Sermon by Rev Dr Amy Richter, US Episcopal Church - to read the full sermon please click HERE
What do you think heaven is?
A man and his sister were taking care of their father who was in the last stages of cancer, the man staying with their bed-ridden father during the day and his sister staying with their father through the night.
It had been a hard day. The man and his father hadn't always got on well, and on this particular day his father was especially irritable and giving him a hard time. The man was impatient, waiting for his sister to come for the night shift. He had his coat and shoes on so he could leave as quickly as possible when she arrived. But he heard his father call to him from the other room. He went in, and his father asked, "What do you think happens to us after this life?"
A big question. A serious question. The man didn't have many words, but he thought he could show his father his answer. He got into the bed and lay down beside his father. He asked him, "Dad, do you love me?"
"You know I love you," his father said.
The man touched his own chest and then touched his father's, right above his heart. The man asked, "How much of our ability to love do you think we use during our lives? Ten percent?"
"Fifteen," said his father.
"Okay," said the man. "In heaven," he said, touching his own chest and then his father's, "100 percent."
The next day the man got a call from his sister, telling him his father had died, quite peacefully. But before he died, he made a gesture she didn't understand. Just before he died, he looked at her, and he touched his chest – his heart – and then reached up and touched hers.
In heaven, 100 percent: true connectedness, true love, right relationship, no chasms between us.
We were made for relationship. We were made to be in right relationship with God and one another, 100 percent. But very few of us live that way – I know I certainly don't. We always have a relationship with something else, something that takes up part of that heart space so we don't use all 100 percent for loving God and loving our neighbour. Sometimes that something is money or seeking our own comfort over the needs of others.
In our reading today from 1 Timothy, Paul exhorts the faithful not to get too close to the uncertainty of riches, but instead draw close to "God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." If you live in right relationship with God, it will show in this way, says Paul: doing good, being rich in good works, being generous and ready to share. And living this way will allow us to "take hold of the life that really is life." Not the appearance of life – what this world trumpets as the good life – material comforts – but the life that really is life, the abundance that comes from living heart to heart, 100 percent now.