Are they one and the same?
In The Bible’s book of Genesis, humankind are given “dominion” over the plantet upon which we live. At the end of The Bible, in Revelation, we are told of “a new heaven and a new earth”, which are also the final words of the book Unveiling a Parallel. which I reviewed here, that inspired this post.
At the end of the Unveiling a Parallel story, the unnamed traveller to the planet Mars saw in the society of that planet what could be a different way of living for the humanity of this Earth. He came to appreciate how the people of Mars lived an idyll; a new heaven. Or, what could be heaven like if Earth’s humanity could learn to live peacefully together.
Earth’s humanity has taken “dominion” as giving ourselves the right to exploit the planet, usually for profit. We have forgotten that dominion also confers responsibility to respect and protect, to manage and steward Earth’s resources in a way that does not harm the planet. We have ignored these inconvenient aspects of dominion.
Humankind has taken oil and coal, metals and minerals from planet Earth with little regard to the consequences. We have poisoned great tracts with chemicals and pumped greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. We have cut down great swathes of the trees that make the oxygen we breathe. Ee face global warming and an uncertain future, largely due to our quest for profit, which ignores the inconvenient truths.
What if, taking Revelation as as a illustration, a new parable maybe, the new heaven and new earth were one and the same?
The traveller to Mars sees a society, and a way of living, that he perceives as a potential heaven on Earth, if only we people of planet Earth could overcome our petty squabbles, wars, injustice, violence and exploitation of the the Earth’s resources for profit.
What might be our new heaven and new earth? Could the new heaven and new earth be one and the same? We are, albeit slowly, beginning to realise the harm we are are doing to our planet. The only planet we know that can support human life.
Could it be that if we fully realise the extent of our destruction of the planet, it is not too late to do something about it?
It took millions of years for planet Earth to evolve to a human habitable environment. It took only a few hundred to strip it and damage it, to its present state. As with everything, damage to the planet was inflicted much, much faster than its evolution and our ability to repair that damage.
But suppose for a moment we do repair the damage. It will probably take generations; thousands of years to return it to the state it took hundreds to bring to its current state. If all the people of the planet started tomorrow to repair the damage, it would take generations to repair and recover but at the end of it all, our descendants could once again live on a clean, fecund planet. Perhaps a new Heaven and a new Earth.
Capturing the spirit.
On a visit to the Netherlands, the main reason is unimportant, on my way back to the car ferry at Hoek-Van-Holland, I stopped off in a small town to make an extra visit. That extra visit was important to me, a very special stop on my journey. I was going to visit a Rustplatts. The literal translation would be resting place, but in the UK we would call it a graveyard or cemetery.
I went to pay my respects to a late Dutch friend of many years, whose funeral I had been unable to attend. That visit was when for the first time I saw the plaque marking her resting place her resting place, and the words inscribed on it:
I am able ro read a little Dutch but I could not translate “Opgenomen”. I used an on-line translation services to help me understand it. Possible literal translations of “Opgenomen” can be ‘incorporated’ or ‘included’. In English, the phrase would then become ‘Included In The Light’, or ‘Incorporated in the light’. That translation might be accurate, but was perhaps not the intended feeling or spirit of what it means in Dutch, and so its sentiment is not captured in that English translation.
I think a more correct translation in the spirit of what was intended, albeit not a strictly accurate translation in this instance, that conveys the intended meaning might be ‘Joined With the Light’ or ‘One With The Light‘. I favour the latter.
In Biblical terms, the light can refer to heaven and to Jesus Christ, who is The Light Of The World. So an even looser translation, but capturing the spirit might be Gone to Heaven, or Joined with The Lord.
N.B: I welcome comments of readers
who understand both Dutch and English.
If you ask anyone who believes in heaven if it is eternal, the chances are most people will answer yes. But is it?
In the very first verse of The Bible (NIV UK) it says “In the beginning God created the Heavens” (note the plural) “and the Earth”. This might indicate that it is not just referring to Heaven in the context of being with God, in His realm. It could also also suggests that there are physical heavens, such as we often describe the sky, stars and the universe in which our tiny planet is like a mote.
If we assume that “the heavens” might be a physical manifestation, then Heaven, the realm or kingdom where we will be with God, might be eternal. But, just because it has always existed, does that mean it will always exist?
In 2 Peter 3:13 and also in Revelation 21:1 ” a new heaven and a new earth” is referred to. There is a lot of The Bible that cannot be taken literally, so we need to look for a deeper meaning. Phrased as it is, we cannot dismiss the possibility that Heaven is not eternal.
