The Kingdom of Heaven
21 July 2015
"Where is heaven and how do I get there?"
That's the question I was asked once by a very nice chap who was clearly interested in hearing the answer. Moreover, he was expecting a definitive answer. He also wanted it straight away. No amount of 'Well, that's an interesting question and one that has been puzzling human beings for thousands of years' would do. He wanted answers. And now.
So I gave him one.
"Heaven is six inches above your head and you get there by prayer." I said.
We then entered a profound and protracted conversation (one might even describe it as a good-natured argument) as to what on earth, if he may make so bold, did I mean by that?
The thing is, that when we speak of heaven we usually have an idea in their heads about a place. However, what we are actually talking about - and what Jesus almost exclusively talks about in the Gospels - is not just 'heaven', but The Kingdom of Heaven. Which, one might say, isn't a place at all. It's something else entirely.
So what is it?
I like especially to think of the Kingdom of Heaven as something that is both here and yet to come. It is Now and Not Yet.
The Kingdom of Heaven, if you like, could be thought of as 'God's Way Of Doing Things'.
God's way of doing things is clearly how things will be for us when we go to be with God. But it is also right here, right now. And, indeed, people are already practicing God's way of doing things this very moment. Not always, not perfectly perhaps, but, nonetheless, the work of God's Kingdom is going on all around us. We may even be doing a bit of it ourselves... once in a while, now and then, in little ways.
We need to remind ourselves of this.
And we can trust this. We can trust that God's way of doing things, God's Kingdom, is here and yet to come - in power - making everything new. We can trust that it is within our reach - all our reach - just six inches above our heads, if only we would stretch out to engage with it. We can do that in our daily lives. In the here and now. And we get there by prayer.
Prayer is conforming our will to the will of God; God's way of doing things. If we commit ourselves to a life of prayer - no matter how profound, no matter how simple - we are seeking to enter in to that Kingdom; we seek to listen to how that kingdom works, and to act on what we learn from that listening.
Which is why, through prayer, and action, and worship in our daily lives, the Kingdom of Heaven is entirely accessible both in the here and now - and in the future.
Why don't you pop into it right now and take a look around? All you have to do is take a moment from your busy lives and just think of God. Thank God. Rest in God... and then listen out to how much God loves you and what God thinks it might be nice if you went off and did...
Perhaps something you've always done, just in a different way.
Perhaps God will ask you to stop doing something. Something you've always been used to doing, but, which, in the Kingdom of Heaven, isn't very helpful to your, or someone else's happiness and well-being...
Perhaps God will simply say: just sit here a while, my beloved, with me... and let's look at how wonderful the world I created truly is... It could almost be, well, heaven on earth.