When Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s sings “Heaven is a place on earth” I stop whatever I’m doing and sing along. ‘Ooh baby do you know what that’s worth, you make heaven a place on earth’ It happened today, in my truck while driving to Tulsa and a blue-haired lady with a handicap sign hanging from her rear view mirror stared me down as she passed on the left. I guess my singing slows my driving and octogenarians humming Sinatra pass me.
Is Heaven revealed in common moments, unassuming revelation, like Belinda Carlisle singing about love? Is Heaven a place on earth? Not all the time, but rather in tip of the iceberg moments we see now and then, understanding the ice flow is mostly under the surface of the ocean, unrevealed.
Which reminds me of my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams.
Ray Kinsella walked out the door of his childhood home at the age of seventeen and he never spoke to his Dad again. He tells Terrance Mann played by James Earl Jones, “By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was 14, I started to refuse. Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father.”
His Dad died before they reconciled. And now, on a brilliant green baseball diamond in the midst of Iowa corn Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, sees his Dad, and as the catcher’s mask comes off they have a catch as I struggle to swallow. Every time I see that moment in the movie a baseball leaps from the screen into my throat and I can’t swallow and my eyes mist over.
John Kinsella (father): Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
[starts to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
[Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.
Robert Farrar Capon likes to suggest as the image of God’s providence and mercy an iceberg. For, like the mighty expanse of ice from the polar caps the ice extends out into the ocean in all directions, and the sailors of those areas have to be on guard and alert for the tip of the icebergs where the grace of God makes a brief revelation of its power, light, and love. The iceberg seen is not all there is and someday when the ocean is drained we may see the full extent of the ice, but for the time being all we see, if we are alert, are the iceberg tips. Those who are a part of the people of the light have to keep watch for the icebergs so that they might continue to know and to see the nature and purpose of God and to encourage each other with stories and testimonies about the icebergs.
Perhaps while preaching the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” he was talking about being watchful for the tip of the iceberg, a son and father having a catch, a moment swinging on the front porch with someone you love, holding your child seconds after she is revealed as not only a miracle but a miracle in which you were asked to participate, or moments when the world is turned upside down and the poor become rich and the weak become strong, as Heaven breaks out on Earth.
I once thought Knute Rockne was the author of The Lord’s Prayer, but it wasn’t prayed by Jesus so football players would have something to say in those awkward locker room moments just before kick off when frothy violence and masculine intimacy touch and recoil. It’s a prayer about the intersection of Heaven and Earth, where the dirt road of earth dwellers intersects the street of gold, a place that should have a stop sign. And, if you have ‘ears to hear’ as Jesus encouraged, perhaps like Ray Kinsella you will hear voices and build ball fields in corn as high as an elephant’s eye, while singing out loud a Go-Go’s song about a four-way stop where Heaven meets Earth. It’s the place dreams come true and mountains begin to move and rivers change their course.