Week 2 Sunday

How far is heaven?

Today’s scripture selection: Matthew 3-4

Key verse: Matthew 4:17

     Some years ago a song hit the airwaves that asked an important question, “Tell me, Lord, how far is heaven?”  That’s a good question. And I was a little surprised to find it being asked on pop radio.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  People have wanted the answer to that question for thousands of years.  Since they first looked into the night sky and pondered what might be on the other side of the stars; since the first primitive altar was erected to some unknown, perhaps frightening, God.  Ancient ritual and bloody sacrifice has often marked the spot where mankind has tried to figure out this mystery called heaven – and whether it was friendly place or not.

     Well one day, a young man – a carpenter’s son from a poor village – came out of the desert with an answer.  By the time he offered it he had wrestled with evil and it had left him, at least for now, waiting for a more “opportune time.”  For now, this young preacher – fresh from the waters of his own baptism – was free to bring hope and healing wherever he went.  Disease was no match for him; nor was the confusion and fear of the demonic.  And people wanted to hear what this young man had to say.

     That’s when he told them, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  It was a novel idea – heaven, the abode of the gods, was within one’s reach.  It was an idea that may have worried some, fearing that they weren’t prepared to be that close to God, not yet.  But this young rabbi somehow reassured them.  God was close by and God cared for them, deeply.  The healings; the exorcisms; the compassionate way He had about him, these were the signs of that – the promise of that.

     Thousands of years later – we can take comfort in what this young preacher had to say.  Heaven is real and it is very close by, closer than we think.  It may take an act of repentance to draw close; a turning around and changing of our attitudes about some things or some people.  But if we can only take that step, we will find we are at heaven’s door.  And what we find there is what we have been searching for all along – love.

   Prayer: Heavenly Father, tonight, as I look to the sky, help me to see more than the stars and the planets.  Help me to see You, inviting me to come close to you – in prayer, in repentance, in love.  AMEN.


By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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