His face flashed through my mind as we were singing “Marvelous Light”, one of his favorite praise songs. His family was sitting on the front row on the hand-hewn, wooden benches, their many teary eyes and wet cheeks peeking out from behind their woolen coats, long scarves and hats…standing in the wood shavings up around their shoes. I'm sure they were remembering how Thomas loved praising and rejoicing in this arbor with his best buds, cocking his hat to the side of his head (no one could wear a hat better than Thomas). I'm remembering the video I have at home of him during Spring Break at Laguna Beach Christian Resort raising his hands and spinning around at the chorus of the song, singing to the top of his voice and smiling all the while...then striking a pose when he caught sight of the camera!
Our singing today was joyous yet lacking something. As the cold wind whistled through the open arbor, nothing was standing that could break its force sweeping through the bare pine trees. Snow flakes were swirling throughout the campground, flying swiftly against our stiff faces several times--often we heard small squeals from the high school girls fighting the cold as they tried to snuggle under their letter jackets and hoodies. As we were singing the chorus…a brightness completely enthralled the arbor --it was like a bright star was hovering overhead. (It was like Thomas didn’t want us to feel alone under the canopy of dark clouds as frozen flakes sprinkled our way.) I could envision him opening the clouds showing us the shining sun of heaven saying, "Hey, guys! It's great up here...wait 'til you see it." Several of us talked afterwards about how awesome God fulfills our needs in moments like these.
We will always remember this dedication and what Thomas meant to each of us each time we look at the new plaque on the LAP cabin that commemorates him. That heavenly sunlight wouldn’t leave my mind as I drove home. What comfort and vision does Scripture promise us about Heaven? In several passages, I could see Thomas as one of Christ’s inherited. He is already enjoying his “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1). He will never again be hungry; never again thirst (Revelation). He is sitting with the Lamb, who is at the center of the throne. Christ is giving him springs of living water." Our Lord has already “wiped away every tear from his eyes." Any of his old sinful nature is gone and there is no evil near him in the kingdom of God. He is now praising God at the REAL ARBOR, the eternal ARBOR, on the the EVERLASTING ROCK.
And Thomas is busy loving and serving our Lord there ("…and his servants will serve him", Galatians 5:21) and he is "looking on Christ’s face and Christ’s name is on Thomas’ forehead". Thomas does “not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God is giving him light. And he will reign for ever and ever”. That’s the HEAVENLY SUNLIGHT Thomas brought us this morning under God’s ARBOR. Oh, it is a beautiful place, even more so beautiful with Thomas. Quoting Charles Allen, Methodist preacher: A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father and wonderingly looked up at the stars and exclaimed:
"Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful,
what must the right side be!"