by John McLarty  |  8 May 2020  |

It was nice of you to ask me

to come with you to heaven.

You told me all about it,

that everyone should go.

In your heaven

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 when you said that other thing,

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.


Oh, and one more thing.

I couldn’t bring my kids.


My kids,


The 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

and by his mom and me.


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 our grandest questions

and the two raising Juancho,

the special child born a continent away.


You said I couldn’t bring them.

They’d have to come themselves.

But they’d never get a ticket.

if they didn’t say the words.


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 him come.

He has to say the words.


My daughter saving refugees–

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 year or two ago,

whose parents taught in Advent schools for thirty years or more,

The kids themselves learned all the words

about Jesus and God and faith.

They heard about the curse and sin,

about faith and hope and love

but in the end kept only love,

and their family called them atheists.

Still, they asked a preacher

because their moms would like it.

They’re gentle, kind, and good,

perhaps the sweetest couple I have ever met.

I think your lovely heaven

would be more lovely still

if I brought them 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 only 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

and all your people,

Jesus, saints, and angels.

I’m sure you’ll really like them.

You’ll be happy there.


But you go on without me.

I think I’ll stay with mine.


John McLarty is the senior pastor at Green Lake Church in Seattle and director of Talking Rocks Tours.

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