where is heaven? By that I mean a place of ease that we aspire to usually called ‘utopia’. Indeed a new term is coined by sociologists for an upwardly mobile segment of our society: the ‘Aspirationals’. In Sydney it means retiring with a water view.
In Goulburn I wonder if heaven is a place just outside of town on ‘acreage’? Or, more accurately, is heaven a place somewhere else (with a guest bathroom)?
The ancient mystics were captivated by the biblical image of Jacob's ladder and the ascent into the mysteries of God. We seem captivated by the property ladder: a more practical journey, yet one seemingly full of comparable devotion as evidenced by the Goulburn Post last week bemoaning the fact that the Valuer General has barely increased the local area while the city yet again is booming.
Whatever we might think of this present-day pilgrimage, it reveals a profound restlessness at the core of our techno-mobile culture. It seems ironic that in our continual pursuit of the perfect home, we can lose a sense of place. These themes of ‘rest’ and ‘place’ are very much part of our current series on Ruth.
As biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann suggests, 'the sense of being lost, displaced, and homeless is pervasive in contemporary culture' and 'the yearning to belong somewhere... is a deep and moving pursuit'. One of the tragedies of modern culture is that we seem to be programmed to move continually from 'space' to 'space' when what we really need and long for is 'place'. One of the consequences of being shoved out of Eden is a sense of restlessness and displacement. Mark Sampson from the London Institute of contemporary Christianity wrote“A place is, I suggest, storied space - the combination of the triangle of unfolding relationships that exists between God, people, and the land”. For Brueggemann, 'the Bible is primarily concerned with the issue of being displaced and yearning for a place'. Sin and redemption was experienced geographically by Israel as exile and hoped-for return. In a similar way, for us postmoderns, it is experienced - albeit metaphorically - as homelessness and coming-home. It is encouraging that much recent reflection on mission has included a recovery of hospitality as central to the church's task. See The Tangible Kingdom Halter and Smay. Publ. Jossey Bass 2008. Hospitality is welcoming the 'other' into a storied space where God, a community, and the land are in restored relationship. In extending hospitality we are offering to others the gift of belonging, of place. In doing so, we provide a brief glimpse and faint scent of the long-awaited coming-home that we will joyfully enter into one day.
Ever thought that our morning tea at church is supposed to be a foretaste of the true heaven that awaits?!