Visions of Heaven on Earth – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Matthew 13:44-46

When I was 6 years old, my mom took me with her to Ohio to visit her cousin that she had been close to as a little girl. It was my first experience of traveling by plane. While I don’t remember it with great clarity, my mom loved to tell the story of how when we began to crest the clouds, I turned to her and said with big eyes, “Mom, are we in heaven?” I suppose my vision of heaven was similar to a lot of children whose imaginations saw God sitting in the clouds with angels flying all around. Later in my life, I remember hearing old time Appalachian hymn tunes based on Revelation describing heaven as having streets paved with gold and a river with the water of life running through it. While these visions are dreamy, they actually differ from Jesus’ descriptions.

In our gospel lesson for this morning, we see Jesus describing the kingdom of heaven to a crowd who had gathered to hear him teach. In this sermon by a lake, Jesus says that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Jesus’ descriptions are not about heavenly visions, but rather portray heaven dressed in earthy tones: a field, hidden treasure, and a pearl of great value. Just prior to this passage in Matthew’s gospel we hear other metaphors: the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, and like yeast added to flour for leaven. Instead of describing a fantasy, Jesus is clothing the kingdom of heaven in a way that makes it accessible for his audience. In this way, Jesus says that the kingdom is not distant, but rather, directly in front of their very eyes. Read More

Helper of the Poor – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David VryhofLuke 4:16-22

We remember today Margaret, Queen of Scotland.  This brief description of her is drawn from For All the Saints, a resource of the Anglican Church of Canada:

Margaret was an Anglo-Saxon princess who became the [wife] of King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1069.  She bore eight children and through her husband initiated civilizing reforms in the Scottish royal court, the Scottish Church, and the Scottish nation.  But Margaret is chiefly remembered for her efforts on behalf of Scotland’s poor.  She not only gave out large sums of money but also ensured that institutions already in place did indeed provide relief for the homeless, the hungry, and the orphaned.  In addition, Margaret supplied the funds which purchased freedom for those Anglo-Saxons who had been sold into slavery by their Norman conquerors.  Hence, to her title of Queen is added the still greater title for a Christian – “Helper of the Poor.”[i] [italics mine]

“Helper of the Poor.”  Would to God that every Christian on the planet could be known by that title.  To be a “helper of the poor” is to be one with the mission of Jesus who, according to his own testimony, was anointed by God “to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, [and] to let the oppressed go free…” (Lk 4:18).  It is to be one with the mission of God in the world, whose deep concern and compassion for the helpless is so much in evidence throughout our sacred scriptures. Read More