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God Talk with T-roy

These are random points of view on various subjects of theology.

Location: Wichita Falls, Texas, United States

Saturday, May 01, 2010

He's the PASCHAL, PASSOVER Lamb, Not the Scapegoat or Blood Sacrifice Goat


Over a year ago, I read Robin Meyer's book, Why the Christian Right is Wrong. I was immediately a fan. Then, I was pleased to hear he had written a new book, Saving Jesus From the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus. Based on the earlier book and the recommendation of a friend, I recommended it to a Sunday School class without having read it.

I just recently started reading it. Through the Prologue and Chapters 1-2, I was still a fan. Of course, there were some piddly things that I took issue with in this and the earlier book, but by-and-large, I thought it was great.

There are some important parts of Chapter 3, however, that I take real issue with that I have to discuss before moving on.

Meyers writes on page 62, "Mark's permanent appropriation of the symbolism of Passover and its connection with the death of Jesus changed the course of human history - and our understanding of what the death of Jesus ended up meaning to all Christendom." He then goes on to espouse that Jesus, as the Paschal lamb is the scapegoat and the blood sacrifice offered in the Temple on the Day of Atonement.

First, we have to remember that Passover and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are two different holidays in the Jewish tradition. Passover takes place in the spring in remembrance of the Exodus, and Yom Kippur takes place in the fall to symbolize repentance and forgiveness.

Notice, Passover is in remembrance of the Exodus. Let's think about this. Moses did NOT come into Egypt and tell the Israelites, "The reason you are in slavery is because you are so sinful." No, simply, God heard their cry and sent Moses to be the spokesperson to guide them out of Egypt.

Likewise, the lamb was not slain because the Israelites were sinful. It was slain for them to EAT! Why? They are leaving on a long journey the next day, leaving Egypt. Note Exodus 12:11, "This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly." They are dressed for traveling! They need protein!

What about the blood sprinkled on the doorposts? The text says nothing about sin (see Exodus 12). It is simply a sign that those who inhabit the house trust God. They are saying, "By doing this, we signify that we are one of Yours, God! We trust that you will take care of us!"

It is important to realize that Mark NEVER equates Jesus with a lamb, Passover (Paschal) or otherwise. We only see that explicit connection of Jesus being the Paschal lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7 and the Gospel of John (see John 1:29, 36; 19:31-36). John has Jesus crucified after noon (when Passover lambs are slaughtered), and after his death, his legs are not broken - one of the mandates about the Passover lamb (see Exodus 12:46). It is interesting in considering John's use of Jesus as the Passover lamb to read John 6:53-58 where we are commanded to eat the flesh and drink the blood. Why? We need nourishment for the journey of an abundant life!

Okay, so Mark does not say Jesus is the Passover lamb, and the Passover lamb has nothing to do with sin. Does Mark equate Jesus with the scapegoat or the blood sacrificial goat?

No. Two books, as we saw above, equate Jesus with Passover lambs. Acts 8:32, 1 Peter 1:19, and Revelation in many places equates Jesus with a lamb. NEVER is Jesus equated with a goat, and there is a distinction between the two. Consider the parable of the sheep and goats of Matthew 25:31-46.

We also have to realize that Mark just is not all that concerned with "sin," "sins," the "sinful," or "sinners." In this sixteen chapter book, these terms are only found in the following passages:
  • Mark 1:4-5 (talking about John's baptism for the forgiveness of sins);
  • Mark 2:5, 7, 9-10 (the healing story of the paralytic where Jesus forgives simply by saying it);
  • Mark 2:15-17 (Jesus is eating with sinners, not the "righteous")
  • Mark 3:28-29 (talking of the only unforgivable sin);
  • Mark 8:38 (Jesus will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of him in this "adulterous and sinful generation"); and
  • Mark 14:41 (Jesus is betrayed into the hands of sinners).
Notice that Mark is essentially done talking about sin as a topic after Chapter 3, and Jesus can forgive just by saying, "You are forgiven." He does not have to die! Never does Mark say that Jesus' death has anything to do with sin. The cup of the covenant at the last supper is not for the forgiveness of sins (we see this ONLY in Matthew's gospel).

