Sunday, December 12, 2010

Heaven: sleeping in, where scrabble never comes

Trying to follow my own advice about paying attention to the rhythms of the season, I took a day off this week, and I slept in—that is, until it really was light out. That is not awfully decadent in some respects because I was up by 7 a.m., but in comparison to 4:45 a.m. or 5:15 a.m., when it is quite dark out, and I'm impelled out of bed by my alarm clock, it was amazing.

Then in a lovely piece of serendipity, I picked up Mending a Tattered Faith by Susan VanZanten and read this poem by Emily Dickinson.

Where bells no more affright the morn –

Where scrabble never comes –

Where very nimble Gentlemen

Are forced to keep their rooms –

Where tired Children placid sleep

Thro' Centuries of noon

This place is Bliss – this town is Heaven –

Please, Pater, pretty soon!

"Oh could we climb where Moses stood,

And view the Landscape o'er"

Not Father's bells – nor Factories,

Could scare us any more!

VanZanten says she likes this poem from the perspective of a night owl, as it describes heaven as a place where tired children get to sleep in without being awoken by the factory bells and where there is no early morning scrabbling into clothes and off to chores and work. How appropriate for a day off!

Dickinson's poem in the third stanza quotes a hymn by Isaac Watts: There is a land of pure delight. Watts' theology was that of looking to the future glory of heaven, but my understanding of Jesus' teaching of the kingdom of heaven is that we are called to kingdom building now. How else do we come to understand, as Jesus preached, that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand?" How do we live a life "where scrabble never comes?" Or at least, how do we minimize the scrabble in our spiritual life?

On Saturday morning I slept in again, and that put me at the breakfast table a bit later than usual, looking out the window at the bird feeder that I had restocked on my day off. Suddenly the birds of the air defined scrabble as they crowded around the feeder to eat and then, as quickly, chittered and squawked and flew away. This dance repeated several times during my breakfast. I was reminded of the passage from Matthew 6 about the birds of the air that neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet God feeds them. This passage is the one that goes on to say,

Stop worrying, then, over questions such as, 'What are we to eat,' or 'what are we to drink,' or 'what are we to wear?' Those without faith are always running after these things. God knows everything you need. Seek first God's reign, and God's justice (that is, the kingdom of heaven, in other translations), and all these things will be given to you besides. Enough of worrying about tomorrow! Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own. (Matthew 6: 31-34, The Inclusive Bible)

I don't know whether rolling over until the sun comes up is something I can do every day, but certainly, turning over my troubles and worries to God and seeking to be an instrument of God's justice is a start on the way of the kin-dom of God. [See this note on kin-dom of God.] I pray that we all can scrabble less and seek that kin-dom more.

If we seek the spirit of this season, which is indeed the spirit of hope, peace, joy and love, rather than fall prey to the demands of this season, which seem to be greed, fear, competition and stress, we are more apt to be making way for God's presence in our lives and in the world. May we each take the time today to seek God's presence and to seek a place of bliss. My prayer is that, if we actually have done that, that we all are able to remember and carry that moment of heaven and bliss with us through the coming week, as we again (still) prepare the way for the Child who comes.

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