“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
Some of the best Confirmation classes involve tossing out the lesson plan and letting the students set the agenda. Kids ask great questions every week, but sometimes I sense a level of engagement around a particular topic that tells me, “Change of plans, Tom, you have a captive audience of teens” (this is a precious occurrence!).
This January, several questions centered on this basic question: “What’s the deal with people who’ve done some bad things going to heaven and people who’ve done some good things going to hell? And what’s the deal with some bad people who seem to be winning at life while some good people suffer and die on Christmas, like my Uncle?”
I tell you, my friends, it is a good tradeoff to have a few weeks of half-distracted students for a night like we had not once, but twice in January. It’s like a dividend payment on weeks of investing in the confirmation program as a place of belonging and trust.
It’s not possible to summarize our discussion well, but here are a few tidbits. You are in good company with the psalmists with questions like these. The Christian faith is not a security blanket against suffering but a shield and refuge in our confrontation with death, suffering, grief, mental illness and our own sins and regrets. The Christian faith is not about making good people better, but dead people alive. We are not saved by our mom, morality, mindset, or money (it’s not about having the right family, right morals, right attitude, or right success.)
God speaks words of Law and Gospel. The Law says you get what you deserve – rewards or punishments. The Gospel says, ‘Here is Christ, who has given everything for you. Trust in him!’ We do not get into “the good place” by scoring enough goodness points in this life (the premise of the profound and hilarious TV Show). Rather, Christ Jesus comes down from the good place into the bad places of our world, our hearts, and hell itself, to redeem sinners and raise the dead. He has promised to prepare a place for us in his Good Father’s Place and to return to bring us to himself. It’s not about mom, morals, mindset, or money…it’s all about Messiah Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Peace, Pastor Tom