Okay, but what about Mark 10:45? When it says that Jesus is “to give his life a ransom for many,” is this not supporting the traditional idea of atonement – that Jesus had to die for the forgiveness of sins? I do not think so. Let us look at what this word, ransom, means.

Typically we try to define ransom as “an offering for sin.” However, I do not think this is a correct interpretation. Note what Markan expert, Morna Hooker says on pages 248-249 of her 1991 book, The Gospel According to Saint Mark:
The noun ransom (λύτφον) and the cognate verb ‘to redeem’ (λυτφόω) are both used in the LXX [Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible] to describe a variety of transactions – e.g. the payment of money given to free a slave (Lev. 25.47-55, where the Hebrew root is g-‘-l), or the sacrifice offered in place of the first-born (Exod. 13.13-16, where the root is p-d-h). . . . The preposition for (άντί) can have a variety of meanings, according to the context. If ransom were here understood to be a substitutionary sacrifice, then it would mean ‘instead of’, but it is important not to read back into this saying ideas which belong to later centuries, and if the noun has the more general sense of ‘redemption’ suggested above, then the preposition will mean ‘for the sake of’ or ‘on behalf of’.
I argue that Jesus gives his life, according to Mark, "for the sake of others" or "on behalf of others" to set an example for discipleship.

Consider Mark 8:27-38: Jesus says that being the Messiah means getting oneself killed. BUT, he goes on to say that if you want to be a true disciple, you must be willing to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow him! In the first century, the cross had one meaning - execution. Jesus says we should be so committed to the gospel that we are willing to die for it!

Remember the cup of the covenant at the last supper? In Mark, this was not for the forgiveness of sin. What is it for? We have to consider how Mark uses "cup" elsewhere in the Gospel:
  • Right after the last supper, Jesus goes to the Garden to pray "that the cup might pass from him," but he willingly drinks it - going to his death.
  • In Mark 10:35-45, James and John ask to sit at Jesus' left and right when he comes into his glory. Jesus asks if they can drink the same cup as him. They say they can, and Jesus affirms that they will.
In a covenant, there are responsibilities put upon both parties. The cup of the covenant is a covenant of discipleship that Jesus, in Mark, shows us how to fulfill! In this covenant, we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus even to the point of death! Jesus does not do it for us so we won't have to. Jesus does it to show us how to!

There is no doubt that people have misinterpreted the gospel of Mark (and other passages of the New Testament) over the centuries, as I would argue Meyers is doing. We have to remember, though, as Marcus Borg reminds us in his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (pages 128-129) (as do John Dominic Crossan and Walter Wink elsewhere) that the theory of substitutionary atonement does not become dominant until 1079CE when Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, publishes his book, Cur Deus Homo? We cannot and should not read this theology back into the gospel of Mark, because Mark never had it.

Monday, March 09, 2009


What's the point of "grace" in popular Christianity, anyway? What does it mean? What is it for?

I think it is interesting that we stand up in church and sing, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." It often seems that the next, un-sung line in many people's minds is, "but not that poor sucker around the corner. He's too far gone. Not even God's grace can save him."

Then, we talk about how the death penalty is a good thing saying, "So and so deserves death. They don't deserve another chance. Any type of repentance they might show is just a show to try to get off." Apparently, the un-said part of that is that, "Not even God's grace can make a difference in that person's life."

Some are asked to teach Sunday School, but the response we hear is, "Well, I really don't know anything about the Bible. I just don't think I have the ability to do something like that. I've never tried, but I really just want to focus on me. I need my own Sunday School class." What's not being said here: "I don't think God, in God's grace, will help me be able to do this. Grace is something I need. If those in the Sunday School class that need a teacher don't find or experience God's grace, it's not my fault. That's what God is supposed to do."

Others are asked to serve food to the less fortunate or the homeless, but what we hear is, "If they want food, they just need to go get a job. It's their own fault that they are hungry. It's none of my business." Maybe what we are really hearing is, "I just don't think it is fair that everybody has access to God's grace. I don't think it should be unconditional. Everybody needs to do something to deserve it."

