My father worked for TWA when I was a child and back then (imagine!) that meant my family flew for free. I loved leaving the ground, watching the cars on the highways turn into toys and the houses shrink into Monopoly game pieces before disappearing into the curve of the earth. Then the plane would hit the clouds (which you can feel) and come straight through the top of them. Looking down from the plane you could see them differently than when you look up from the ground. They were mountain ranges of emptiness.
That view often made me wonder why people say heaven is in the sky. Was living in puffy nothingness with angel choirs for all eternity supposed to be some reward? Maybe it would be fun for an afternoon but it would get old pretty quickly and I knew I’d miss home.
Don’t you find that when someone you love dies part of your real “home” disappears with them? That’s why I want heaven to be a particular tree I still know in my hands and feet and climb in my dreams. I long for heaven to be French toast and cartoons in my grandparent’s trailer and a particular face I can barely see with my mind’s eye but know down to the freckle in my soul.
I think Jesus wants that too. If he didn’t, why would resurrection stories in the Gospel involve Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples, taking a walk with them all afternoon and sending a message that he’ll meet them when they get back home?
Today is Good Friday. The people of Grace will drag a cross through the streets of Jersey City and we’ll go pray at the places the word “God forsaken” was created to describe. Later, seven people will preach about the last things Jesus said before his death- carrying the weight of the world in his heart, until he breathes his last.
This is the day of absence, diminishment and lostness; the day when our homesickness is laid bare and we remember that homesickness is all faith really is.
At sunset on Saturday during the Great Vigil of Easter, we’ll gather in the dark church and tell stories from home. With every story you might find that you get a little of your real self back- the one you lost parts of over time, when you didn’t get the job, and after the divorce. When Jesus is proclaimed risen from death into life, with bells, flowers and songs, maybe you will see with the eyes of your heart the day that is coming- when every good thing that God has ever made will be returned: your favorite dog, the first kiss, a voice your heart longs for. None of it is gone forever. We are going home. Easter is living proof.
Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm