As I considered the Sunday Scribblings prompt of "Morning," what popped in my head? The hymn we used to sing back in my hometown church. I couldn't remember the proper name of the hymn, so this afternoon I sent out an IM to Bethany, whose husband Josh came up trumps for me. Thanks, you two! I love this line:
I'll meet you in the morning with a how do you do
And we'll sit down by the river and when all the rapture is renewed
You'll know me in the morning by the smile that I wear
When I meet you in the morning In the city that is built four square
The lyrics are charming and reassuring, but if you could hear the the hymn sung full gusto by a roomful of Southern (Missionary) Baptists, no matter your beliefs, I think you'd feel a little closer to God. I may be very different ideologically these days, but those moments are sacred. I may not agree with many of the doctrines I was taught, (no place for women in leadership, especially) but I was taught with love and nurtured in good things: lots of music and plenty of Bible stories, and people who loved and wanted the best for me.
It's an appropriate hymn for All Saints Day, which we celebrated at church with one big whomping service and a picnic. You can call me a big dork if you like, but it gives me so much joy to look out in the sanctuary (since I sit facing the congregation, in the choir loft) and see face after face of people bringing their ramshackle, shining souls, their hands open for a little light and hope, anticipating an encounter with God. It's especially meaningful when we remember the people who have gone on to "glory". Speaking of which, I love this reading I came across in the book: Spiritual Literacy. I picked up this book years ago on a sale table, and it's an invaluable mishmash of spiritual bits from lots of sources, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Native American writers. On one page, there's a Mary Oliver poem, something from Wendell Berry, and two other authors I'm not familiar with. Anyway, here's the reading that just leapt to mind.
The Christine doctrine
of the communion of saints
is simple, really.
All it says is
that once you buy the farm
you still live on the farm.
All it says is
that those who have gone before us
are still with us.
All it says is
that past generations
and must be taken into account.
In other words,
we're all in this together.
All of us.
~Mitch Finley, Whispers of Love
All it says is that those who have gone before us are still with us. Powerful and mysterious.
I don't dwell on the idea of heaven a whole lot, as I'm pretty sure our ideas are like the primary colors of what it is. We think blue, yellow, red, and it's at a whole level of colors we've never even SEEN. It's an interesting thing to consider, when you get past how slippery streets of gold must be. As a child, I'd hear about the mansions Jesus promised, and think of the mansions on TV, all white columns and many rooms. I'd wonder, what were we supposed to do, decorate? Really, what are you going to do with a big house? Would I live in the same place as my parents, or would I get my own place? I've always thought that I'll be out and about, catching up with people I've been longing to talk with. There will be many - and in my funny way, I think, will there be a long line for the Big Pillars of Faith? Are the original disciples worn out from all the questions? Is there a seminar for frequently asked questions? Does Peter ever want to pull the covers over his head, or escape to the crystal sea for a day of fishing? Is Jesus completely mobbed? Does he have to escape to the mountain, to have a little peace, and deal with all us down here?
And yet I know the first person I'll be longing to see - my Grandma Hazel, my mom's mother. Talk about a saint - there aren't any words. I've never met her, but the woman who gave me my mother, so beautiful and serious in pictures, the imprint of Mama in so many ways - she really is who I want to see. I imagine I'll find she and Mama on a front porch somewhere. Maybe even before Jesus, which I think he will understand, or maybe right after, as I'm not sure of the order of things. I think he understands the longing we all carry, to simply be with the ones he gave us to love. I have a feeling that our concerns about who's in and out will seem dreadfully silly and petty. And I also know that I'll probably have to sit at the feast table with people I didn't love so much on Earth, but I hope I can be kind. And pass the gravy with grace.
Then, I want to hold my grandfather Hulon's face in my hands, and drink in his handsome, grace filled face, relieved of the burdens of his life. I think that those who struggle mightily on this self destructing earth must be the ones who dance with most joyous, blazing movements that color the sky. Perhaps it's not all gracefully fixed upon our arrival, but we have to do the work we couldn't manage on earth, the walls we kept hitting with our stubborn human ways. As I grow in my faith, in relationship to God, the idea of heaven doesn't sound as well, boring, an eternal church service, as it used to. To be continually connected to that rushing river of all that's pure and good, to be in relationship with those who have gone before us.
Maybe we're all wrong. Maybe there's nothing, a cruel joke. But I would rather live believing in something, in a land where the feast table is laid with silver, where families have a peaceful meal, where we work in gardens that go for miles. In a place where the evening and morning skies are simple palettes for every artist at heart. What do you think? What comes after death?