May 7, 2012

Life After Easter: Christ Has Opened Paradise

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new Earth, for the first heaven and the first Earth had passed away..." Revelation 21:2

Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells his listeners and followers the Kingdom of Heaven is within them; He tells them how worthy they are of God's love---describing it in this way:

4] "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? [5] And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders [6] and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' [7] I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

[8] "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? [9] And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' [10] In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." ---Luke 15:4-10

Christ has opened Paradise.

There is a way to God, despite all of the failures and mistakes that dot the human record.

It really doesn't matter what time, culture, or historical background any of us come from. We know and experience the stain of sin, missed opportunities, life-long hurts, depression, unsolvable frustrations, undeserved injuries.

No other tradition offers what Christianity offers: a way back to God that doesn't depend on our fortitude, our actions, or our good works.  Christianity's way to God depends totally upon God seeking us, restoring us, and keeping us in the path to life. That is a burden lifted from the heart.

Christ has opened Paradise.

Paradise is open, but not one soul is forced to enter. God's love always permits choice, choice that God honors even when it brings pain to us, sorrow to the world, and sadness to the heart of God.

God waits to rejoice when your soul reaches up and says: "I can't do it alone, show me the way, and I will follow."

Those words are the beginning of a journey that will end in that "new heaven and new Earth" because Christ has opened the way to God.

That is life after Easter.

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