Love is the meaning ...

A blog by Rev'd John Allen

  


19 September 2021 – Trinity 16

HEAVEN ON EARTH?

I am convinced that God has given us life so that we might be happy.  But what do I mean by happiness?  A child might long for a new gadget, but all too soon become bored with it.  For adults, it is a sad experience when a happy partnership grows stale.  Our present generation possesses so much and yet many people are discontented.  Many of us spend a lot of time looking forward and making plans but are disappointed when things do not turn out as we had hoped.

And yet I am cheered up when I revisit old memories and recall moments of completely unexpected happiness.  Such memories are nearly always about people and places – of becoming aware of a growing affinity with another person whom previously I had simply taken for granted or of finding myself gazing at a familiar view and really seeing it and enjoying it for the first time, or of becoming aware of a piece of music and realising it is not just a background sound but something which a stirs a deep response from my inner being.

Real happiness is a state of being: of being drawn right out of my self-centred isolation; of forgetting myself and losing myself in being at one with other people in places and circumstances which, though apparently ordinary, have become incredibly and wonderfully extraordinary.  It is something of a moment of transfiguration when what we expect to see seems to click into focus and we see the true reality for the first time.  Our vision is no longer misty but crystal clear and happiness becomes an inadequate word.  As one Christian writer described, it is to be “surprised by joy”.

Was this what Jesus meant when He proclaimed, “The kingdom of heaven is upon you”?  I think that many of us are a little uncomfortable with the word heaven.  Is it some fantastic ‘never-never land’ in outer space?  Is it a kind of elitist dream for the super-good and beyond the grasp of us ordinary people?

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you”.  It is here and now and involves ordinary people with or without wings and haloes.  It is simply about being at one with those whom we love.  It is about letting go and letting God transform our lives.  We cannot know, we cannot understand what lies ahead.  We simply need to accept the faith God gives us and go for it.

The tragic thing is that so many of us persist in hanging on like grim death to our disappointment and heartbreak.

© John Allen 2021


12 September 2021 – Trinity 15

PERSISTING IN THE HOPE OF HEAVEN

To lead a useful and fulfilled life, it helps to have a good CV but this should not be only about past achievements but more about future aspirations.  People at work need a job description and companies and organizations often post up a summary of intentions called a mission statement.

At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus proclaimed, “The time has arrived: the kingdom of God is upon you”.  When God asks a person who is open to His gift of faith, “What are you doing”, our answer must surely be that we are happy to be fellow workers with Jesus in furthering God’s work of saving this world from its imprisonment to the negativity of our prevailing life styles and leading us into an entirely new way of living.  This is the Good News.

For surely we are all born with a deep-rooted instinct that hope is what we live for.  Without hope we are drowned in the world’s despair.  History may seem to prove that this is untrue.  So much seems to prove that the human race is condemned to repeat the same old mistakes and choose war over peace, and selfishness rather than generosity and yet against all the odds, human resilience persists.  Out of the wreckage of war ,new cities are built and shattered communities pick up the pieces and go on persisting in the possibility of a better future.  Is this nonsensical wishful thinking which is tragic and pathetic or is it simply God’s gift of hope?

I have chosen to stake my whole life and being on the reality and authenticity of this gift.  Of course, it cannot be proved that I have picked a winner.  Hope is about trust and not proven certainty.  But in my experience, this hope has enabled me to strive to live in a positive way which seems to be creative and happy, even in the most adverse circumstances; whereas whenever I have lapsed into negativity, my efficiency has decreased and I have been miserable 

It seems hope can only come out of love and love has to be trusted.  There are risks.  I can never be absolutely sure if I have made the right choice, but I press on in faith and looking back I am more certain my faith is being vindicated.

How is this way of living to be described?  Jesus called it the ‘kingdom of God’.  Perhaps for us the word “kingdom” is tarnished.  I think we are more comfortable with the word heaven.  I suggest that the Christian mission statement could be something like this: “To lead people to heaven, which is not necessarily a place but a state of being in which we are joyfully at one with God and one another, now and in all eternity”.

© John Allen 2021