Sadly, we forget that, by definition, grace means a FREE gift that one receives even though they don't deserve it. Sadly, we have the idea that grace is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." The idea here is, "Jesus did it so I won't have to." Sadly, we live life as if God's grace really isn't all that amazing after all. We claim to be people who "believe the Bible," and yet we don't pay attention to (or we ignore) passages such as:
  • There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18, NRSV)
  • I am confident of this, that the one [God]who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6, NRSV)
  • Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15, NRSV)
  • But [God] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NRSV)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NRSV)
  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NRSV)
  • For mortals [salvation] is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.(Mark 10:27, NRSV)
What I think all of this means is that we are not all that amazing, and we tend to view the world in that same way. Yet, we forget that God's grace makes us amazing, makes the world amazing, and allows us to do amazing things in the world for God. Let us not forget that God's grace is amazing - for ALL people!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heavenly Pets?

Many in this world would have us believe that God is really only concerned with people– nothing else in this world (some would go so far as to say that God it only concerned with people’s souls, not even physical needs). I must admit: I don’t buy it.

Take, for instance, Colossians 1:20:

"Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven." (GNT emphasis mine)

According to this, Jesus’ actions were not just for people but ALL THINGS in the WHOLE UNIVERSE!

Similarly, I’m reminded of various Psalms such as Psalm 148. Note verses 7-10:

"Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all ocean depths; lightning and hail, snow and clouds, strong winds that obey his command. Praise him, hills and mountains, fruit trees and forests; all animals, tame and wild, reptiles and birds." (GNT, emphasis mine)

June 23, 2008, my cat, Mr. Kitty died. I have no doubt that he praised the Lord. Many a time, I watched him watch sunrises & sunsets with awe. Even more times, when Sandra or I were having bad days, he’d make special efforts to cheer us up, showing us love. Isn’t that what we’re all called to do?

I believe ALL life is sacred, because God brought it ALL into being. All of God’s creation seeks to “obey God’s command.” Thus, God, who is “above all, through all, and in all” (see Ephesians 4:6) seeks to be at one with all creation– even cats like Mr. Kitty.

For some pics of our beloved Mr. Kitty, CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I used to think that bumper sticker was pretty funny. Several years ago, I even thought about getting one for my car. Luckily, I've done quite a bit of study since then.

First, do you realize that the term "rapture" is nowhere in Scripture, even though many would have you think it is? Some, of course, will counter and say that there are many useful theological terms that are not in the Bible. True, but is the concept of those terms there? In terms of "rapture," I do not believe so, based on my study of Scripture.

Let me start with a recent revelation from Luke 17:22-37:
20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, "Look, here it is!' or "There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."

22 Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, "Look there!' or "Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30 —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot's wife. 33 Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." 37 Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." (NRSV)

Based upon what we usually hear from, for instance, the "Left Behind" series, is that we better make sure we are not one of those that are "left behind." We must make sure we are taken. Look at the above text, though. Only Noah and his family were saved, and they weren't raptured. Only Lot and his family (minus his wife) were saved, and they weren't raptured. Notice, in vss. 34-36, Jesus says that people will be taken, and we have always assumed they were "raptured up to heaven." But look: the disciples ask, "Where, Lord, [were they taken]?" Look at Jesus' response: "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." Do we really think that we want to be "raptured" to a place where the vultures will gather - where the dead are?

Why then would we want to stay here? For Luke, the answer is in vs. 21 - the Kingdom of God is ALREADY among us. Why would we want to leave that? The problem is that we usually live and act as if we aren't already there!

