Training for Heaven

Training for Heaven

Isaiah 66:18-21, Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13, Luke 13:22-30

…the way we live our lives is training for Heaven.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Please sit.

There is a reprimand in today’s Gospel, and it is this do not take the things that Jesus taught you lightly. Don’t sit lightly to them. Don’t take them as a gentle suggestion, but take the things that Jesus taught you and live by them. The disciples and the people who Jesus meets in the villages and towns on his way to Jerusalem, on his way to his crucifixion and resurrection, are asking him, who will be saved?

And we’re returning to the theme of teaching, and in the readings gospels that we’ve been listening to over the last month or so, who will be saved? And it’s this attempt to understand and this is the shift that we see in Jesus teaching, that it is not just the Jewish people who are saved, but everybody. So there is an understanding of what Isaiah is saying, that all nations shall be called and all nations shall be saved. But Jesus wants to warn, and Jesus wants to say to those people who are asking, listen, this isn’t automatic salvation. This doesn’t just come.

You have to live your life and attempt to live your life in the way that the law and the prophets taught. You can’t just ignore all of that and assume that you are going to be saved. And of course, for the Jewish people of the time, that’s exactly how salvation was achieved, through going through a list of rules. And as long as you did this in the right way and you did this in the right way and you didn’t do that on a certain day, all that very strict codified law, that was how you were saved. That was how you went to Heaven.

And what Jesus has been teaching along the road is that is not how you come to Heaven. You come to heaven through me, through the Son of God and through your love of God, through your faith in God. But he is warning now that you must live, you must try to live the narrow path. And I think that’s a good way of explaining it.

He says,

try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

Luke 13:24

I think what Jesus is telling us here is that the way we live our lives is training for Heaven. And that’s the way I like to think of how I try and live my life. I’m in training for Heaven, and so I listen to what Jesus has taught and I try to live as Jesus has taught. I try to go through that narrow door.

I tried to listen to what he said to us and what the prophets taught us and the Law gave us. And I tried to live in that way. The reprimand, of course, is that if you don’t do this when you get to heaven and you knock on the door, the door may not be open to you and there will be gnashing of teeth and many tears and you will see all those who have gone before you.

In reprimand for those of us that think that it is not important to live our lives in the way that Jesus taught us, or who dismiss the law and the prophet as unimportant, who take scripture and don’t take it seriously.

But as ever with Jesus, the reprimand comes in love and with a command, the command to proclaim his good news to all the nations. And of course, that is the major shift that is going on with Jesus between the Jewish people and as we move into Christianity. For Jewish people, you have to be born of Israel, you have to be Jewish in order to be saved. But what Jesus is saying is that men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Everybody has an opportunity to be saved.

Everybody has a chance to go to heaven. And that was revolutionary. I mean, this is the kind of thing that got him crucified for saying that everybody has an opportunity at salvation.

It is a radical teaching. It was a radical teaching then and it remains a radical teaching now. Everybody gets to be saved. And of course, this wasn’t new. This is what Isaiah was saying.

This is what we have in our reading from the prophet of Isaiah.

The Lord says this I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come and witness My glory. I will give them signs and send some to their survivors.

Isaiah 66:18-19

Isaiah as ever is pointing to Jesus Christ and the pulling together of all people under God.

A reprimand. Live your life as Jesus, the Law and the prophets taught. Do not exclude anybody from salvation, for all can be saved. All will be brought into the family of God.

And then what does he ask us to do with that amazing news, that amazing revelation, that reprimande and that joy? He tells us it is our responsibility to take it out into the world.

And our second reading tells us how. Hebrews,

have you forgotten that encouraging text which you are addressed as sons, my son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly, but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. So hold up your limp arms, steady your trembling knees. Smooth out the path you tread. And then the injured limb will not be wretched, it will grow strong again.

Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Embrace the reprimand that Jesus places in front of you. Embrace the mistakes that you make. Look with open eyes at the sins that you commit. Ask God forgiveness.

Strengthen the limp arm, go out into the world and tell everybody about the forgiveness and the love that Jesus Christ has for you.

So that’s what I would like you to do this week. I would like you to have a think about those things that you have been doing wrong, about where you have set scripture aside and walked the easy path. Where is the path too wide? Where have you walked away from what Jesus has taught you?

Where is the narrow door through which you should be trying to enter the kingdom of heaven? It’s a bit like getting to the end of the summer holidays and admitting that perhaps you’ve had too much of a good time over the summer holidays. Maybe there has been one too many burgers. Maybe there has been one too many pints of beer.

And so now you are called to the gym to train for your entry to heaven.