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 on 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.