What is your only comfort
in life and death?
That I am not my own, 1
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 2
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 3
He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, 4
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil. 5
He also preserves me in such a way 6
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head; 7
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation. 8
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life 9
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him. 10
Lord's Day One-Heidelberg Catechism
"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
― David Mitchell,
― David Mitchell,
It is definitely simpler & makes for a much easier, readier explanation just to believe, to have faith that an Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, no less, has so orchestrated our lives that we are destined either for greatness or smallness, to live extraordinarily or in mediocrity. We have a choice, of course, in between, as to how we live our lives. whether we live for God or the devil, with the hope of 'Heaven' or 'Hell' ( 'choose well' ) The notion that we are not confined to this physicality ( this body, this life ) is not, in our Western view especially, easy to digest. That our lives are not our own is clear from a Christian standpoint; as the saying goes, 'you were bought with a price', although the import of this statement is often anachronistically misunderstood. Our lives are not our own, not in an anachronistic sense, as many Christians believe, but in the sense that how we live our lives affects not only those around us, but ultimately every single human being in existence around the world, like ripples in a pond!
I was brought up, at least from my early teens, with documents such as 'The Heidelberg Catechism'. Before that, though, I was somewhat familiar with 'The Westminster Shorter Catechism', so you might say that, from day one, I was catechized, baptized, if you will, in the Christian faith. I am not renouncing, by any means, the faith of our fathers, in exploring, even accepting such Eastern concepts as reincarnation & such. That everything is not so simple as going to either one of the afore-mentioned 'places' when you die has become clear to this blogger & though it has become clear to me that much of what I have been taught from my youth is subject to examination, it is clear as well that the Scriptures we are familiar with also hold much universal ( catholic? ) truth. This Truth is found, not in the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures alone, but Scriptures from around the world, maybe most particularly in the Far East.
The Scriptures of, say the Far East, for example, seem as foreign to us as the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures should! As Christians, though, we have adapted this example of Ancient Near Eastern literature to our Western understanding, so that now, we have a Bible upon which we base our faith, our hope, but which is also, to a great extent, misunderstood & even, to a lesser extent, maybe, misinterpreted. The doctrines we have extrapolated from these Scriptures, though not necessarily wrong, must be examined in the light of the context from which they were drawn. For example, the doctrines of 'Heaven' & 'Hell', examined in the light of the world from which they were drawn,
are based, not upon a literal, or Western understanding, but a metaphorical, or Eastern understanding. Thus, both concepts are not places, or quantitative, but rather qualitative, metaphorical of existence on this plane, although it is arguable that 'Heaven' at least, as the abode of God, exists as such, outside this plane of existence.
The Truth of existence beyond this mortal plane is one that can be gleaned, not only from the Scriptures of the Far East, but even from our own. That 'God dwells in the heavens' is clear from the Scriptures we are most familiar with, though again, we must understand this phrase in the context in which it was written, The story of the mountain surrounded by heavenly hosts found in the book of II Kings, chapter 6, verses 16-18 may be the clearest example we have in our Scriptures of this other realm, or plane, which exists outside yet inside our own.
The Ancient Wisdom of the Far East is not relegated to the Far East alone; it is also found in the Scriptures of the Near East, even what we read today as the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, our Bible, which, though Western as it is, still holds much of that Ancient Wisdom, that Ancient Truth. From the pages of the Bible, particularly in the Teaching of Jesus, we can see that He preached a gospel of unity, not division. The oneness of humanity is what brings to bear the Kingdom of Heaven. Through our differences, not in spite of them, He taught, we find unity, one supplying this necessity, the other supplying that.
The Kingdom of Heaven, or of God, Jesus taught, is within us. It is when we realize our oneness, even though our individuality cannot be denied, that our eyes are opened to its truth, its existence. When it becomes clear to us, it manifests through our actions & soon becomes evident to all those around us, though they may not recognize it as anything but 'Inner Peace'. As our 'Inner Peace' manifests in our lives, we affect our surrounding world & we begin to see more & more evidence of the Kingdom of Heaven, not only as another plane of existence, but this 'mortal' plane.
Heaven surrounds us! Maybe a better way to put it is that 'Heaven envelops us'. Through our choices though, we decide whether or not, or to what extent we will manifest in our lives & thus to the world. Whether we pray to our Heavenly Father for Strength or meditate on the Strength ( Spirit ) Within, we choose to make the necessary changes, though it may take several lifetimes, to manifest the Light that we are.
The Manifestation of that Light, then, through the connections that we realize, will undoubtedly bring to bear the Kingdom of Heaven that we all bear! I say 'the connections that we realize', because, though the connections are ever-present, we have become so numb to this glorious fact that many have forgotten or just downright denied it. We must remember these connections if we are ever to see the Kingdom of Heaven truly manifest, or brought to bear on this earth, in this world & the next!
As I alluded to earlier, we as Christians, particularly here in the West, tend to look outside ourselves for the source of our salvation and our condemnation when really, the answer to both lies within! It is according to the choices we make, the connection we realize, that the Kingdom of Heaven manifests, if at all, in our lives, much less in the surrounding world. As we persevere, both in this life & in the next, let us realize the connection that is there, pursuing unity with all, not just in spite of, but through our individual differences; in this way & this way alone, the Kingdom of Heaven will be made manifest, not just as a Kingdom ( of God ) in the midst of another kingdom ( of man ), but as that which it is in Truth!
Charles Haddon Shank