Friday, February 19, 2016

Follow your Heart

Sigmund Freud, whose theories have mostly been discredited today, claimed that people invented the idea of heaven because they wished that it existed.  He didn't know the difference between wishing and hoping.  We Christians do not wish for anything. We do hope, we look confidently for the city where our true citizenship lies, not so much the city itself but the King who rules there. With the Psalmist we sigh, As the deer pants for the streams, so my soul thirsts for the living God.  St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, I desire to depart this life and be with Christ, which is far better.  Several centuries after Paul, St. Augustine wrote, My soul finds no rest until it rest in Thee.   God has implanted a homing device in the human heart.  It is like a motor that drives us to find God.  This is what we mean by A Street Named Desire.

The enemy of God and man has confused things by building some streets of his own.  These intersect the main road at many points, distracting us to the right or to the left.  Jesus told a parable about the rich man who turned down one of these streets and lost his soul in vanities.  No longer did he thirst after life, but was satisfied with the saltwater of wealth.  That is more of an adult temptation, but it happens to the young in different ways.  School children are often drawn away by the temptation to become members of the school aristocracy.  To gain entrance to this "in group," they have to have the right clothes, the right friends, the right dates, the right cd's.  They even have to do poorly in those subjects in which "geeks do well." What is the prize?  The passing vanity of being in this group.  If this sounds like high school to you, believe me it starts much earlier.  They do what they must to climb that ladder.  They abandon children who have been their friends for years because they aren't the "right friends."  They deceive their parents who try to put common sense into them.  They say things that they know they shouldn't say.  But this comes from the enemy.  The genuine "in group" is with God, who is not down this side street.

Adults do a similar thing.  They want to be part of the office aristocracy, the faculty aristocracy, the hospital aristocracy, or even the coffee break pecking order.  It happens in service clubs and lodges, in politics, and also in Christian congregations and denominational headquarters.  Most adults are too sophisticated to adopt high school tactics, but the lures are there: stress management, sensitivity, or the archdemon of our age, self-esteem.   Perhaps these are most severe in the middle management sector, but they lurk to some degree in every career environment.  Do you want self-esteem?  It is waiting for you in your Father's house.  Any other esteem is a counterfeit, an idol, a substitute for the real thing.  We must long for our Fatherland, where Christ is our esteem.  That is no vain wish.  That is the reality of Him who conquered death.  Those who introduce ideas from oriental religions would have us believe that desire itself is evil.  I assure you it is not. It is the little motor God put into us to drive us to Himself.  The problem is it seeks its own good instead of the one God intended.

If you dodge all of those side streets, there is one more which is even more deceitful.  This one tempts us to be part of the celestial aristocracy.  We may be left out of the best parties down here, but just wait until we cross the bar.  Then we'll be part of the everlasting "in group."  My dear spiritual fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, that is no good either.  The street named Desire may lead us over some difficult hills, but it is going the right way.  It's confusing to come to a fork where both roads are marked "heaven." One leads there for the right reason, the other for any number of wrong ones.  The only proper reason for wanting to go to heaven is to magnify the Lord.  All the rest is distraction.  In heaven there is honorable work and honorable rest.  Those who have been faithful over a little, Jesus sets over much.

The street named desire leads to heaven, but there is one huge river to cross, and the bridge is out.  Do not get into arguments about how many roads lead to God.  There are none.  Not any.  One led to Him once but the Fall caused it to collapse.  That is the unbridgeable river, sin, rebellion, unholiness.  Desire can take us up to the river, it can show us the other side, but it cannot get us there.  The only way we can cross is for Somebody from the other side to come get us.  It took the incarnation of the Son of God to bridge this river.  That is why we celebrate the Baby of Christmas, the Youth in the temple, the Carpenter coming to be baptized, the Prophet speaking on the Mount, the Healer moving through the streets of Capernaum, the Son of David riding on the donkey, and on Good Friday, the Outcast being tormented with the criminals.  How can that bleeding body be the object of our Desire?  If we stopped there we would have no answer,  but we must finish the story, consider the Risen Lord, the Victor over Satan, for He is the same as the Outcast.  Would He carry us across the river?  It doesn't look that way.  After forty days He went to heaven without us, but He is Himself the bridge. We can cross by faith, and He gave us the Church to build and nurture that faith.

So, you say, it seems impossible to get rid of the wrong reasons for wanting to go to heaven. Are we going to be permitted to enter with mixed motives?  Are we chiefly moved by the desire to escape damnation?  Are we lured by the idea of an enhanced self in more comfortable surroundings?  Yes, it is very confusing.  That's because the bridge is out.  Remember this: we are already involved in heaven now.  By being on God's side rather than the devil's, we are participating in our Fatherland.  If life is hard, if we have illness, poverty, adversity, disappointment, God does not fault you for wanting these trials to be over.  Remember, Jesus was glad to say "It is finished."  His torment ended at that time.  Ours will end when we depart this life.  Remember also, Jesus is coming back to this earth.  Martha wanted the resurrection to come so she could see Lazarus again.  Jesus didn't say she was wrong.  Desire is a gift of God.  Desire leads along the road to God as far as any roads will take us.  Pagan pantheists will tell you that it is bad, but it is only the devil's side streets that are bad.  Desire can at least lead you up to the river.  Then Jesus calls you with the voice that wakes the dead, that summoned the historical Lazarus to His side even though He had been dead for three days.  That same voice summons you across the bridge of faith, transforming all that is bent in your desires and crowning them with eternal goodness. AMEN

Reverend Lloyd E. Gross

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