Wednesday, 23 November 2016

We are not here to go to heaven

Spiritual Emphasis Week speaker Laura de Jong has spent the past seven years living in the USA, where she says she has endured every Canada joke and Canadian stereotype “known to humankind,” she said.

“For example, what do the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Titanic have in common?” de Jong asked. “They both look good until they hit the ice.

“Or, how do you get a Canadian to apologize? Step on their toe.”

Speaking at the Wednesday chapel at Smithville Christian High School, de Jong said her experience of living in the USA is similar to what God’s people were experiencing in the time of Jeremiah: they were aliens, living in a strange land.

De Jong outlined the story of the Babylonian conquest, of the exile of the people, and of Jeremiah’s surprising prophecy – found in Jeremiah 29. Instead of prophesying his normal message of doom and gloom, Jeremiah tells the people to settle down, get married and plant gardens.

“You are here for the long haul,” de Jong said Jeremiah told the people. “Get comfy.”

And don’t just worry about yourselves, de Jong said. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city, for if it prospers, you prosper.”

That message was shocking to the Israelites because they preferred to see their captors as the enemy and themselves as victims, she said. But God had a different message. He “wanted his whole world to flourish.”

Like the Israelites in Babylon and like de Jong in the USA, “we are also people living in a land that is not our own,” de Jong said. At our baptisms or dedications, we became citizens of the kingdom of God, making us “resident aliens” of the places we now live. “We are citizens of heaven, this is not our home.”

But just as the Israelites were to seek the peace and prosperity of their city, we are to do the same. We can’t live as if we’re waiting for heaven, or put all our effort into getting to heaven, or sit back and hide out in our comfortable, Christian huddles. The water of baptism signifies that we have been washed, and sent out to get our hands dirty, not to feel superior and think we have it all figured out.

Like genteel society woman, Frances Perkins, who turned a tragic 1911 New York City factory fire into a lifelong mission as a labour activist to improve worker safety, we are to work for the benefit and blessing of those around us, de Jong said.

“We are marked out for heaven and thrust into the business of earth.”

De Jong invited students and guests to come forward to dip their hands into a basin of water, representing the cleansing water of baptism, and to take from the bowl a pebble to remind them of their city. She asked them to reflect on the corner of their world – sports team, or family member, or co-worker or friend – for whom they could be praying.

“We are not here to go to heaven,” said Spiritual Life Director Gord Park. “We are here to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.”
* * *

A student praise team led in worship with “Stars,” ”We Believe,” and “This is Amazing Grace.” 

Spiritual Emphasis Week continues with two more chapels: Thursday morning at 9:30 and Friday at 9. Guests are always welcome. Students are also participating in daily discussion groups, meeting with translators who speak Korean and Mandarin, and visiting the prayer room. The week will close with a Friday afternoon concert by FM Reset.

To contact Laura de Jong or to find out more about where she's been or where she's going, check out LauradeJong.

No comments:

Post a Comment