I love to go camping. Sitting by the fire, watching the smoke rise and curl heavenward, relaxing with dirt under my fingernails and no real agenda…aah, that really does it for me. I may have even said once or twice, “This is Heavenly!” We all have places where we have felt like that; where the peace and beauty of the setting seems to wash the cares of life away for a time. Some may say it is at the beach, or on a mountainside, while gazing at a sunset, or even on a lawnmower. Our little “tastes of Heaven” are the beautiful places that bring us joy and peace of soul. As humans, we strive to seek out the beauty of this world and wonder, is that what Heaven will be like??
I, however, have truly found a taste of Heaven on this earth, and I call it Presbyterian Pilgrimage. The camp where we gathered for those three days was fairly brown and skies overcast, so to call it “beautiful” would be stretching the truth a bit. The bed in which I slept was comfortable but was not designed to pamper me like a spa would, so to claim it as purely “relaxing” would be a lie. My days were full of worship, communion, prayer, learning, laughing, eating, singing, praising, fellowship, and intentional community, so to claim that I had no real agenda or demands on my time would be wrong.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthy things. (Col. 2:3) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Col. 2:5-6) “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ “(Rev. 21:3-5a)
In Pilgrimage, more than any other place before or to perhaps even to come, I have truly found that little piece of Heaven. It is a place where no one fights, no one lusts, no one condemns, no one is judged, no one slanders, and no one has any other gods. A place where everyone is accepted as God’s workmanship. Where everyone is loved. Where everyone can give praise and receive grace. A place where the presence of the Lord is literally tangible, and where His community is blessed. The physical beauty of the place—or of the participants, for that matter—does not affect the atmosphere of Pilgrimage. It is simply God’s community, designed by feeble humans, knit together by Him, for His glory; and at that place, even if for only three days, the “things of the world” pass away.
My mind cannot conceive the physical beauty of Heaven (it says so in 1st Corinth. 2:9), and therefore my desperately human attempts to compare it to campfire smoke, the ocean surf, the orange sunset, the mountain air, or the smell of cut grass, are, well, desperately HUMAN. My mind simply cannot conceive it. But we are assured in scripture that in Heaven, the old will have passed away, and with it all the heartache of this world.
Until Pilgrimage, that is something I could not conceive of either. Now I can.
To Him be all the glory.