Today I went to our parent church and picked up the hymnals they gave us. My husband and I carried them in stacks to our van, looking like the strangest thieves ever.
Psst. Black market hymnals. Totally genu-wine. Original lyrics and everything.
Saying goodbye to our parent church has been difficult, especially for our kids. We'll still go back for the occasional visit, but it won't be the same. The new church will be our home now, and that is a bittersweet feeling. The kids don't understand why we would start a new church.
I tell them that we are starting a new church to help us tell more people about Jesus. I tell them our new church will be in a new neighborhood where we can get to know new people. I tell them that the new church will belong to a denomination that tries harder to obey the Bible. I remind them that their favorite Sunday School teacher is coming with us. But they are still sad, and truthfully, so am I.
Endings are always sad.
The Bible uses metaphors to describe what life will be like when Jesus comes back and sets the world right again. One of those metaphors is the city. The picture of paradise in the beginning of the Bible is a garden, but the picture of paradise at the end of the Bible is a city. John says in the book of Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The paradise of God living with people forever will be a city. A place where people live close together.
It always reminds me of the first Crocodile Dundee movie, when the hero visits Manhattan for the first time and says: "Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth."
You heard it here first, folks. Heaven is a lot like New York.
In ancient near eastern mythology, the sea was the origin of evil and chaos. When John says that the sea is no more, he means that even the origins of evil will disappear. Paradise is people living together without pain or loss or evil, at peace with one another and God.
Sounds good to me.
Every goodbye between followers of Christ is only temporary. This ending is a temporary ending. It still hurts, but I know it isn't really over, even if I don't see these friends often for now.
For now, we work at the projects in front of us, and we wait. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.