The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

What will heaven be like? If only we had the answer to this question. It would give us motivation to stay on track in our Christian life, knowing what the reward will be. It would give us something to keep in our minds especially when battling illness. It would help us let go as life ebbs away from us. And it would give us a good sense of our destination, which would keep us moving on the journey.

The Orthodox memorial prayer offered at funerals and memorial services asks the Lord to give rest to our departed loved ones “in a place of light, a place of repose, a place of refreshment, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering.” (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Translated by Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, MA, 1985, p. 167) This is perhaps the best description of heaven. I believe that God provides moments in life that give us glimpses of heaven. In my life, there have been many glimpses into heaven, some of which came in the moments that I saw someone pass away, when the trauma of medical treatment gave way to a sense of perfect peace, where I felt the palpable sense of angels in the room.

I feel like I’ve seen heaven in someone’s passing, in some of the stories that have been shared in this unit. While this has sometimes been a traumatic moment for a family, when time has passed, they too reflect that it was perfect and peaceful.

Many times, we experience this sense of perfection and peace in nature. A sunrise, a sunset, the sound of the ocean, when we are able to purge all of our earthly thoughts and allow ourselves to revel in the peace of nature, this, too, can be a foretaste of heaven. I can recall one specific walk under the canopy of heaven where it felt like life stopped and there was a profound sense of the greatness of God.

For some of us, worship is a chore. During the Divine Liturgy we might struggle to stay focused and concentrate. I celebrate the Divine Liturgy often, and each time out is not always profound. In fact, out of all the Liturgies I have celebrated, I’ve had ONE that stands out, where I felt like I was celebrating it in heaven, in perfect peace and perfect focus. I will always remember that Divine Liturgy and when I allow myself to reflect back on it, it creates a hunger for heaven and a desire to work for that eternal reward with more conviction.

There are lots of places of rest and refreshment where God’s light does not shine. There are all kinds of sinful possibilities even in places of rest and refreshment. However, when you combine rest and refreshment in a way where God’s light shines, this is, in my opinion, a glimpse of heaven.

Psalm 19:1 reads: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Anything that declares the glory of God, a sunrise, a sunset, laying out under the stars, walking under the canopy of the heavens, worship, song, music, anything that declares God’s glory is also a slice of heaven.

We have all been in awe of something of nature. Imagine that feeling lasting forever. That’s the end goal—a place of light, a place of rest, a place of refreshment, a place of joy, in the presence of God, and that state never ends. That is what God has promised.

We don’t appreciate this, certainly not as often as we should. We get distracted. We take even the good things and sometimes even the Godly things and we distort them, because of our own sinfulness, our own brokenness. Despite all of this, God is still great, and as long as we live and breathe, there is the hope of redemption. The Bible is filled with people who failed but who did not quit. Some of our greatest saints have committed some of the most egregious sins.

We each live on a continuum between our earthly birth and our earthly death. Some of us are young, some are old. Some are in the sunset of their lives and know that. Some are in the sunset of their lives and don’t know it. Some of us are close to God at this moment and some are far away. Wherever you are, there should always be a sense of hope. Because with God, all things are possible. If a thief on a cross next to Jesus was redeemed and promised Paradise in his dying breath, there is indeed hope for all of us.

Wherever you are today and in whatever state of mind you are in as you read this message, go make something of today. There is a saying in sports, that we play how we practice. If a team doesn’t practice well, it probably won’t play well when the game day comes. If life is a practice for heaven, and heaven will be a place of light, rest and refreshment, then we need to practice these things in life. We need to find places of light, rest and refreshment that are Godly, and learn to enjoy them. And we need to promote, encourage and share things that are light, restful and refreshing, and which honor God, with the people around us. When a team practices well, it looks forward to the game, confident that it has prepared well. When a Christian has practiced Christianity well, he or she should actually look forward to the last day, confident and hopeful because they have prepared well.

Christianity offers so many simple answers on how to live a life that pleases God and prepares us to enter into His Kingdom. Just taking the words of Psalm 19:1 and adapting them to our lives will point us in a good direction. If our lives are “telling” the glory of God, and if what we do “proclaims His handiwork,” it will put us in a good place for our final sunset, to close our eyes in death, and open them to everlasting life.

The prayer which follows comes from the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. It refers specifically to the Holy Gifts (Holy Communion) which are about to be distributed. If we replace “receive a portion of Your Holy Gifts worthily,” and replace that phrase with “reflect Your glory in all that we do today,” we have a prayer that not only will focus us on the Divine Liturgy, but on everything we do outside of it.

Enable us, even up to our last breath, to reflect Your glory in all that we do today (receive a portion of Your holy Gifts worthily), as a provision for eternal life and as an acceptable defense at the awesome judgment seat of Your Christ. So that we also, together with all the saints who throughout the ages have pleased You, may become partakers of Your eternal good things, which You, Lord, have prepared for all those who love You. Amen. (Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, MA, 1988, p. 38)

With love in the Risen Lord,