by John McLarty  |  Updated 26 September 2021  |

It was nice of you to ask me
to come with you to heaven.
You told me all about it,
that everyone should go,
how heaven was a lovely place
where we’d chase our highest dreams,
and taste our richest pleasures.
In your heaven
we’d bask in everlasting light
and  quaff eternal joy.
We’d fellowship with Jesus
and talk for hours with God.

It sounded really nice and all.
I nearly bought a ticket.
But then you said that other thing,
and I decided not to go.

The ticket to your heaven
wasn’t hard to come by.
The only thing I had to do
was believe that I was damned
and all those other people, too,
and Jesus saved me by his death
if only I believed
and said the words.

Oh, and one more thing, you said.
I couldn’t bring my kids. 

My kids,

My girl who works in south Seattle
with homeless, crazy people.
(She would be offended
that I told you they were crazy.)

My boy, the ER doc,
who loves to rescue people,
beloved by all the nurses
and the CNAs and techs
and by his wife
and by his kids.

The daughter helping refugees,
Iraqis and Somalis,
and says that they are family
and calls the women aunty
and all the old men uncle
and hugs their kids like cousins. 

The one who makes my music
and helps my old heart dance
and the one who’s doing science,
chasing tiny mysteries
and pondering the grandest questions,
and the two raising Juancho,
the special child with special needs
born a continent away.

You said I couldn’t bring them.
They’d have to come themselves.
With a ticket they themselves acquired
by saying the precious words.

But they won’t.

You see,
my girl,
the social worker one—
She loves those crazy people,
the addicts and the addled ones
in the halfway house she runs.
Even when they drive her crazy
or kill themselves
or make trouble for their neighbors
she will not say their lack of faith
will keep them out of heaven.
Most of them will never say the needed magic words.
So they can’t come.
And she won’t go without them.

My doctor son
who nearly died of Covid,
who took theology in college
before giving up the faith—
You say the rules won’t let me bring him.
He has to say the words. 

My daughter saving refugees
From countries full of mosques—
She stubbornly refuses
to damn them for their error
which makes her quite complicit
in their lack of Christian faith
and shows that she herself is lacking
in the requisite conviction
that all are justly damned
without the words
of Jesus, Jesus only.

The kids whose outdoor wedding
I performed a while ago,
whose parents taught in Advent schools
for thirty years or more,
The kids themselves heard all the stories
about Adam and Eve and Noah.
They learned the facts about the fall and sin,
about faith and hope and love
but in the end
kept only love,
and their families call them atheists.
Still, they asked a preacher
to officiate their wedding
To pray and preach
because their moms would like it.
And the dads, too.
I think your lovely heaven
would be an even better place
if I brought these kids along,
but you said I couldn’t bring them.
They haven’t said the words.

And my kids making music
and chasing cures in their lab,
and writing code
and rearing children—
you said there is no family plan.
Your heaven welcomes just a special few,
people like me who know and say the magic words
and agree to damn the rest.

But I won’t.

Thanks for the invitation.
I think your heaven’s really nice.
I’m sure that you will like it.
The bliss and light
Jesus and angels
and all the believers.
I’m sure you’ll really like them.
You’ll be happy there.

But you go on without me.
I think I’ll stay.

John McLarty is retired from being senior pastor at Green Lake Church in Seattle. He is a host of Talking Rocks Tours.

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