Hope, for followers of Jesus, is intimately related to both our identity and vocaton as "children of God:" those committed to the Way of Brother Jesus, who taught and lived a radical brand of love, forgiveness, peace, inclusivity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized. We join God in giving birth to a whole new world. This will take sacrifice and suffering. Like an expectant parent, we know that what we do now will have profound significance for how things will be then. In fact, as the late theologian James McClendon wrote, "Then is now." In Jesus, the End of the world invaded the Present. And, so, we commit our time, energy & resources towards the Task of bringing heaven to earth.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
...then we must start living as if the least and lowest actually have more value than those who are on the cover of our magazines. Eternity will be a smooth transition for those who cut againt the grain in this world. Those who "beat their swords into ploughshares" in this lifetime will be secure in the Next. Meanwhile, "the wages of those who failed to pay the workers who mowed their fields are crying out against them." This can't be good.
No doubt about it, the End of the world will come. It will finally "bring out the prisoners from the dungeons" of torturous Gitmo and overcrowded California. Ultimately, the responsibiliy falls to all of us who Brother Howard called "the guards of the system," all of us middle-class white folk painfully committed to keeping things just the way they are. This is why Brother Martin put the focus on "not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Silence is violence.
And as Brother Gandhi taught, we'd all better make sure that what we think, say and do are all in harmony. The cobbled streets of gold shimmer with congruency: "whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light." All that bribery and corruption, those illusions and lies, will come out of the backrooms and be exposed in HD.
Yes, heaven and hell exist. But not the way most of us have been taught. They are not destinations for the next life. They are designs for this one. It's not just the hedonism and hatred. All this hoarding leads to hellish conditions all over the globe, no matter how much we try to cover it up with the invisible hand. Meanwhile, simple saints of all stripes are colonizing various contexts with heavenly acts of hospitality.
God's Creation is pregnant with powerful possibilities and it matters whether we are with the grain of the universe...or not. The Arc is slowly bending towards love and justice. Are we with it or against it? Our privilege, power and possessions will blind us from Reality--may we repent! Affluenza is spreading--vaccinate us! Tribal mindsets shortchange our lineage--all the way back to God!
When Jesus proclaimed that "the reign of God is at hand," he was testifying that God's Dream for the world was going be fulfilled by clusters of conscience who utterly refuse to believe that the nightmares of this world will have the final say. Behold, eternity is in the rearview mirror. Stop the vehicle, get out and breathe in her mysterious blend of Heaven. And then pass it on. Before it's too late.
In God's economy, life is a Gamble. There's no guarantee. But the grass is greener on the other side of the graveyard for those who bet everything on solidarity with those who struggle just to survive, the diseased & destitute, the lethargic & left out. Let's not spend time counting cards. We will win in the End. All we can do is recklessly play with the Hand we are dealt, doubling down on these ten:
God's Dream yearns for some prophetic imagination, some pastoral intentionality, some passionate intimacy and a whole lot of personal inventory. Victory will come with a vision that includes everybody. Heaven is not about souls. It is about a symbiotic relationship with every living Thing. We're weaved into a covenant of compassion. Interdependence is our Divine inheritance. Now is the Time to connect the dots. Now is the time to get saved. A whole new world is depending on it.