Pete Burak, pictured, is Director of id, the young adult outreach of the Ann-Arbor based Renewal Ministries. Pete and his wife, Cait, along with their five children are parishioners at Christ the King in Ann Arbor. In the latest column in this month’s FAITH Magazine, Peter asks the question: What causes heaven to celebrate? Here’s his answer:
You can tell a lot about someone by examining what or who they celebrate. For instance, around 3:30 p.m. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family began celebrating a long desired and often unexpected outcome (think football). Here’s another hint: I’m from the state of Michigan and most people from Ohio were not celebrating; this gives you a glimpse into one of the things my family loves the most.
What causes heaven to celebrate? When does God throw a party? These are important questions because we want to be sure to rejoice over the things God rejoices in and, conversely, we shouldn’t want to revel in anything he doesn’t.
We get many glimpses of heaven throughout the Scriptures which allow us to enjoy a foretaste of what is to come. For example, when Jesus was born, we experienced the angels in full array worshiping God and celebrating the birth of our Savior. That was a specific moment in human history, but a simple parable from Jesus offers us a peek into an ongoing source of joy for heaven.
In the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10), a woman loses one of her 10 silver coins. She lights a lamp, sweeps the floor and searches carefully until she finds it. She excitedly invites her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her because what was lost has now been found. Jesus then explains, “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Think about this: Someone coming to faith, turning toward God, and receiving his love and mercy sets-off rejoicing in heaven. Notice Jesus doesn’t say 100 people, or 1,000 conversions, lead to this reaction, but just one. That’s how unfathomably and eternally important each individual person is to God.
I don’t know of any other passage that so concretely connects something happening on earth with heaven’s reaction. Signs and wonders are awesome and important, but don’t prompt a heavenly party. Heroic preaching is essential, but that alone doesn’t cause the angels to get out the streamers. In this parable, Jesus reveals to us the ultimate and most important desire of God’s heart: to know, love, heal, save, forgive and redeem us. Those in heaven eagerly await repentance and decisions based on faith because they know that our repeated and faithful response to God’s grace will lead us to one day enjoying the joy and fulfillment found only in the heavenly kingdom. We are infinitely more valuable than a silver coin, and Jesus doesn’t stop sweeping and searching until he finds us and we say yes to him!