The Church will miss its First Chair Chef-Theologian Robert Farrar Capon who was gathered to his people last week. He had a conflicted and in ways confused ministry, which Rachel Stone describes a little of here. But he had a cannon of a pen. The Supper of the Lamb is his best known books and resides where it ought, reprinted in the Modern Library. I wouldn’t recommend it alone among marriage books, but Bed and Board is delightful and sadly out of print. It’s only of late that I’ve tapped into Capon’s works on the parables which are superb. Here’s what I mean, on the parable of the Growing Seed. Where other commentators wither, Capon bursts.
In the New Testament, that inseparability of heavenly concerns from earthly ones is, if anything, even more strenuously maintained. The kingdom Jesus proclaims is at hand, planted here, at work in this world. The Word sown is none other than God himself incarnate. By his death and resurrection at Jerusalem in A.D. 29, he reconciles everything, everywhere, to himself—whether they be things on earth or things in heaven. And at the end, when he makes all things new, he makes not just a new heaven but a new earth—a glorified re-creation of nothing less than his old stamping ground. The Bible’s last chapters proclaim a heaven and earth more inextricably intertwined than ever. Whatever else the “New Jerusalem” may signify, it says plainly that the final “heaven” will be as earthly as the eschatological earth will be heavenly—and that that’s the way it is going to be forever.
Indeed, it is worth noting that most uses of the words “heaven” or “heavenly” in the New Testament bear little relation to the meanings we have so unscripturally attached to them. For us, heaven is an unearthly, humanly irrelevant condition in which bed-sheeted, paper-winged spirits sit on clouds and play tinkly music until their pipe-cleaner halos drop off from boredom. As w envision it, it contains not one baby’s bottom, not one woman’s breast, not even one man’s bare chest — much less a risen basketball game between glorified “shirts” and “skins.” But in Scripture, it is a city with boys and girls playing in the streets; it is buildings put up by a Department of Public Works that uses amethysts for cinder blocks and pearls as big as the Ritz for gates; and indoors, it is a dinner party to end all dinner parties at the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is, in short, earth wedded, not earth jilted. It is the world as the irremovable apple of God’s eye. (more…)