A friend entered Paradise last night. His soul left his weak mortal flesh to rise to Paradise. He was and is a big hearted man, a loving man, a man of faith and purpose. His good humor humored us all, those who worked with him to witness to Christ through the St. Joseph of Arimathea Foundation in Berkeley. Our Board meetings have been virtual the last few years, so we were denied his physical presence and yet he was there on the screen. He was a layman, a businessman, a husband and father, and a faithful (founding) member of St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in San Francisco. He helped found our St. Ann Chapel at Stanford as well.
He loved life and he loved people. We loved him for he always brought a smile that birthed our own smiles. We felt his love.
Where is he now?
I do not know exactly the time sequences, the order of events, in Paradise, for the simple reason we are outside of time, and as creatures bound in earthly time, we cannot envision Eternity. And yet, as my theological grandson mentioned at Christmas, we sleep until the Second Coming of Christ to Earth and the advent of the New Jerusalem. This New Heaven and Earth will be our home and we shall be given our perfected bodies. Wrongs will be righted, paths will be straightened, and Christ shall wipe all tears from our eyes. We shall be reunited with those who have journeyed before us, at least those who desire to be in Paradise, those who believe, those who claim Christ as their savior and redeemer.
We cannot judge how others are judged by our Heavenly Father. We can only look into our own hearts, scrub them clean, repent, accept forgiveness, and live the life we are meant to live. I have many family and friends who do not believe in the promises and glory of Christ. Some have left this Earth and this Time we are bound by. Some are still living in their mortal flesh, creating their own meaning day to day. All I can do is pray for them, that they will have a vision of God as I have.
Prayer, I have found, opens a door to Christ. Prayer is a portal between Heaven and Earth. I have long considered the Eucharist to be a portal to Heaven, for we are fed by the Real Presence of Christ. So also, I have come to see, is prayer, especially prayer alongside others in worship. For after all, the Eucharist is the great prayer instituted by Jesus Christ himself at the Last Supper. Many of the hymns we sing are prayers, song prayers addressed directly to God. Our voices raised in such poetic melody open doors to Heaven.
And so this morning as I listened to the Gospel appointed for today, the baptism of Jesus by John, the dove descending, the voice from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” I thought how my friend entered Eternity and embarked upon this great journey on the eve of the Second Sunday after Epiphany, the eve of the Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Christ.
Our preacher reminded us that all baptisms recall our own baptisms, recall the promises made and gifts of grace given in return. We recall our own washing away of sin by water and the Holy Spirit, our own rebirth. For Christ said we must be reborn spiritually to enter the Kingdom of God. And we have been reborn in baptism.
My friend entered Heaven. He was redeemed and reborn, born into the new life of Christ, born into the Kingdom of God. He has been met by Our Lord himself and greeted with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Until we meet again in the New Jerusalem, we will miss you, dear friend.