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by Frank Schaefer

based on Luke 20:27-38

     In one respect, the Sadducees were way ahead of their time with their concept of “you live only once.” Reminds me of the inscription on someone’s baseball hat, stating in bold: “Life is hard. Then you die.” What a bleak outlook on life: No hope! No faith in a future beyond the grave. I pity the growing number of people today who share in this view. It’s no wonder to me that the Sadducees disappeared from the “radar of history.” Where did they miss the boat? Well, for one thing they looked at heaven in terms of earthly concepts.

     Before we go into what Jesus has to say about that . . . I’d like to invite you to sing with me an old Spiritual:                  Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. I wanna see my Saviors face, Heaven is a wonderful place.

Part I: “Heaven Is Like Nothing We Can Imagine”
     The song reminds us that, whatever else heaven may be, the most important thing to remember is: “it is a wonderful place!” Not just wonderful according to some. No, wonderful to all!!! Is it going to be like church? [pause] . . . . . . NO! In church, some people are happy with the worship . . . the people . . . .the programs . . . . the pastor --others aren’t quite so happy! In heaven, everybody will be happy! Unlike human pastors, the great Shepherd will be able to please us all! Why? . . . because we will be resurrected people!

     It’s mind-boggling! It’s different from anything we could ever imagine! Jesus says: “ . . . being children of the resurrection, they will be like angels.” Hard to imagine! Also, our relationships will be different: “ . . . they will not marry or be given in marriage.” Now, that could be good or bad news, depending on whether you’re happily married or not =) But, actually, it should be understood as good news by all!  It’s just hard to imagine a place where sex, and families as we know them now, will no longer be part of our lives. A place where love is perfect, selfless, without jealousy; where the wife of the seven brothers could have a loving relationship with all 7 brothers,; plus be just as close with many . . . .maybe all . . . the children of the resurrection!

     The apostle Paul--apparently having had a vision of what he calls: “the third heaven” --speaks of “hearing inexpressible words, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.” Whatever else that means . . . it certainly means that it is going to be awesome! Beyond our dreams! Mind-boggling!

     Perhaps, the “awesomeness” of heaven is the reason why the Scriptures often define heaven in terms of what it’s NOT! (STAN, DPS).    And we know in our hearts that Rev. 21 speaks the truth when it says that there will be no more tears, that there will be no more pain --no more sorrow --no more hunger --no more death!

      Mike--an intern in a mental hospital --once asked a group of patients what they thought heaven was going to be like. He says: “the most enduring answer came from a woman who could barely move. She responded: . . .[pause] . . . "Heaven is a place without wheelchairs." Heaven IS a place without wheelchairs, and without disease! without abuse! without divorce! without nightmares! without guilt! Before I conclude this message, I’d like to invite you to sing another song with me:               Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Part II: “Heaven is Near”
     While Jesus talks about how wonderful, yet different heaven is, he also said many times: “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” In our passage this morning, Jesus recalls Moses’ burning bush experience. This experience was a foretaste of heaven. In fact, even the physical ground was declared “holy” by God! Moses had to take off his shoes!

     This is fascinating stuff, folks:  Somehow, God’s Kingdom penetrates this earthly realm, so that, sometimes, when we squint our eyes enough . . . when we’re really reaching out to God in prayer . . . We may catch a glimpse of God’s glory! How can this be?

     I’d like to invite you to engage in a mind exercise with me. O.K. . . .ready? Imagine you are a square person --a person living in a two dimensional world. [point to a blank sheet of paper] . . . it's like living on the surface of this sheet of paper. As a square person, you have no perception of depth. You cannot see three-dimensional objects like this ball. [hold up rubber ball] Now imagine that the ball would slowly penetrate, --pass through the sheet of paper-- and pass through you. What would you actually see as a square person? [Hold up, consecutively, three pieces of paper with three different sizes of filled-in circles] A dot appears . . . .and starts to grow, then it shrinks again . . . . until it disappears.

     Perhaps this is how we can understand how heaven permeates the dimension of this world. It’s already here, even if we cannot presently grasp its form! “Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . .” The song writer knows of this secret too as he continues: “. . . and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, “in the light of his glory and grace.” As we draw near . . . as we are surrounded by the Light of Heaven--a light that, somehow, gently penetrates us, this world already loses its attraction!

     God invites you and me to be a part of this place that is far away and yet so close.   Can you hear God’s call? Can you hear the Spirit whispering? It may be a faint, gentle whisper, from another world . . .yet, somehow, we can perceive it. It’s an invitation--an invitation to draw near; to let yourself be surrounded by the light of heaven; to become a child of the resurrection! If you hear God’s call, don’t hesitate to answer while we sing our closing hymn. If you are so moved, come to the altar rail. Or turn your pew into an altar --the holy ground on which God wants to meet with you . . . today! [Spirit Song, J. Wimber]