Apr 29, 2012
I had a friend in college named Danny Platnick. A brilliant but very quirky guy. He never failed to surprise us, his friends, with flashes of brilliance and quirkiness, and sometimes the most random things, which often challenged us to be more random, usually unsuccessfully.
One day we were all talking in the dorm lounge about our homes and families and backgrounds. Our college was in Washington DC; Danny came from Bluefield WV, which seemed light-years farther away than the actual few hours’ drive. We all started to exchange photos of our parents and siblings and homes. Danny pulled a picture from his wallet and passed it around. It was a plain picture of the side of a house, only two windows showing. No front door or back porch. No particularly interesting landscaping.
“Is this your parents’ house?” we asked. “No, it’s the side of my neighbor’s house,” Danny replied. Everyone who had shared photos of front lawns, and fancy cars in the driveways, and swimming pools out back, asked how that snapshot represented his house.
“That’s what I see when I look out my bedroom window,” Danny answered. “This picture reminds me of home.”
I am embarrassed to admit that it was years before I realized that this was not quirky, but wise and almost profound.
My niece Liza – Elizabeth Jane Marschall – died this week. She was born almost 27 years ago with severe birth defects, including cerebral palsy that doctors reckoned froze her at a three-month developmental level all her life. She was not expected to live past a few years, but she did, nurtured by loving care and God’s mysterious grace. She experienced pain in her time; many surgeries and braces; and constantly was connected to tubes and monitors. Medically, she was not inanimate but was termed insensate. Yet she smiled, responded to her mom and to her caregivers, and to expressions of love.
Some churches call the death of a Christian a “home-going,” and so it is. Believers will not just begin the “journey home” to be with Jesus when we die; we already are on that journey.
Liza is healed now, happy, whole, before God’s throne. Unlike some Christians who, perhaps, think too much about certain things, she never had the ability to speculate about angels and wings and harps and being reunited with pets. But now she knows what Heaven is like, and we shall experience paradise for eternity too, some day. And it will be better than anything our imagination or scholarship can suggest.
“In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” Jesus assured us. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” This is recorded in John, 14:2. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Without much effort, I can almost imagine Jesus pulling out a snapshot of “home” – Heaven – and showing me a very, very comforting scene indeed. We need frequently to remind ourselves of God’s home, even if we are not quite there yet.
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One of the most beautiful messages, and tunes, you will ever hear – and one of the most touching performances – is “Going Home,” in this clip. The unlikely pairing of a classic musical theme (the Largo movement of Antonín Dvorák’s Ninth Symphony) and Negro spiritual lyrics, this performance is by the amazing Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø. Backed by an orchestra and church choir, she performed the song in Røros, a charming Norwegian town in the middle of a UNESCO Heritage area.
Click: Going Home