Heaven on Earth
I am trying to get ready for heaven. I have a long way yet to go, but it helps to have hints about what eternal life will be like. One of those hints comes in Revelation 7:9-10.“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
In heaven there are going to be people who are black, brown, white, red and every other color as well. They will speak many different languages and represent many different cultures.
I would like to experience a foretaste of heaven on earth, and I think we come close to that when we find ethnic diversity in our churches. When people from many different ethnic backgrounds are praising God and worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together, it feels like I am getting ready for what the Kingdom of God will be like.
We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a time of remembering his dream. He said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In many different speeches, sermons and writings, Dr. King enunciated the highest ideals of the Christian faith and of America. He gave us words to live by, and it is appropriate to measure our current reality in the light of his dream for our country.
We are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of The United Methodist Church. An important part of that process was the decision to end segregation of churches, districts, conferences and jurisdictions by race. We made the right decision, and we should be measuring our current reality in the light of our highest and best ideals.
Racism still exists in America today, and even infects part of our United Methodist Church. When we confess our sins and set our agendas for where God will lead us, we need to recommit to building the kind of church and the kind of nation that exhibits our highest and best values. When it comes to race relations, we still have a long way to go before we can say that we have seen the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Bishop Scott Jones