I can't seem to shake the power of this parable Peter Rollins shares in his book, Fidelity of Betrayal. He shares it in the video I've posted below. I found this parable, originally told by Philip Harrison, to be challenging and encouraging in that it surprised me, caught me off guard, and messed with my preconceived notions of the allure of heaven. The promise of heaven is unbelievable, indescribable, even considering the amazing revelation given to St. John. I'm interested in reactions to this parable. I'm wrestling with what it means for us, particularly for people like me who live comfortably as Christians in this world that is not our home.
You can also read the parable from Rollins' book if a 3 minute video seems to long for you!
The other day I had a dream. I dreamed I arrived at the gates of heaven, heavy-shut, pure oak, bevelled and crafted, glinting sharp in the sunlight. St. Peter stood to greet me; the big man wore brown, smile set deep against his ruddy cheeks.
“You’re here,” he said.
“I am,” I said.
“Great to see you—been expecting you,” he smiled. “Come on in.”
He pushed gently against the huge door; it swung silently, creakless. I took a couple of steps forward until, at the threshold, one more step up and in, I realized I wasn’t alone. My friends had joined me, but they hovered behind, silently, looking on. None spoke. I realized only I could speak. I looked at them; some were Christians, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some muslims, some Jews, some atheists. Some God knows what. I stopped, paused. A hesitant St. Peter looked at me, patiently, expectantly.
“What about these guys?” I asked him. “My friends. Can they come?”
“Well, Phil,” he replied, soft in the still air, “you know the rules. I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are. Only the right ones.”
I looked at him. He seemed genuinely pained by his answer. I stood, considering. What should I do? I thought about my reference points, and thought about Jesus, the bastard, the outsider, the unacceptable, the drunkard, the fool, the heretic, the criminal, and I knew exactly where I belonged.
“I’ll just stay here then too,” I said, taking my one foot out of heaven. And I’ll tell you, I’d swear I saw something like a grin break across St. Peter’s face, and a voice from inside whispered, “At last.”