People can be so strange. Take fashion as an example.
I don’t get fashion. Why do people spend so much money and time to dress according to the current fashion? Are they trying to look the same as everyone else or are they trying to look different. Girls – is it good if you turn up at a party wearing the exact same dress as another girl, or is it bad?
There is a school near my home in UK where once a month they have a day when pupils can wear whatever they want. No uniforms for one day. This came about because so many pupils complained so long and so loudly that they didn’t want to be forced to wear the same thing as everyone else. They wanted the freedom to express their individuality. What was odd was how they dressed on the one day when they were free to wear something different. Almost everyone had on the same brand of trainers. Those who didn’t were bullied. There were strict rules about dress and they were ruthlessly enforced by peer pressure.
What an odd attitude. Why is this? Why when they were given the freedom they desired did they all opt for conformity and rules?
Isn’t it because we all want to fit in and belong. Weren’t those young people all saying they were the same as each other. Why. Because there is something in us that needs to feel this.
What is this something? It is a sign that we were all created by God according to his plan and that he made us to live in community. God has planted in us all a desire to live according to his design. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God ‘planted eternity in our hearts.’
We are all of us seeking something. That’s how we are made.
People spend their lives seeking fulfilment and satisfaction from their work, their family, their hobbies, their social status, their fortune, their sporting or creative talents. When they fail, they turn instead to drink, entertainment, drugs, extreme sports, etc. People are seeking happiness and beauty, but finding poor substitutes.
As it says in that quote from Ecclesiastes: ‘God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.’
God has planted eternity in our hearts, but it hasn’t flowered. God made everything beautiful, but we don’t see it.
Now, I’m not the world’s greatest fan of ballet. But despite that I’ve found myself attending performances on more than one or two occasions, and I have seen some of the best dancers in the world. There is something awesome about watching a great dancer perform at the peak of his or her ability. It wasn’t the story of Swan Lake that caused me to cry, but the sublime beauty of the dancing.
In that moment, I caught a glimpse of eternity. And it was enough to take my breath away.
Has that every happened to you. Have you ever glimpsed the other world, the world just beyond where we are supposed to be living. Have you ever been stopped in your tracks and transported in delight by a sunset. Has a piece of music or a painting ever taken your breath away, sent shivers down your spine, given you the tingles.
What was that?
It was you encountering eternity.
In chapter 11 of the book of Revelation, in the 15th verse, it says this: ‘Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” ’
Has now become. This world has become eternity. On that day we shall no longer be ‘glimpsing from a distance’ but ‘living in’ the world that God planted in our hearts when he created us as his children, in his image.
Your spirit knows it was not created to live in this fallen world, and your spirit is restless. It is seeking the eternity of heaven here on earth. We naturally desire beauty, and so all of us are unable to feel at home in this world of ugliness.
What did it say in our reading this morning?
‘We know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.’
What we live with now are glimpses into this promised kingdom. As Christians we train ourselves to see the hints of what is to come, instead of deadening our souls with drink and drugs and television. We learn to open our eyes and ears to experience the eternity around us.
We look at the world around us, the corruption, the greed, the selfishness, the abuse.
We look at the world around us, the wicked governments that oppress and rob their people, the evil regimes that wage war and rule by violence, the threat, conflict, danger, pollution, abuse, corruption, domination, repression, oppression.
We look at the world and we know we don’t belong. But unless we are Christian we don’t know why we don’t belong, and we don’t know what to do about it.
And so we suffer and struggle and try to drown our sorrows.
As Christians it is such a powerful thing that we know a new kingdom is coming, we know we don’t feel at home in this society because God created us with eternity in our hearts. Our homes are not is this world but in the new world we glimpse every now and then. The new world we struggle to allow God to build around us and in us, so that others can better glimpse the way things should be.
We start to look with our hearts, not just our eyes, and we begin to see the kingdom. Here and there we see the extraordinary beauty of God’s creation, we pray for it to come, we labour for it to come, we give our lives for it to come, because it is the only place where we can live as we were made to live. We have had eternity planted in our hearts and we can never be happy anywhere else. We can never be satisfied by anything else.
It is what Jesus kept talking about. It is what Jesus kept pointing too. It is what Jesus taught us to pray for. Jesus words to us were:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
We need to build our lives around this, not around making do or getting along. We need to fill our hearts and minds with his kingdom and seek it here on earth. We were not meant to live like this, we have eternity planted in our hearts. We reject the status quo.
If enough of us see the kingdom, and having seen it rethink our lives, and having rethought our lives come to believe that the impossible is possible, then everything can change.
Think about that as you listen to Handel’s Messiah proclaiming those words from Revelation. “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”