collected a fairly large burden and if you have lived a short life you also may have collected a fairly large burden too. Age has nothing to do with where you show up in the resurrection to condemnation.
But if we have really tried to be good Christians we may not be packing so much. If we have sincerely confessed our sins and forgiven others so that we are forgiven, then we come up in a spot in Heaven not so dark and dank and dreary. But there is work still to be done. The object of all this is to get close to the light, which is the Throne of God. It may take forever to get there but we have all the time in Heaven waiting for us.
Lewis’ vision allows for believers and non-believers alike but at some time we will encounter Jesus and it is only through Him that we can approach the Throne. People of all religions will find themselves confronted with “No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). And all will bow down.
We cannot be in Heaven with even a little bit of impurity stuck to us. If we were to encounter God with any impurity we would be fried alive, impurity and perfection cannot exist together, so guess which one triumphs. Perfection. The Great Divorce ? Getting rid of our imperfection.
So we are far better to start at a safe distance and gradually work toward what St. Paul calls the Third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) as Lewis proposes. / Our friends and family whose Earthly remains rest here may well be on that journey. Maybe you would like to consider what bits of naughtiness they will be discarding. But more importantly what are those of yours you should be getting rid of now, before things get too dark and dismal. Prayer is always a good place to start. Prayer of this kind can be just a random conversation with God as you recall that bad stuff, own it, then reject it. And it’s not something that’s going to be done at one session it may take you years, but do it now or do it later you will eventually do it. So once you have owned it and rejected it, see if there is something you can do to correct it. It may be as simple as an humble apology, or it may involve restitution, in any event it will involve a large slice of humble pie. If it is too big seek help, seek counsel with someone you can trust.
And if one of the things you harbour is resentment for an injury or a slight, do the right thing and forgive. Not remotely but in person. That is probably very hard to do, it too may take years, but if you don’t do it here you will do it there. And it will be one of the heaviest burdens you will carry. The reward is that as you have confessed, others may have forgiven you and all your burdens will have vanished in a mist. You will be free. Stepping lightly on the way to the Throne of God, that is your ambition and your calling, you are a child of God and rightly so, should be in God’s closer presence. Alleluia and Amen.