I arise today...
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
Similarly Jesus declares to Mary,
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell Mary he will raise up Lazarus, herself, or anyone else. He simply declares that he is the resurrection. Likewise, God does not promise Abram a reward for his faithfulness. The very presence of God is all the reward Abram could ask for and more.
Where do we place our hope. So often we talk about heaven as a place free from pain or where we will reunite with our loved ones. We think of our eternal reward in terms of fixing what was broken on earth and healing all of our hurt and sorrow. God certainly provides these things, but what if our hope for eternity is too small?
I once heard it said that we spend so much time grabbing for the gifts God holds out to us in his hands that we never stop to look upon his face. I think that’s why God is so clear that he is Abram’s reward and why Jesus says that he is the resurrection. All of these blessings, even the gift of eternal life itself, have no substance apart from the presence of God.
What if we spend so much time grabbing for the gifts God holds out to us in his hands that we never stop to look upon his face?
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
What if we died and experienced the gift of resurrection, but never saw Jesus on the other side? What if everything we know about heaven is true, except that God wasn’t actually there. What if it was just some grand endless party where we get to hang out with those we loved on earth and everyone else who has gone before, but there was no divine presence?
I know the idea of heaven without Jesus is about as heretical as it gets and this is certainly not my intent. But hypothetically, if it were possible to go to heaven and find that Jesus decided not to actually live there, how long would it take for us to notice? How long would we be content enjoying all of our rewards before we began to feel like something was missing.
Now let’s bring that idea a little closer to home.
When we go to church and hang out with all of our friends and family, how long does it take us before we intentionally look around to see where Jesus is present? Are there some weeks we walk out of worship never having noticed the one we came to glorify? And what about in our day to day lives? Is Jesus the first reward we hope for every morning when we wake up, or are there other more pressing things we must strive to gain that day?
In all of the blessings we pray for and all of the rewards we hope for, let us not hope and pray too small. Let us not settle for anything less than arising and living each day fully in the presence of the one who is both our resurrection and our great reward.
What kinds of rewards to you hope for in heaven? How might your hopes be too small?
Have you ever gone to church without consciously seeking an encounter with Christ? What was that experience like?
In what ways do you find yourself reaching for what’s in God’s hands instead of gazing upon his face?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
I arise today…
… In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.