Others, then, will point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (NRSV)

Doesn't that talk about the "rapture?" Maybe, but, as we see in Luke, there is another idea about what could happen at the end. Plus, there may also be a better interpretation of this passage. Here is what New Testament biblical scholars M. Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock have to say about the matter:

4:17 We who are alive:Paul expected the return of Christ to occur during his own lifetime. . . . Caught up in the clouds: Taken into God's presence. The clouds were originally related to the storm god, imagery adopted by Israel from the nature religion of Canaan to speak of the presence and power of God (e.g., Exod. 19:16-25; Pss. 29; 97:2) and then applied to the return of Jesus as the Son of Man (Mark 13:26; Matt. 26:64). Theology, not meteorology, is the content (as though Paul thought Jesus would not return on a cloudy day). To meet the Lord in the air: So also "the air" is not the atmosphere, but as in Eph. 2:2 the realm between the heavenly world of God and the earthly human world, the dwelling place of supernatural powers that separate this world and the transcendant world. Like the word "parousia," to meet the Lord is part of the semitechnical language used for the arrival of a monarch. A delegation of his or her subjects went out to meet the king or queen and ushered them back into the city. The picture is thus not of a "rapture" in the sense of modern dispensational interpretation, in which believers meet Jesus in the sky and are taken to heaven. Rather, Jesus is pictured as returning to earth as its rightful sovereign, and Christian believers - those already dead and those still alive - going together to lead him in a triumphal parade back to earth. These words and pictures utilize common apocalyptic imagery . . . that seems strange to modern eyes and ears - as they did to most of the Thessalonians, who had no previous exposure to such Jewish ways of thinking. Modern readers need not take them literally, but must take them seriously.

We will be with the Lord forever: Salvation is finally not a matter of place, but of relationship. . . . Being with the Lord is the fulfillment of the relationship to God already begun in this life.
from The People's New Testament Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 645].

Let us "leave behind" the silly concept of the rapture!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Recently in our church, a trio of teenaged youth beautifully sang a Contemporary Christian song called, "I Can Only Imagine." At first, I was simply taken by the fact that I didn't realize that one of the youth could play the piano that well, and I didn't realize that one of the other youth could sing at all! Their harmonies blended so well!

Then, I began to listen to the words of the song. I've heard the song many times, but I had never really listened to the words. As I listened, I realized that it epitomizes what has become the primary focus of too much of Christianity.

If you have never heard the song, the focus of the song is the singer trying to imagine what it will be like when he gets to heaven and finally gets to see Jesus. What will he do? What will his heart feel? Will he dance for Jesus? Will he be in awe of Jesus and be still? Will he sing, "Hallelujah?" Will he be able to speak at all? He can only imagine.

That was frustrating enough. Then, on this past Sunday, September 23, 2007, I stumbled across a show on MSNBC called, "To Hell and Back." The story had to do with former Pentecostal, evangelical Bishop Carlton Pearson who has come to the conclusion that there is no hell except the hell that people experience on earth. This of course has caused quite an uproar in evangelical circles.

The MSNBC correspondent spoke to one of Pearson's former friends and colleagues, who obviously thought Pearson was wrong (and going to a literal hell). In response to Carlton, who is still preaching, this fundamentalist preacher said something to the effect of, "Well, what's he still preaching for if there's no hell? What's the point?"

Although they use different terminology, the song, "I Can Only Imagine," and Pearson's opponent are saying basically the same thing: "The whole point of Christianity is to get to heaven and staying out of a literal hell."

Have none of these people read John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (NRSV) This text says NOTHING about "eternal life" being about "going to heaven." It says NOTHING about it being something that happens ONLY when we die. Look what John Wesley says in his sermon "The Scripture Way of Salvation," based on Ephesians 2:8 (You are saved through faith):
  • And, first, let us inquire, What is salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul's going to paradise, termed by our Lord, "Abraham's bosom." It is not a blessing which lies on the other side of death; or, as we usually speak, in the other world. The very words of the text itself put this beyond all question: "You are saved." It is not something at a distance: it is a present thing; a blessing which, through the free mercy of God, you are now in possession of.
What, then, is eternal life? What, then, is salvation? What is the point if the point isn't "getting to heaven" or "staying out of a literal hell?" It is about RELATIONSHIP. Look at John 17:3 again. It says eternal life is not going to heaven but knowing God & Jesus HERE AND NOW! As Wesley notes, salvation is something that happens here, in this lifetime.

