"See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!" II Corinthians 6:2
If you come and take a walk in the gardens around the church, you will see paradise, now. If you close your eyes, and inhale deeply, you will draw in the lilac-scent of God's breath. If you sit down on one of the benches and consider the bumbling path of the bee, drunk on nectar, deliriously content with life, and you will witness deep peace, God's peace.
It is possible to see paradise on earth, breaking through. It is possible to see the earth as God's paradise.
There was one stream of early Christian thought which rejected the material world, which viewed the earth as a deeply flawed creation of some lesser god, all bad. Marcionism, as it was called, was rejected as heresy in the third century, but unfortunately its ghost still haunts some philosophies of religion. And that's why one should always study church history, to find out what has already been declared a heresy, lest we repeat the mistakes. The view that "life is hell," or that somehow the apocalypse is now - that would be Marcionism. Don't make that mistake, it's already been made.
But Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, declared, "Now is the day of salvation." Now is the acceptable time. Paradise is now. Don't wait for a new heaven and a new earth (that was a different writer, John of Patmos). Paul and most of the early church saw this earth as the only earth that we get. This is the only paradise that God ever need create. God made it for us, now. Paradise now. Can you see it? Can you smell it? Can you taste it?
Paul was no Pollyanna; he was not naive. Even in the small snippet of this letter to the church in Corinth we find evidence that Paul knew how harsh life could be. "Now is the day of salvation," even if we continue to suffer illness, persecution, arrest and trial. "Now is the day of salvation" even if we are dying.
If a garden is paradise tamed and in miniature, I suppose the wilderness can be paradise untamed and unleashed, and it can be awful, terrifying and terribly great. As anyone knows who has ever been woken by a thunderstorm, while camping in a tent, pitched under a grove of tall white pine, that whirlwind can be terrifying.
God who spoke to Job out of the whirlwind is wholly, holy mystery, wholly as in entirely, and holy as in sacred: wholly, holy mystery. God is a mystery in whom we trust. We live by faith, and not by sight, which is a good thing, because compared to God we are extremely nearsighted, if not in fact blind. But we can trust in the mystery.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is grown in it to spring up, so God's salvation comes. We can see it, now. Look!
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.