Science fiction may be where we find the parables of our time. Science fiction stories often tell a truth by using simile and symbol, leaving us the opportunity to make meaning for ourselves from the elements. With that in mind, I offer a one sentence parable for my fellow Whovians: heaven is timey-wimey.
After fifty years of the show Doctor Who, the concept of time travel still leaves our heads spinning at times. The Doctor is often asked to explain how his interventions in historical events change or don’t change things and often has no better answer than to explain that it is “wibbly-wobbly, timey-winey.” The playfulness of the Doctor’s response makes mystery more appealing than frightening. In a story arc a few years ago, the Doctor discovered cracks in the very skin of the universe. They were the result of different pieces of spacetime being pressed together. The other side of the cracks were other times as well as spaces. The timey-wimey nature of the cracks is one way to imagine the eternity of heaven. It is hard to stretch our minds beyond our linear experience of time in order to grasp the difference between eternity and infinity. Infinity is time without end, but it is still time. Eternity is existence outside of time. And just like that crack, eternity breaks into our time. If it helps to understand the concept of “heaven is now” just think of it as timey-wimey.
If Jesus were telling us a Whovian parable, he might say “the kingdom of heaven is like a crack in the skin of the universe…” And if we tried to tie up all the loose ends by considering all the permutations and following all rabbit trails, we would be missing the basic point about the invitation to mystery. Perhaps that is part of the reason he told us to be like children in order to enter this kingdom beyond our imagination. In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, one of the ways we are called out of our desire to make everything fit into neat boxes is seen in the disappointment of the laborers who worked all day thinking that they deserved more than they were promised. How often are we all guilty of the same greed when we should be happy for those who were the recipients of generosity? It is not easy to wrap our minds around the way eternity breaks in to our time. Consider that the payment for the labor (whether a few hours or the full day) was heaven itself. Forget the lousy denarius, Jesus is trying to tell us that God wants everyone to have eternity. Let’s do the math, using even the linear concept of infinity. How much is 2 times infinity or 200 times infinity? The answer to both is infinity. Or how much is half of infinity or a third? Yes, it is still infinity.
In the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey nature of the kingdom of heaven, the last will be first and the first will be last. And the good news is that it won’t matter because there is more than enough for everyone forever. The important question is not “how much is fair?” but rather “how can we get the good news that heaven is now to everyone in the time that we have?”
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of Old South United Church of Christ, Kirtland, Ohio where Darkwood Brew is used as part of an effort to be the church beyond walls. He also has a YouTube channel of two-minute videos called Bible Bytes.