But, let us be very careful to not equate "Jesus" with just some spiritual entity "up in heaven" that we can only really "meet" in heaven. Let us look at Matthew 25:
  • 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' (NRSV, emphasis added)

Why does someone have to imagine what it would be like to meet Jesus? According to this, Jesus is all around us, in all the people we come in contact - even the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned. Using the Apostle Paul's terminology, we see Christ in church members - the body of Christ! Wanna see what Jesus looks like? Look around. Wanna know what you'll do or feel? Look around and decide!

What's the point of preaching if it's not about going to heaven and not hell? Look around! People continue to not treat people well, causing hunger, thirst, people to remain strangers, nakedness, sickness, and imprisonment. The point of preaching is to help people to better care for others - even strangers. The point of preaching is ETERNAL LIFE HERE AND NOW - relationship with God and Jesus here and now through all the people we came in contact with.

My point is NOT to say there is or isn't a heaven or a hell (who knows - anybody actually been to either?). My point is that life here and now is more important than just concern about an "afterlife." People do experience hell here, and we CAN help get people out of it here and now so they can more fully share in relationship with God, Jesus, and each other - sharing in salvation and eternal life. Can you imagine Jesus?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


What a great line from the movie (and I assume the book), Tuesdays with Morrie. As I thought about this quote, I thought about something: we often wonder what Jesus did in those 30 or so years before we know of his earthly ministry. Maybe, just maybe, he was learning how to die, which let him know how to live.

I think we (human beings) are afraid of what will happen if we truly live. We're afraid to lose – to lose loved ones, acceptance, possessions, even life itself. Yet, if we live in fear of losing these things, we also don't gain these things. We never actually step out in love to live.

The Jesus we know about knew how to die – by loving wastefully. He loved people that most people think are a waste of time to love – the sick, poor, women, children, even enemies. He loved “causes” or programs that showed everybody's worth in God's kingdom, in God's sight – causes that most people think are a waste of time. His living led to his death, but his death showed how we are to live, without fear but with love.

1 John 4:17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (NRSV)
Romans 14:7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 for to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (NRSV)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


So often when talking about life, Christianity, and / or what happens after death, we talk about "going up to heaven" as if heaven is up there, out there, above the clouds.

Recently, in a New Testament Bible Study, we were talking about life after death. One of the members, Clark, who has been widowed for about 1 1/2 years, told of an event that happened last April. He said that all day had been a "normal day" until he was watching the news that evening. He realized, after seeing the date, that it was his wedding anniversary, to which he exclaimed, "It's our anniversary today." Plain as day, he said he heard his wife, Joan, say, "Why, yes, Sweetie. It's our anniversary." This, he noted, was just one of many times he really feels like his wife is still with him.

How can this be? Isn't heaven up there, out there, above the clouds?

I think we have a false sense of heaven. The ancient world view was that the earth was flat. On top of this flat earth was a dome (imagine a basketball cut in half and set on top of a flat surface." Above that dome was water (see Genesis 1: 6-8) that sometimes opened to let water down to the earth (rain). In the dome were two great lights, the sun and moon (see Genesis 1:14-19). Above it all was heaven. Some believed God resided there only. Others believed God lived only in the tabernacle, or later, the temple. Either way, heaven was "up there, out there, above the clouds." Today, though, we know that the world is not flat. We know there is not a "dome" above the earth. We know more about where the sun and moon is. Why do we still maintain that heaven is up there, out there, above the clouds?

I find it amazing, though, that in the same funeral services where we talk about our loved ones "going up to heaven," we also say, that our loved ones have been reunited with God. After hearing Clark's story, I remembered Bible passages such as:
  • Psalm 139: 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. (NRSV)
  • Acts 17: 28 For "In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "For we too are his offspring.' (NRSV)
  • Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (NRSV)
If it is true that there is no place we can go where we can be beyond God's presence; if it is true that it is in God that we live and move and have our being; if it is true that there is one God who is above all and through all and in all, couldn't heaven be right here with us, all around us? If we really believe that we will be "united with God" in death, and God is here and everywhere, maybe our loved ones who have gone before are not up there, out there, above the clouds. Maybe they, like God, remain here with us in some way we cannot fully comprehend.

Maybe, as the 80s pop song goes: Ooh, heaven is a place on earth!