LENTEN DEVOTION for Friday, March 16



God of heaven and earth, help me to see what this world should be like.



Abba Hyperechius said, "Let your thoughts be ever in the kingdom of heaven and soon you will possess it as a heritage."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt. 4:17) 


  Especially in American Christianity, heaven is the place where people go when they die. But in Scripture, heaven is what comes to us in this life. This is the emphasis of Jesus' teaching in the gospels. The kingdom of heaven comes near, it is found (Matt. 13:44) and possessed (Matt. 13:31). It is true, heaven is also "entered," but Jesus' preaching is more often about a heaven that comes near and is what we can, as Hyperechius said, "possess...as a heritage."
To take hold of heaven now is to turn our thinking toward it. (Repentance is literally a turning around.) We are to see this world as the place where heaven happens. Heaven happens wherever there is shalom (meaning peace and wholeness in and among people), justice (meaning where wrongs are righted, restoration, equity and reconciliation happen), love (meaning mutual, affirming, uplifting, serving compassion for all) and joy (meaning ineffable contentment, happiness and often elation). Heaven is even more.

J. Louis Martyn, the great biblical scholar who taught at Union Seminary in NYC, taught that Christians ought to have bi-focal vision. He meant that we are supposed to see the world as it is and the world as it should be at the same time. We ought to see heaven on earth. Seeing suffering, we should train our sight to see an opportunity for redemption. Seeing the despised, we ought to adjust our vision to see God's beloved. Seeing the poor and oppressed, we need to see Jesus. Seeing violence, we need to train our eyes to the possibility of peace. With the eyes of the heart adjusted, we are able to act in the heaven that comes to us here.

When we have focused our thoughts, expanded our hearts and adjusted our vision to the kingdom of heaven, we will possess it as a heritage. 


God of transformation, where there is doubt, help me find faith. Where there is violence, help us know peace. Where there is despair, fill empty hearts with hope. Where there is fear, let there be love. Amen.


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