Reflections

PSALM 23 

Psalm 23 (KJV) teaches us how we should relate to God. Verses 1 to 3 treat God as an Other, a Concept, an Object, something separate from us. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” These verses are all true. There is nothing false about them. There is, however, a problem with them. The speaker (that is us, really) refers to God in the third person (“He”). We have no personal relationship to God. We only think of God as someone out there that takes care of us. God is not a person.

In Verse 4, when we are confronted with the reality of death, we suddenly address God in the second person. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” Suddenly, we no longer refer to God as someone Other, as an Object. Suddenly, God has become a Person.

This is the shift from Concept to Person. This is the shift between “I believe in God” and “You are my Lord and my God.”

This is the reason I feel so uncomfortable reciting the first line of the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in God” or, in the year 700 ACE, “Credo in Deum”). We do not believe in our parent, child, or spouse. Nobody ever says “I believe in my father/mother” or “I believe in my wife/husband.” We say “I love my father/mother” or “I love my wife/husband.”

There is a vast difference between believing and loving. Until God becomes a Person to us, we cannot truly say that God has become real for us. Those who profess “belief” in God may not actually love God. I certainly do not believe in God; I love God. I know how God is always beside me, inside me, inside everyone and everything I meet. I do not believe that. I know that.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Yes, indeed, my cup runneth over, because You (Thou) are with me.

LOVE IN HEAVEN

When the Sadducees tried to trap him with a question about a woman with seven husbands in sequence,  Jesus of Nazareth replied that there is no marrying in heaven (Mark 12:18-25). “When the dead rise,” Jesus replied, “they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” I am bothered by this aspect of heaven. Suppose a person goes to heaven but his spouse does not, how can that person be completely happy? Assuming we will be in heaven, will we lose all memory of those who do not make it to heaven? When the church rite says “until death do you part,” does that mean that love ends when the loved one dies? What happens to “I shall but love thee better after death”? Unlike the situation mentioned by the Sadducees, where the woman does not marry for love, the situation of someone today marrying several people for love (assuming his or her spouses die one after the other, even without complicating the question by talking about divorce) makes it unlikely that a person will be happy without loved ones. What kind of happiness will we have in heaven? If we believe in the resurrection of the body, then we must include the genital organs (very much a part of our bodies). We cannot be like angels. Angels do not have bodies. Angels do not marry. Human beings marry, many (perhaps most) of them for love and not for lust. How can a human being, with a complete body, be completely happy without someone s/he loved on earth? If we include children in the example, how can a parent be completely happy in heaven if his or her child is in hell?

 

 

 

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