Today I got the chance to spend part of the service with the Junior Church (one of the Readers was preaching, and there wasn’t anyone else from the rota to be with the children). It was great fun. First we tried crawling through a table while dragging a chair behind us (we were being camels going through the eye of a needle). We began to think about what sort of things we can take with us into eternal life, and what sort of things we need to leave behind. Then we made two little paper pots, labeled one ‘Take’ and the other ‘Leave’.
So, what did the children put in the pots?
Well, it started with the obvious things. They put ‘money’ and ‘TV’ in the ‘Leave’ pot. And they put ‘love’ and ‘friends’ in the ‘Take’ pot.
But after that it got more interesting. They found that there were good things about our life now that still might not have a place in heaven – we weren’t sure about toys, for instance. But we were quite clear that there was fun and laughter in heaven nonetheless.
Then we got rid of some things like war and bullying and cruelty and lies. They all went in the ‘Leave’ pot, because there’s no room for them in heaven. And we put ‘soul’ and ‘good memories’ in the ‘Take’ pot.
We put ‘everything bad we’ve ever done’ and ‘guilt’ in the ‘Leave pot. And we put ‘everything good we’ve ever done’ and ‘good memories’ in the ‘Take’ pot.
At that point we spotted a big hairy spider on the wall, and there was heated debate about whether we would take it to heaven. Then we remembered that God loves it and God made it, so we drew a picture of a spider and put it in the ‘Take’ pot.
Then someone asked about whether we could put ‘People we don’t like’ in the ‘Leave’ pot, and we thought about that together. We had to conclude that, just like the spider, the people we find difficult have to be able to come with us. We thought that the gift of heaven might be that we would come to love them just as God loves them.
We realised, finally, that the eternal life that the rich young man in the story was asking about doesn’t start when we die, it starts right now, and that loving the people that God loves was part of how we start to live as if we are in heaven.