What comes into your mind when you see this word heaven? Almost everyone, including young children, has something to say about heaven and most of us use the word from time to time. Commonly we use the word to describe what will happen to our loved ones or us when we die. The details of our thoughts may differ, but we are likely to think of heaven as a place of goodness and happiness. Heaven is referred to many times in the Bible, yet not in the way of popular thought. Last year Biblical scholar, Paula Gooder, wrote a book about what heaven really means in the Bible. Here are some of the matters she discusses.
If our British press had been in the Holy Land two thousand years ago, I wonder what headlines they could have come up with to! that special birth. What angle would interest the editors? Scandal of a birth out of wedlock, the decline in the morals of young adults, rental housing shortages, fear of usurpers by the murderous despot on the throne?
Some of you know that I had a brush with media fame last month I never dreamt of my photo making page 3 of a tabloid. And In the Sunday paper. There are lots of important things happening around the world that never surfaced on the pages of our press that weekend. But the whole of a paper's page 3 was given over to the wedding of couple with no special celebrity status, who happened to have their falling out with a relative plastered over the papers back in the summer.
Do you know the feeling when you go to fetch or do something, and once you get to the place, you’ve forgotten what you came for? Sometimes retracing our steps, or thinking hard about what we were doing helps. Sometimes it’s just plain gone – until we get a lucky reminder later on – ah, yes, that was it!
Or it may be we’re in the middle of a fiddly job or thinking through a complex issue, and an interruption occurs: the phone rings or someone calls us or something else comes into our mind. Then the job is disrupted and can be delayed, neglected or fraught; or the train of our thoughts gets derailed.
I’m going to call this common experience The Man from Porlock. Why ever that?
Early in September, my brother-in-law and his wife came to stay with us overnight on the way to a wedding in Bath and they brought with them a Ugandan man called Sam. My brother-in-law and Gareth, a retired doctor, run a charity to help the development of a rural area of Uganda. They support the building of churches, primary and secondary schools and the digging of bore holes for fresh water. They provide medical support and my sister-in-law and Gareth's wife help by selling Ugandan products in this country to enable the people to develop their economy. Sam is their "agent" and he arranges things very effectively.
During the second week of August many city streets in England erupted in disorder as children, youths and adults went on tile rampage. One national newspaper said, "The Britain that we knew, the Britain we loved, died on our streets this week. It went in an orgy of mindless wanton murderous violence."
Ten years ago a Cheltenham teacher told me how one day she admired a new coat that an eight year old girl in her class wore to school. Was it a special present? "No, my Mum nicked It", she responded, in completely matter-of-fact way. In her home that's how you got new things.
On a wet and gloomy summer day a couple of years ago I came home up the vicarage drive and noticed a familiar face on the other side of our fence. It took me a little while to digest who it was, but I felt sure it was the scientist and outspoken critic of religious belief, Richard Dawkins No sooner had I recognised him than he was into a car and driving away from the Edward Jenner Museum. Later the museum staff confirmed that it was indeed Richard Dawkins I saw, there to film for a TV programme on the life of Edward Jenner. I had come within a whisker of meeting the man who described religious believers as "sucking on dummies" for comfort. Dawkins the champion of the 'New Atheism'.