A very tall ladder…
Genesis 28: 10-19 (NRSVA)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17 And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
So I’m thinking about Jacob and his vision of heaven meeting earth.
Banned in musical instrument stores the world over, Jimmy Page’s opening riff of “Stairway to heaven” was practically the first real rock riff I learned on guitar. You’re probably hearing it in your head right now. Go on. Admit it…
Robert Plant suggests that the subject of the song is intent on “Buying a stairway to heaven”. It occurred to me, writing this, that you can’t really buy anything – anything at all - of any worth. Diamonds are just pretty stones and gold is just a soft shiny metal. The real stuff, to love and be loved, contentment, the experience of the spirit of god. That stuff costs nothing or everything depending on your point of view.
Can’t be bought though.
Heaven — contrary to Robert Plant — can’t be bought.
You don’t need to buy it, it’s around us all of the time and sometimes in the places where the world becomes thin. In the sunrise and sunset when light changes form and texture. On the mountain you have just climbed (figuratively or metaphorically). In the space and place where you feel at peace. There, right there, the world becomes thin and we can feel heaven just a breath away.
Close your eyes, stretch out your hand. Be still, now feel the tingle in your fingertips. It’s just… there…
So, if you think about it, we don’t move that far away when we leave this place onto the next. From here we just don’t have the senses to see. Unless, perhaps, you’re like Jacob and God grants you vision. Or like me tasting the early morning air with Rufus (my dog) snuffling at my feet, feeling a day being birthed where literally anything could happen and heaven could be just round the corner.
Lord let me feel heaven
On my skin
On the ends of hair
In the wakening and sleeping of days
Let me sense a glory that’s a heartbeat away
To reconnect with those past on
To dream of those yet to be
To know we don’t need visions, stairways or metaphors
To see beauty in the light that bounces from leaf, sand and wave
To be open to the thinness of a world
Where you are just a simple breath away