Monday, 8 June 2015

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, 'This is what the kingdom of heaven is like .. . ' I bet they paid rapt attention. Who doesn't want to know what the kingdom of heaven is like?
There are some explanations, of course, which people don't find attractive, and neither do I. Sitting on a cloud, playing the harp and singing holy songs or crying out 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' all day is not my idea of heaven.
But then I don't find the descriptions of heaven you often get from guests at funerals compelling either. A giant golf course; a fisherman's paradise; a pub with free beer. No, as entertaining as these activities may be I am certain their attractiveness would soon wane.
So what is heaven like?
I recall a 4 am call-out to Accidents and Emergency at the RPA during the time I was chaplain there. A middle-aged man had died suddenly. I was there within 12 minutes and administered the rites of the Church. His wife was there with her fourteen year old son. When the mother was called in to fill out some hospital forms I got to have a 40 minute chat with the boy, who told me all about himself and his dad. After a while he asked, 'So what is heaven like?' I told him a story someone once told me. And here it is.
"A man died and came to the pearly gates. St Peter showed him to a huge brick wall with doorway in it. They went in and there was a table and a chair beside a mountain of blank sheets of paper and a mountain of pencils. On the table was a little silver bell.
St Peter told the man that he should sit down and write on the paper all the things he wanted - houses, cars, servants - and so on. He said, 'When you've finished ring the bell and the angels will set it all up for you. Then we'll give you some more time to think of other things you might have overlooked and then we'll have to brick the door in and you'll stay there behind the wall for all eternity.'
The man set to work and didn't stop writing for weeks and weeks until finally he couldn't think of a single thing more he might want. He called St Peter and was amazed to see all his wishes fulfilled in an instant. It was magnificent, beautiful, incredible! What he liked most of all were all the people he had asked for to just be his servants.
After living in his paradise for some weeks he had filled another small mountain of paper sheets with things he had thought of. Then St Peter came to close up the doorway. The man was delighted with himself and his wonderful world. He said to St Peter, 'You know, when I was on earth I have to admit I did some pretty evil and rotten things, and I was never sorry. How come I now get to go to heaven?'
St Peter answered abruptly, 'But this is not heaven'.
'But I have everything I've ever wanted,' said the man, 'so what is heaven like?'
St Peter paused for a moment and then told him in a slightly confidential tone, 'When they were making this wall, I noticed one of the angels was a little careless and left a tiny pinhole in the mortar. I think if you pull that cart up against the wall and put a barrel on it, and stand on tippie toe, I think you might be able to see a micro dot of heaven.'
The door was sealed and the man immediately did as St Peter had suggested. He climbed up on the barrel and peered through the tiny hole. 'Wow!' he exclaimed and his mouth fell open. 'Wooow!' he cried again.
You know this happened many years ago but that man has never stepped off that barrel. He has been standing there on tippie toe all this time just staring at that teensy weensy bit of heaven. And do you know something else, he has never closed his mouth either."

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