Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

Heaven and Hell

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With fitting humility Paul reminds us that we see the things to come ‘through a glass darkly’( I Corinthians 13.12). We can speak confidently though in images, because we have seen the Kingdom come ahead of the time in Jesus.

He is the new Adam, in whom all humankind will stand before him. At the same time the New Testament has a great deal to say about humans who welcome the new reality and those who resist it. The Gospel is clear that in this sense our responding ‘yes’ and ‘no’ has eternal consequence. This is a great mystery, connected as it is with the dignity with which we were made, and the high goal of offering a loving response of love. Yet even at our most recalcitrant, we remain creatures, and as such linked to the Creator. Heaven is an eternity turned toward Christ’ loving gaze, hell being turned in isolation away. Insofar as we want to be alone and ‘free’ of Him, we lock ourselves in our prison even here.

Further Up and Further In

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(listen to Handel’ Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah)

John tells us that we do not know what we shall be, but we know that in beholding Him we will come to resemble Him (I John 3:2). In other words, to imagine the promised land across the cold Jordan of death, we need the Christianly formed poetic imagination. It is fitting that the closing of our catechism is an opening. The doors and windows of our house are flooded with a luminous wind of life.

Let us seek the aid of one such poet in our era, C S Lewis. At the end of the Narnia tales, after the Last Battle, those who belong to the Lion move ‘further up and further in’. This is an idea borrowed from the ancient Church (‘epektasis’ meant ‘straining forward). Heaven is dynamic- corruption gone, but not growth. Furthermore the creaturely world is not abandoned, but we come to inhabit its depths and heights. 

Lord who summons us on, individually and together. There, and here too by grace and in anticipation, in fulfillment of our true end, we sing His richest praises! Amen.

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