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Diesel the dog and the kingdom of God 

There are moments when, even in this earthly life, we get little glimpses of something eternal. By Colin Sedgwick

Man dog

Every morning, some time between six and seven, I walk up to the local post office to pick up my paper. My route takes me through a little area of woodland near the back of our house. It’s a route also popular with dog-walkers, and we often exchange a few words.

The other morning I met an elderly man, somewhat shaky on his feet, and his little dog - some kind of terrier, I think. We got chatting and he said to me “So where’s your dog then?”

“I haven’t got one,” I said. He took on a grave expression: “Sorry, you’re not allowed to walk here if you haven’t got a dog!” “Oh dear,” I said, “will a policeman come along and throw me into the Tower of London?” “Mm, quite possibly,” he replied.

I had a feeling that perhaps he wasn’t being entirely serious, so I smiled and said “What’s your dog called?”, pointing to the little chap whiffling away in the undergrowth. “Him? Oh, he’s Diesel,” he said. “Diesel?” I said. “Yes, Diesel - you know, the fuel for cars,” he said. OK, I thought.

We exchanged names (he’s called John), said how pleased we were to have met, and he hobbled off up the path, with the worthy Diesel trotting loyally at his heels. I headed home, looking forward to my bowl of porridge and my paper - and feeling good.

Now I’m probably being very silly here - in which case I hope, as Paul puts it, that you will “put up with me in a little foolishness” (2 Corinthians 11:1).

But I can’t help thinking: Is that chance encounter a flashback - a very tiny flashback - to the Garden of Eden before the fall? Peace and quiet. Beauty. Man in harmony with nature. A man and dog in harmony with one another. The dog named by the man, as Adam named the animals. Two people in harmony with one another. (True, no Eves yet: mine’s still at home in bed.)

And then I think: Not only a flashback to Eden, but perhaps also a tiny foretaste of heaven?

Do we sometimes get our idea of heaven wrong - if, say, we think only of angels with harps and wings, choirs singing, and strange beasts surrounding the mysterious throne of God? Certainly, that sense of awe and majesty is important - you have only to think of the extraordinary images we find in the book of Revelation.

But perhaps it is also going to be in certain respects far more ordinary, far more earthy - doesn’t the Bible speak to us of “a new heaven and a new earth”? And what matters is the renewal of the harmony which was wrecked by the fall.

I don’t know; I’m just vaguely speculating, really. But I do think that there are moments when, even in this earthly life, we get little glimpses of something eternal, something that speaks to us of the perfect world God intended in the beginning.

It’s often been pointed out that the Bible begins with a garden, Eden, and ends with a city, the new Jerusalem. This may seem confusing, living as many of us do in the industrialised cities of our modern world - after all, the word “city” conjures up dirt, noise, pollution, crowds, violence, all sorts of evils. So we need to remember that in the Bible it means, more simply, a place where people come together to share their lives.

And so it is that the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, is in effect both a city and a garden. John, the writer, sees “the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing... down the middle of the great street of the city.” He sees “the tree of life... yielding its fruit every month” (Revelation 22:1-2). All the beauty and fruitfulness of Eden, combined with the harmony of God, angels, and human beings.

And animals too? Why not? Won’t they also have their place?

I shall look out for Diesel tomorrow morning. And perhaps I can look forward also to seeing him in God’s eternal kingdom...? (I really am asking you now to “put up with me in a little foolishness”!) Perhaps he’ll come snuffling up to me and say (in perfect heaven-language, of course), “Hello, do you remember me? We used to meet in those woods in Wollaton. I’ve got a new name since coming here, but my master John used to call me Diesel. Can’t think why. But there you are - you’re funny creatures, you humans, aren’t you...?”

And perhaps I’ll bend down, pat him on the head and say, “Diesel, old friend, you never spoke a truer word...”


Photo | Karsten Würth (@inf1783) | Unsplash

Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.

He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com


Baptist Times, 24/07/2017
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