Seventh Sunday after Trinity
By Bruce Pennie
When you think of heaven, what picture comes to mind? Isaiah describes a throne room with seraphs flying around. The Revelation of John pictures a gleaming city. Jesus talks of a ‘mansion with many rooms’ and also of ‘Paradise’ which is usually depicted as a garden – echoing the Garden of Eden. Maybe you think of angels sitting on clouds plucking golden harps, or St Peter, stern-faced, standing at a gate with a ledger in his hand. All of these are very ‘place’ centred images. Heaven is somehow ‘up there’ above the clouds – as first described in Genesis, but in a way that does not fit with our modern understanding of space.
This section of Mathew’s Gospel gives us an entirely different way of thinking about the dwelling place of God or ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. One that is not centred on place but value and relationship. The funeral service quotes 1 Timothy, drawing on the Book of Job: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”. Yet as Paul writes to the Romans, even death – when we leave behind all the ‘created’ world - cannot separate us from the love of God. What we do take into the next life, into the Kingdom of God, is love; love that is expansive like an enormous tree or permeates us like yeast through flour; love that is as valuable to us as buried treasure or a fabulous pearl. So that when we are caught up into the Kingdom, like fish in a net, we are the ‘good fish’, the ones worth keeping; we find that, having treasured him, we are now the master’s treasure.