Monday, September 6, 2010

A Shadow and a copy of what is...

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." - Hebrews 8

Warning, what you are about to read is - in all probability - not bona fide biblical scholarship! (I like to throw in the disclaimer once in a while, lest anyone confuse my thoughts with the writings of actual "Greek and Hebrew-reading, seminary-trained, ordained-and-authorized" clergy.)

My approach is much simpler. I wake up; I read the scripture; I ask God to speak to me and through me; I walk the dog; I apply 54 years of listening, and studying, and conversation, and learning, and walking with God; I pray again; I drink another cup of coffee for good measure; and then I write.

Okay... that said, I couldn't help but think about the eleven days Rebekah and I just spent up in the mountains. God showed us a lot while we were there, and I can feel the Spirit urging us to "see to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

Now we are - coincidentally - embarking on a building campaign as a church. But, I hear these words more in the context of the life I am building. It's always a journey, always forward movement, always a work in progress.

I'm actually more intrigued by the phrase "a copy and a shadow of what is in heaven."

There's a sense in which the enhanced - heightened - life Christ leads us into is a faint echo of the deeper and more penetrating truth that is heaven.

Let me try to explain my thinking. Back in the 60's I had one of those tiny transistor radios. It barely picked up anything with any clarity. My favorite music station was a "pirate", Radio Luxembourg. It broadcast from (I think) a ship out in the North Sea. My signal was close to non-existent, and all I could hear was static, interspersed with vague phrases of music, along with a hint of the occasional series of words.

Hold that image. Now imagine sitting in an armchair, on the stage, at a live Beatles concert. John Lennon smiles at you as he strums his guitar; Paul McCartney stands two feet away, and you can see his hands form the shapes of chords on the fret-board; George Harrison lays out a line of pure blues-edged rock; Ringo Starr actually taps the back of your chair as part of his drum work.

They sing "Let it be" in perfect pitch and you do just that. You let the sound wash over you. You feel the music.

Remember the transistor radio with the poor signal from a distant broadcast? Well, that, compared to the sitting on the stage with J, P, G & R, would be just "a copy and a shadow".

But here's the twist. Let's make another shift: now think of that live music experience (The Beatles on stage) as merely "a copy and a shadow" of the beauty and the richness and the truth of the music we will experience in eternity. The distance from the live show to the reality of heaven is another exponential leap that we can't begin to understand.

I am patterning my walk of faith, right now, on what I have been shown on the mountain. The richness and the beauty of my life as a Jesus-follower makes the memory of my experience without faith feel like a copy and a shadow of where I am now.

But this is still a copy and a shadow of what is to come! As the hymn-writer said, "a foretaste of glory". There's another hymn I remember that we used to sing when I was a child:

"I thank thee, Lord, that thou hast kept the best in store... We have enough, yet not too much to long for more... The yearning for a deeper peace not known before."

It's a journey. I am a pilgrim. But I believe I am making progress....


jacqueline said...

I understand the draw and power of the mountains. I usually choose such a place for vacation because the strength of the mountains seem, at times, to envelope and pour its power into you. I have been witness recently to the miraculous working of God in our circumstances. It reminds me of his command to love one another and right next to it: Don't be Living in the shadows in faith draws us a bit closer to heaven.

Charles Willard said...

Your analogy is compelling, and I'll push it a bit further. Our understanding of what Jesus calls us to be in this life is a message from a fringe FM station, and we have to be careful when we interpret and apply it to remember the hazards of such reconstruction. Yesterday, after the service in Westminster Presbyterian in downtown Minneapolis, we went to the Dead Sea Scrolls at the MN Science Museum. There were five fragments in the exhibit, one was a saw-tooth strip of text, and the writing was barely visible to the naked eye. Imagine what we could "see" if we were looking at the text the day after the origial scribe's work was finished. Yet, it is also astounding what can, in fact, be "seen," even in these fragmentary texts. Charles

Jesse said...

I like the idea of our life being the thing that is being built after the pattern shown on the mountain. Made me think of the imagery of the temple in Ephesians 2 - Christ as the corner stone, the apostles as the foundation, and the saints (us) being fitted together into God's Holy Temple. Not only the life of faith but the shape of Christian community has a pattern intended and revealed by God - seen now in a mirror rather dimly, but moving toward the day when it will be seen clearly...