• What is heaven like? When we look at some of the marvelous pictures of space, the Milky Way galaxy or the clouds of stardust, there is an undeniable sense of awe and wonder. It is really almost impossible to imagine the beauty, power and intricacy offered by this universe. What it tells us, if we think about it, is that we really don’t have the imagination required to consider what heaven might be like.

    I have lived a long time. I have been around to observe, if I cared to, over 20,000 sunsets. I have had many experiences. I have been able to participate in the digital age with incredible amounts of information at my fingertips. I have galloped on horses through thunderstorms in the mountains. I have held infants in my arms. I have read the Bible.

    I have no idea what heaven could be like.

    If I am sure of anything concerning heaven, it is only that it is exponentially better than anything we can imagine. It is also far greater than anything we have ever experienced.

    God lives outside the rush of time. What can it be like to exist outside of time? We are small. God is immense. We are foolish and naïve. God is Wisdom. We are fearful and vulnerable. God is Almighty. It is really too extraordinary to contemplate.

    We learn everything by experience, but we have no experience to tell us anything about heaven. If we have learned anything and if we have any sense at all, the one thing we do know is that we are connected to God by a single, solitary thread – a love thread. It is the only clue we have. I suspect that heaven will be an intensely joyful celebration of that thread of love that connects all of us to the one God.

    A few months ago, I was utterly amazed to stumble across what I can only now regard as a glimpse into the raucous, radical joy that can only be found in the great and hallowed halls of heaven. It had a never ending quality, like a strong and persistent alluvion of great emotion. The single, solitary thread had now become a celebrated and unbreakable bond. I found myself watching an eternal moment.

    The power of the moment swallowed me up and made me a part of it. I could see how I would never want it to end. And it was nothing but goodness. Goodness shared. Goodness shared with thousands and thousands. It felt like it could easily have been millions and millions. The serendipitous joy of it driving all involved inexorably on in a sublime and rapturous communion.

    Can there be something like this on earth? I didn’t think so once, but I cannot now shake the idea that I have seen a glimpse of heaven. It came in the form of a performance by a proud culture of the work of a great musical master from another time and place.

    It was a performance of Beethoven’s remarkable 9th Symphony. If you have never heard Beethoven’s 9th, you are depriving yourself of one of the great triumphs ever achieved by humanity. It is nearly unanimously regarded as the greatest symphony ever written. Composed

    by Beethoven near the end of his life and when he was completely deaf it is unsurpassed in the 200 years since.

    It is an extremely powerful, poignant and emotional work. For the first time in symphonic history he utilized a choir to join in the last of the 4 movements. With sublime beauty the choir sings of joy and divinity, of nature and brotherhood, of God and triumph. It never fails to invoke great emotion and gratitude for the spirit of life Beethoven expresses.

    Though I have heard the work many times and have seen it performed, and though it was always wonderful and exhilarating, it never had reached the visual level of a heavenly experience. A few months ago, however, I saw on social media the performance of the last half of the 4th movement.

    What caught my attention initially was that the performance was by a Japanese orchestra and choir. The singing is always in the German language, so I thought it would be interesting to watch this fully European masterpiece performed by an Asian culture. As I first tuned in, I thought the tone and the performance was quite good – comparable to what I had heard before.

    As the performance carried on, I could see that it was in a larger than normal venue for an orchestral performance. In fact, it appeared to be an average sized basketball arena. I then noticed that the entire audience was dressed uniformly. The men in black tuxedos and black ties. The women in white tops and black pants or skirts. Each section of the audience was populated either wholly by men or wholly by women, so that only sections of white or black could be seen as the camera panned the arena.

    Then slowly and gradually it became apparent that the entire audience was also part of the choir. They were all singing the piece word for word, 10,000 strong, in German. It was amazing and joyful and beautiful all at once. They worked together with great craft and heart and discipline. An amazing lesson was being delivered from Japan. What reverence was offered to this great work of art.

    And then heaven crept in. As the symphony worked its magic, and the camera captured the spectacle of orchestra, choir, conductor and audience, the love of heaven washed over me. It was so easy to imagine that all of these singing saints were already in heaven. I came to realize that this is exactly how it might be. Souls gathered and entirely devoted to the deep, internal love they were expressing and sending off to the highest heights of heaven.

    In mystical panoramic views, the filmmaker’s eye delivers the distinct and unique individualism of each of the musicians. Gazing upward, they are singing individually as if to God, but in one common cause that reaches into eternity in an ever repeated moment of joy.

    It was entirely breathtaking. What is heaven like? It’s like standing as an individual before the glory of God with multitudes of similarly minded souls, singing Joy to the God of Love, ecstatic in the knowledge it will never end.

    (If you want to spend a few minutes in heaven yourself, look for Beethoven – Symphony No 9

    10,000 Japanese on You Tube https://youtu.be/X6s6YKlTpfw Be sure to check out the comments.)

    Frank

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