Is it possible that Earth might become the new heaven? “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31) .Please note it is only “very good”, not perfect. So before there can be a new heaven, would we first need a new Earth? And if there was a heaven, and then a new heaven, it cannot be eternal.
Some time ago, I surveyed a walking route around Cirencester. In the same week, our Home group had discussed The Lord’s Prayer. These musings are the result of reflecting on The Prayer in relation to that walk.
As my church’s 2016 Lenten focus is prayer, the first Sunday of Lent seemed an opportune time to publish my thoughts.
I have used the words of the prayer which I learned as a child. I have omitted For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen, which is not found in some early manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew.
Our Father which art in Heaven.
Is Heaven in colour whilst we live our lives in monochrome?
I walked along tarmacadam roads with cars parked along many of them and a constant stream of traffic going by with a roar from the engine of a truck to the annoying whine of a small motor cycle. The buildings along these streets were mostly of brick and stone, predominantly grey with a few of the newer houses and establishments in red brick.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist, in the High Street, was open and is one of the largest Parish churches in England. I called in to see if it would be open on the day I would be leading the walk and if it was accessible to wheelchairs (it is), as the route is suitable for people who have trouble walking too.
As I entered St. John’s I was struck by two things. The peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful colours in the stained glass windows, both in contrast to the grey noisy world outside.
Hallowed be Thy name
Further along the walk’s route I went through Cirencester park and the grounds of what was Cirencester Abbey, long gone now but the grounds are still well tended. The lush green lawns mown and on the bright sunny day I passed through, families were playing and picnicking.
I couldn’t help wondering how many of the people now enjoying this green oasis had given any thought to the old abbey and why it was there, that it’s purpose was to live by your ways, to praise and glorify your name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
Again my thoughts turned to the abbey grounds, although this time not so much the grounds themselves as the people enjoying them. I didn’t see any unhappy faces. Families and friends spending time together, some breaking bread together with a picnic. Children playing and everyone getting along, a kind of peaceful harmony in this escape from a frenetic world. A tiny taste of what could be, perhaps, the Kingdom to come.
Give us this day our daily bread
All along the High Street were places where you can get food and drinks. There were cafés, bars and restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream sellers and street vendors. Something to satisfy every palate but is this the “bread” or food we need? For most of us in the affluent west probably not but for millions around the world, food from any of these places would be a luxury. What is thrown away in a day by some of these places would feed some African or Indian families for a week, maybe more.
The ‘bread’ we need is offered to us by the shepherd who knows and cares for each of his flock with equal love. I wonder how many of us really accept the offer?
and forgive us our trespasses
Most of the walk was in quiet streets, parks and the abbey grounds, but Cirencester High Street was thronged with people and cars, all rushing around doing their Saturday shopping, buying the things they need, the things they think they need and things they don’t need.
In amongst them all is me, not interested in the shops today, following the map and instructions for the walk’s route. As I stride down the sidewalk I constantly find myself behind people ‘rushing around’ but somehow always walking slower than me. I find myself constantly muttering under my breath as I weave from side to side on the pavement impatient to get past, as if I had more right than them to use the pavement.
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Early in the walk’s route there is a Roman Amphitheatre, which I learned from a passer-by was used for games; Roman games with gladiators fighting for their lives, often slaves forced to fight into the arena. Were any of those who were forced to fight Christians? After all, Christians were persecuted by Rome. Did any of those gladiators manage to forgive their captors, or the men they were forced to fight?
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
We might not be led into temptation but it’s all around us. Cirencester High Street, like almost any other street of shops, is crammed with advertising and displays in shop windows all trying to persuade us to buy something. Usually something we don’t need. We might want it but need it? I doubt it. And I’m just as bad, I tell myself that advertising doesn’t trap me into getting something I don’t want but when I really stop and think about it, I can’t say I’m not tempted, nor that I don’t give in to it.
Some more thoughts on The Lords Prayer can be found in a previous post, A Prayer Or A Set Of Instructions.
A reflection on The Lord’s Prayer
When Jesus taught his 12 disciples, and so later all of us, what we now know as The Lord’s Prayer, did he really mean for it to just be repeated word-for-word (allowing now for different translations), each time it was said.
I think that Jesus intent for The Lord’s Prayer was never for it to be said parrot fashion. He was not just teaching us words to say, but was teaching us how to pray. Too often I, and I think probably many other people too, just use the words of The Lord’s Prayer without really thinking about what they mean.
