Sunday, December 11, 2011


Over the Rainbow, Chicago, IL

I grew up in the land of Kansas where tornados occasionally run free and Dorothy and Toto grace tourist’s T-shirts. When I was still very young, our combined schools performed at the local civic auditorium. The closing song was a nostalgic rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” with the lights turned down low. The combination of the haunting lyrics and the atmosphere made a lasting impression on me. The young Kansas farm girl Dorothy is longing for a place “over the rainbow” where skies are blue, the clouds are far behind her, and troubles melt like lemon drops. Then a whirling tornado carries her and her dog Toto into a fantasy Land of Oz where she begins to appreciate home and begins a quest to return there. The title song from the classic movie The Wizard of Oz later became the signature of Judy Garland’s singing career. She wrote that “Over the Rainbow has become part of my life. It's so symbolic of everybody's dreams and wishes that I'm sure that's why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I've sung it thousands of times and it's still the song that's closest to my heart."

During a general audience in 1999, Pope John Paul II observed that heaven and hell were primarily eternal states of consciousness more than geographical places of later reward and punishment. The universe we occupy along with our creator God would seem to exist in one endless sea of consciousness. It’s been said that heaven is a conscious spiritual existence in God’s presence, while those who exercise their freedom to chose and turn their back on God will spend their eternal spiritual existence apart from His divine love. That they point out is hell.

I was recently intrigued by Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom of God can be found within each one of us. It comes with God’s Spirit beginning to work in our lives and relationships. Jesus taught that this kingdom is born within and we then live it out in our daily activities---as He modeled life. As we die to ourselves, the good news is that the Spirit begins to grow within us—we’re born a second time. Paul writes that we then receive the spiritual gifts of faith and hope and love to strengthen our lives on earth. And love is the cornerstone the kingdom is built upon within our hearts. Our body can be in the world, but our soul and our spirit can be in the kingdom of God. That’s important to know! While God is being made manifest within us, the Prince of Darkness in this world can inflict problems on us. But he has no power over our soul and our spirit.

Sometimes, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God, he's speaking about a present reality that is somewhere else—a place where God's reign is completely experienced without any rebellion toward God. Scripture tells us that the day will come when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where the kingdom of our God will supplant the kingdoms of this earth. Revelation says that in that day there will be no more sorrow, no more grief, no more death, and no more pain; that God himself will be the light in the midst of that kingdom.

When Jesus used parables in His teachings, they had deeper levels of meaning, like peeling back the layers of an onion. And the basic literal meaning was the least revealing. When Jesus talked of His father’s house with many rooms, it quite probably is not a gigantic Motel 6 in the skies. But perhaps He was referring to that vast infinite space of spiritual consciousness somewhere over the rainbow. And yes, Toto, we can go home to a place we’ve never been before.

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