The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Persevering in Prayer

I was waiting for Charlotte at Heathrow. I was with many people who were keeping an eye on the wide doors through which people who have flown in, gone through passport control, and the luggage claim come. The people waiting are all quite a distance from these doors, behind barriers. Many are holding signs with names on them, some have presents with them, I have a coffee in my hand, but we’re all watching to see who is coming through. The liminal space between the doors and us is quite large, spacious, roomy but those who wait stand in their place and those returning walk the distance scanning for a familiar face or for a sign. Occasionally the ‘etiquette’ is broken and someone who is waiting ‘breaks through’ and runs to the new arrivals and then there are hugs and kisses and tears – and it’s the last seconds of the film ‘Love Actually’ all over again. I smile.

I’m not the first to have the thought and I won’t be the last that these meetings – whether they be drivers meeting their passengers for the first time and exchanging names just to be sure, business colleagues exchanging handshakes, or family and friends exchanging hugs and emotions – did take me momentarily to my imagined view of meeting in heaven. Now I don’t have a regular imagined view of meeting in heaven. It – and heaven – are not something I think much about. I rationalise heaven not as the ‘too hard basket’ but as a certain reality about which I have very little detail. That heaven exists and eternal life happens are not in question. I don’t put them in the ‘too hard’ basket when I’m asked questions the details of which I don’t know. It’d be easy to imagine scenes and give answers but the Bible doesn’t give us many pictures of the meetings – just that we will be together, that there will be celebrations akin to a joyous wedding reception, and that this new life will be an abundant one with no tears of sadness, no suffering, no pain, no misery, no death. And that’s where my answers and imagination go.

The other point I try to remember and then say is that when talking about eternal life, I am not talking only about the future – as if it is a future event after I die. The whole of Christianity is about life in the face of death in this world now. In Baptism we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection and we die and rise again with him. That is why our death in this world is only physical – of our body – but we’re always alive for whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8). That means Christians are living eternal life now and why death no longer terrorises us. 

I enjoyed my reverie at the airport, watching people meet, imagining what heaven might be like because it is simply lovely to see people happy – and emotional – but also because I took the scenes and my imagination and placed them under the Word of God and said to myself, “However it really happens, it is going to be much better than that!”. And then I saw Charlotte and I smiled again and yes, walked towards her and a hug because life is lived now when the future is secure.