Last night I was searching for heaven.
To be more specific I was searching for heaven on my computer files. I am preparing for a series of sermons on DOUBT that begins on Easter Sunday. The second sermon is about heaven and I want to talk about doubts or questions people often have about heaven. I am actually very excited about the series. I want to start today, though, working on that second sermon—heaven.
One of the things I like to do before I preach something is find out what work I’ve done in the past on the subject or text before I boldly traipse off to work through the material. So that is why I was searching for heaven last night.
What I discovered shocked me. I don’t have a single sermon, in over 15 years of pastoral ministry and 20 years of preaching, on heaven as a topic or a singular text. Not one. I have to be careful as I write this because you might get the wrong idea. It is not that I don’t preach about heaven—I do, as part of other sermons or other ideas. It is not that I haven’t taught on heaven. I have a thick file folder in my study at work on the subject. But what I don’t have is even one sermon specifically dedicated to it. What a glaring omission that is. The same thing happened to me about five years ago. I was working through my preaching schedule and discovered that I had never preached a sermon just about King David. That was when I committed to preaching at least one a year, at least one sermon a year that was specifically fixed on the life of King David.
But back to heaven. As I drifted off to sleep last night I began to psychoanalyze myself and wonder if there was something going on that might have caused me to avoid preaching directly on heaven all these years. I came up with three possible answers. One, I might be avoiding it because I save all my good heaven stuff for funerals. Two, maybe I’ve heard so much preaching about heaven in my lifetime that I’m trying to balance the scale. Three, perhaps my pastoral focus is to lead people into how to live here rather than daydream about heaven.
This morning though, as I write with the sun coming up over majestic Puget Sound and the birds chirping outside in expectation of a spring day (cue music), I think I’ve found a better answer. For me, heaven is a major article of faith. I simply affirm that I believe in heaven but can’t ever grasp how great it will be. I take much of the language in the Bible about heaven to be metaphorical for “man, this is going to be great!” so that is all I’ve ever felt comfortable saying about it.
But as I get ready to preach it now, I’m forced to think about how people doubt the reality of heaven and how I need to approach the topic from a skeptic’s perspective. I don’t quite know how that is going to work out, but I think it will be fun. I know it will push me beyond where I am normally comfortable, and that is a good thing.