If this sounds like I’m saying we should not be using The Lord’s Prayer, then maybe I am saying that when all we do is say the words by rote without thinking about what they truly mean. For prayer to be meaningful, it is not the words that are important, it is what is in your heart and God always knows what that is. Just repeating the words, which perhaps like me you learned as a child, is just a hollow meaningless gesture.
In my childhood, the version of The Lord’s Prayer that I learned was as in the King James version of The Bible. that is the version I use here.
Our Father who art in Heaven.
Bring God into your mind and find him in your heart.
Hallowed be thy name.
Praise the Lord our God.
Thy kingdom come.
Ask for a better world and do what you can to make the world better.
Thy will be done.
Listen to God. Try to discern what he wants from you or of you. Be prepared to act on what God says to you.
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Try to do what God leads you to do with diligence, care, compassion and love.
Give us this day our daily bread
This is not just about physical sustenance, for our physical bodies, but about our spiritual lives. Help us to understand your word.
and forgive us our trespasses,
Try and remember specific things to ask for forgiveness for, especially acts of
negligence or omission that are easily forgotten or overlooked.
As we forgive those that trespass against us.
If you do not forgive sins against you, the memory eats away at you until it can tempt
or provoke you into acts of sin or possibly revenge yourself, which is a sin in and of
itself. Maybe not forgiving is itself a sin.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
I cannot imagine that our God would ever lead us into temptation and if we listen to
his word, we can resist temptation and be delivered.
These notes are on The Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught it, not with the extra words added later:
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory.
For ever and ever
Eternal God, source of all peace; in this season of Advent as we wait for Your son to come again, may Your Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and our words as we offer them back to you in our prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, as we sing familiar carols and listen again to well loved passages of The Bible as we approach Christmas, touch our hearts again with the wonder and excitement of Your birth.
All around us we see advertisements and commercial persuasion to spend, spend, spend ever more on bigger, more extravagant gifts. Whatever size gifts we might give or receive, let us not forget why we give them and who’s birthday they celebrate. Help us Lord to give with love and to receive gracefully.
Christ was born of the line of Jesse and David. A perfect human born from a lineage of flawed, imperfect human ancestors. Although we can never achieve His purity, we can, with God’s help, aim to constantly become more caring and compassionate like He was.
Lord in your mercy, hear this prayer.
In this week’s news, our Chancellor in his governments Autumn statement told us that the national economy is showing signs of recovery. Let us pray for everyone for whom the recovery brings no benefit. In this winter we pray for all those in fuel poverty, the people and families who cannot afford to heat their homes as we can, and especially we pray for those who must choose between heating and eating.
We pray also for everyone whose hot meals come from foodbanks, which are feeding ever growing numbers of people.We thank you Lord for the volunteers who run the foodbanks and for the generosity of those who donate. We thank You for the food on our own tables and for the family, friends and companions with whom we break bread. For these and all your freely offered gifts, we thank You.
Father God, creator of all life. In Your wisdom you gave life to Nelson Mandela, who died this week. The world will remember him as a great statesman who, after 27 years in Robin Island Prison, as a political prisoner, rose to lead his country that he loved without bitterness or anger but in a spirit of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
As the world remember the great leader, his family will remember a loving husband and father. We pray for them that they will find peace and comfort amidst the commotion and tumult of the state funeral, and that they are not harried by media, eager for a story, in their time of grief.
God who brought us to birth.
and in whose arms we die,
comfort Nelson Mandela’s family
and all who have lost loved ones,
in their time of mourning.
We pray for everyone in Europe and Britain who were affected by storms this week. We remember those whose homes have suffered damage, from wind and flooding, and especially for anyone whose home has been destroyed beyond repair or washed away. We thank You, Father for the emergency and rescue workers that worked tirelessly throughout to save life and property and we thank you too for the blessing of our own homes and safety.
Heavenly Father, we turn to you now to ask for healing those in pain in mind, body or spirit. Sometimes, Lord, with Your strength and guidance we are able to assist in a small way in curing them but we know that true healing comes only from You; a gift of your grace given freely and unconditionally to those in need of it. We pray also for ourselves as we each bring to you the cares and concerns in our own hearts.
Father in heaven,
our hearts seek the warmth of your love
and our minds search for the light of Your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dream of His coming again
might find us rejoicing in His presence
and welcoming the light of His truth.
Merciful Father, accept this prayer for the sake of Your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Please feel free to download this prayer as a pdf file Intercession 131208.