The subject for this week from the RE textbook was the Psalms. Psalm 137 was one of those to be considered: the Boney M song, but including the bits they left out about smashing babies’ heads on the rocks.
The class had never heard of Boney M and were not interested in infanticide, but the idea that the harp would not be played again until Zion was reached intrigued them, “Reverend Ian, what will it be like in heaven?” It wasn’t the first time facing the question.
A good lady of profound faith whom I knew very well died in her late 90s. One question that caused her thought from time to time was what age we would be in eternity. Death held no fears, heaven was a certainty, anxiety stemmed from a fear that in heaven she might be the little old lady she had become. “What will we be like in heaven?” It was not a question I could answer, just as I could not answer it for a couple who lost their little son at 21 months old in the little rural parish where I worked for seven years, all I could answer to the question was that I believed that in heaven we would be at our best.
“What do you think we will be like?” I asked the class yesterday. There was no answer.
“Will we see our friends again?” one asked.
“That’s what we are told”.
Then I remembered thoughts I once had about what we teach in church about the life of the world to come, all the stuff we say about the joyful reunion in heaven. More than one widow I have met has expressed profound and sincere relief at the demise of their erstwhile partner. Are we saying that having got rid of the old man that they have to face the prospect of an eternity with him? And, if not, why do we teach this stuff?
On the other hand, I was always troubled by Jesus’ response to the Sadducees when he said there would be no marriage in heaven. What about the majority of married people who grieve greatly at the loss of their partner? Or, even more complicatedly, what about people who married the wrong person, do they not get a second chance to be married to the right one?
The questions and the permutations are endless and there seems unlikely there will be an answer on this side of eternity. I must ask the class for their ideas.