Imagine The Kingdom (Wednesday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:1-2
The disciples of Jesus were desperately fearful that Jesus was leaving them. And I can tell you – in twenty years of pastoring and counseling, I’ve talked to plenty of women and men who feel like God is as far away as Mars.
In my church, we proclaim the Apostle’s Creed almost every Sunday. One of the proclamations we make is this: Jesus ascended into heaven. And, as the popular misunderstanding goes, he went to build a heavenly palace for us to dwell in when we, in the end, rise like ghosts into the sky.
Heaven is not a far-away place, however. Heaven is another dimension, more near to us than we realize. Respected New Testament scholar and Episcopal Bishop N.T. Wright says, “The ascension of Jesus…is his going, not way beyond the stars, but into this space, this dimension.”[i] We use language that conveys a “going” but it is not a going away, it is a going deeper. Again, we’ve got to exercise holy imaginations to see and experience this.
C.S. Lewis imagines this process in a way I can relate to. He says that our home needs some significant repairs. God’s mansion-building project requires an extreme makeover. Perhaps you, like me, like to watch HGTV sometimes, and appreciate the transformation that happens when imaginative designers meet skilled laborers. Jesus has entered into this new, deeper heavenly dimension to do his grand re-design, his extreme makeover of you and me and the entire cosmos. He is one with the Creator, after all! C.S. Lewis writes, “You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”[ii]
Lent is often a time for spiritual touch-ups. Some use this liturgical season to “get right with God,” to “recommit to reading the Bible,” to “develop healthier spiritual habits.” When I hear this, I sense that people are still operating from the old, pre-Jesus script that the Pharisees were working off of, the one that I imagine to be a re-painting of the outside of the house while the inside rots. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs.”
No, stretch your imagination a bit further. The King is building a palace. And the King has sent his Spirit to begin the work in you, from the inside-out. You – God’s living temple – are a top priority in God’s Kingdom restoration project. You, with all of your baggage. You, with that history of abuse. You, with the failed attempts to overcome that addiction. You, with your squeaky clean outside. You, with your doubts about it all. God is far more committed to you than you are to yourself, if you can imagine it.
And so, let the work begin. Surrender to it. Partner in it. Fall into the goodness God has for you.
Ascended Jesus, I’m trying to imagine that you are not far away, but actually present to me in a way that doesn’t make sense to my analytical mind. But nothing is impossible with you. And so, would you do the work of re-creating me from the inside out to be the beautiful mansion you long to dwell in? Amen
[ii] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 206.