When I was about seven years old, and worried about death and heaven and hell, I
consulted with the family member who talked about God the most.
Aunt Ruthie graciously stepped away from her Trinity Broadcast Network programming
to answer my question about heaven.
Her face change into sunrise, and with a joy in her voice that almost scared me, she said,
"In heaven, we will praises to Jesus forever!"
So my two eternal options were fiery torment or a church service that never ends.
I didn't ask her any more questions and returned to silent worry.
Much later I learned that musicians debate whether the angels play Bach or Mozart,
meaning that heaven's playlist might extend beyond Aunt Ruthie's Baptist
And I've now had enough theological training to believe it also includes eighties power
The Bible begins with God making love out of nothing at all and climaxes with the new
Jerusalem arriving from on high – ooh, heaven is a place on earth! – while hell
itself burns away in the lake of fire.
Am I only dreaming, or is this burning an eternal flame?
Before we get there, however, there is the necessary administrative matter of the
Great Judgment, in which the king separates goats who did not recognize him
from sheep who did not recognize him either.
Maybe you can hear the sheep singing their praises to Jesus, with lyrics from Survivor:
I was always reachin' You were just a girl I knew I took for granted The friend I had in you
I was living for a dream Loving for a moment Taking on the world That was just my style Now I look into your eyes I can see forever The search is over You were with me all the while.
As the church has spent history chasing power and money and glory, its Lord has stood in
soup lines, rummaged through clothing bins, and languished in jail cells and
As the church dresses up like a prom queen, the king of all creation watches along the
wall in the shadows, hoping she will notice him, dreaming she will accept his awkward royal hand.
When she looks into his eyes, will she see forever, or will she move on to some other,
more attractive dream?
Matthew watches human nature and worries constantly about this, so his long gospel has
maintained the same steady drumbeat:
Do not judge.
Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
The messiah, whose name is God-is-with-us, is born into a sketchy family, hunted down
by the Jewish king helped by Bible scholars, and worshiped by foreign magicians.
Jesus announces blessing on the losers while battling the winners, and he tells stories of a
field full of tangled wheat and weeds and a fishnet dragged up from the sea, all to
be sorted by someone else, and of vineyard workers getting equal pay for unequal work.
In countless ways, from direct commands to plot twists to parables, Matthew is constantly trying to move us from measurement and math to lavish mercy.
Judgment is promised, but it is not our job, which is good, because we're no good at it.
The sheep don't know they're sheep and the goats don't know they're goats, and