Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Thoughts about the Afterlife






That noted theologian Woody Allen is reported to have said, “Rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow men, I’d prefer to live on in my apartment.” Unlike Allen, I have the hope, and the firm confidence, that after death I will “live on” in Heaven and not just in the hearts and minds of others. But similar to Allen, right now I prefer to live on in my home on Canterbury Lane.
On March 20 I posted “Thoughts about the Afterlife.” After reading the chapters on old age and death in Harold Kushner’s book Conquering Fear, I have been thinking more about the afterlife—but now with reference to myself rather than my parents. (The 3/20 posting was the day before what would have been my father’s ninety-fifth birthday.)
I was thinking about this matter while jogging the other day, and the words of the old gospel song “O That Will Be Glory For Me” came to mind. Two of the verses declare, “When all my labors and trials are o’er, / And I am safe on that beautiful shore, / Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, / Will through the ages be glory for me.” And “Friends will be there I have loved long ago; / Joy like a river around me will flow; Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know, / Will through the ages be glory for me” (words by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932; first published in 1900).
In my forties, I probably found considerable significance in those words, but for some reason I don’t find them particularly helpful now. At this time I want to make the most of living here and now rather than focusing upon what will happen after death. And at the end of my life, whether thirty days or thirty years from now, I would like for the focus of the funeral to be about life on this earth rather than about my life in Heaven.
Again, I say this not because I don’t believe in Heaven; rather, for whatever reason, I just don’t seem that interested in Heaven or in any hurry to get there. Like before, maybe it is because of my inability to get any good grasp of what life in Heaven will really be like. At any rate, my interest and emphasis at this time is how to live meaningfully right now, as a fallible human being on earth. And maybe that is as it should be.
Jesus, after all, didn’t talk a lot about Heaven. He talked about the Kingdom of God. Even though Christianity has often interpreted the Kingdom as beginning at the end times, for Jesus it was primarily his vision for here and now. And Jesus’ emphasis seems to have been upon the existence of a “beloved community,” not just the bliss of isolated individuals.


2 comments:

  1. The first response I received to this morning's posting was from a Thinking Friend in Virginia. He wrote,

    "Leroy, AMEN! At 85 I am much more interested in the here and now than the hereafter."

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  2. I have been re-reading the gospels recently. Christ's (annointed King) focus seems to be a focus on the good news of the Kingdom of God/Heaven. He clarifies to the governor that his kingdom is not of this world.

    Christ's statements about the citizens are also telling. 1) Change course to know the Ruler and 2)serve Him and and His other subjects (especially foreigners and those in need). The by analogous stories he said to take risks without fear to expand the kingdom and its resources. Those who do are rewarded well, those who don't are deported. He never condemns religious practice (in fact he joins in) but he does deal viciously with those who use religion for narcissitic purposes. The picture for the followers is not rosy for this life, but once free of this side the Kingdom is glorious with reward much more service for His Majesty.

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