Heaven Only Knows – How It Is On the Earth

It's your kid. You're at the school play or concert. You're mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. Aunt. Uncle. Special friend. There could be 40 other kids on stage. But here it comes. It's that one moment when Buford or Betty, Beaumont or Bianca steps up. The whole world seems to slow to a stop. All eyes fix on your little star. And amidst all the action, chaos, choristers and quiet, here it comes. PLING. That's all. 'All you needed to see, hear, feel… to understand/experience the world as never before. The triangle solo, never so performed since the earth took shape, and entirely unrepeatable, is at an end. And neither you nor the Created Order will ever be the same again. You know what I'm talkin' about. God does, too. And this is what we're going to explore over these next few weeks before Lent. Since Christmas, we've said much about the how the world receives/responds to Jesus. Now, let's begin to grasp how everything Heaven sees changes, once Jesus takes his place on earth. 'On stage, if you will. I tell you, it's a lot like watching your own special child in his/her moment of glory. 'Even if the world pays too little heed.

Oh, sometimes, sometimes the world gets turned upside down. Things aren't as they seem. Why? Because God, God in Godself, sees things differently than we, just because… of Jesus! If you doubt it, let me re-tell a story Jesus tells. Often, I think. That's why Luke remembers to write it down. (We might call it an Oldie But Goldie from the Master.) Two guys. Call 'em Lazarus and Dives. Let's just say Dives is a Wall Streeter. 'Got his 2008 bonus check, recession or no. Bail out, schmail out, he's off to dinner at the best doggoned restaurant in NY City! 'Tips the waiter 10 bucks leavin', get this, doggy bag in hand, for his pet schnoodle. As he's wont to do, on the way into his gated apartment, he passes (street livin') Lazarus. His dog-nanny, Salina Juanita's brought his poutty pooch to the gatepost. Dives doles out his goodies to the dog, wipes its paws with the bread crumbs, which he leaves for Lazarus to eat! (Eww!) The scene closes with the dog licking the sores on Lazarus (Double Eww!) Both die. Lazarus: to glory! Dives: to Not-Glory. "Lord, have mercy. Send Lazarus to dip his fingertip in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. Or at least send him to tell my partners things aren't as they seem at the brokerage house." "No," says God, "Even if I sent somebody back from the dead, they'd never believe it." Mmmph, Mmmph!

Luke tells the story because God knows Jesus lived it. And God honored it. Because when God saw Jesus on the cross, and lifted Jesus from the grave, God knew this was/is, in fact, the only way Dives and dear souls like us will ever get it. It's not the way we see the world, it's the way God does, through Christ! Heaven only knows how it is on earth, because Heaven sees through the eyes of Jesus. In the Jesus-bent, refracted light of Christ, there is a new kind of seeing, and being, and belonging. And it belongs to us, when we belong to Jesus. You and I? We need to begin to see like God, see like Heaven, exactly because God really has brought somebody back from the dead to show/tell us how it really is, from right here to eternity!

Oh, just now, it seems all eyes are set on the economy. Ours right here in our houses, our church, our state. Surely the U.S. Even the world. The creed of the moment: "It's all about the Benjamins ($20 bills)." But the Holy Eye sees otherwise. A few examples. Take babies born on the African continent. Did you know that the cure rate for children born to HIV/Aids mothers is 50% if treated before delivery? Did you know the rate is 98% in the developed world, where medication is available throughout the pregnancy? We may not notice day-by-day. God does. And in the name of Jesus, certainly Heaven wants to know: what have the unborn of Africa done to deserve this difference? We have spent the better part of this decade discussing "Weapons of Mass Destruction." We should have. This is a horrible thing. And those who have focused us on it deserve our deep thanks. We have rightly searched the globe to know what and where and how much is out there. But sometimes, we've come up infamously short of locating the stuff. Yet somehow we have missed the two most devastating WMD's on earth. Far and away, they are poverty and ignorance. (Needless communicable disease comes in an awful, but distant third.) The film Slumdog Millionaire will win awards for the story of India's slum-children. Yet few, save the church, will be there by this June.

God will still keep his eye on these kids. How is it on the earth? Heaven only knows… in Christ Jesus. So wouldn't it be something, were we too see as Heaven sees? Perhaps our presence at the Table today, under the sign of the Friday Cross will give us Sunday eyes like God.

Walter Wangerin gives us a powerful parable of this change, in Jesus Christ. His little tale is called The Ragman. Let me tell it, or sum it for you. See if you can see the picture.

Before Friday dawn, a tall, handsome young man walks the alleys in town. He pulls an old cart of new clothes. "Rags! New rags for old! I'll take your tired rags!" He comes on a woman sobbing on her back porch. He steps 'round tin cans, broken toys, pampers. He whisper-talks to her. "Give me your rag. I'll give you another." Her hanky for his so-clean linen cloth. She looks, blinks, stops crying. He goes on. 'Spies a child with a blood-soaked bandage on her head. Heart-moved, he says, "Give me your rag. I'll give you mine." From his cart, a bonnet for her. Her bandage to his head now. Her wound is gone! But the bandage stains darker with the Ragman's blood. Now he is sobbing, but still moving on. There's a guy, just leaning on a phone pole. The Ragman asks, "What is your job?" "Are you nuts?" he replies. He pulls from the pole, jacket sleeve in pocket. No arm, you see, after the war. "Give me your jacket. I'll give you mine." In the switch, Ragman's arm stays in its sleeve. The fellow now has two good arms, Ragman one. "Go on," Ragman says, "We both have our work to do." At alley's end, lies a still-tipsy soul under a so-sorry blanket. Ragman swaps it and makes it his own, leaving a new one, with clothes too, for this soul. So here now is Ragman at the edge of town, right at the landfill. Weeping, bleeding from the head, carting his rags with one arm, staggering besot. He climbs the garbage hill, clears a little space and lies down. Jacket down this way, kerchief down that (X sign). He covers up in the old blanket. Dies. But Sunday comes. (They still do.) A pure violet light shines on that hill. The Ragman's up, folding the blanket, ALIVE, but scarred on his brow. He is tall. Handsome. Young. Like new. Every gathered old rag is new, too.

Only the Friday cross gives us Sunday eyes,

to see and save the earth… as Heaven.

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