We moved church during the 3rd lockdown. It wasn’t an easy time to do it because it meant that our new church family were having to meet online. A pre-recorded service with a few songs and a talk was followed by coffee time on Zoom. Then we joined in a community group in the week which again met on Zoom. Gradually as restrictions lifted, we were able to see people in person at last, first in groups of 6, then at the church offices in meetings of about 30-50 and finally a few weeks back we all gathered at the Sunday venue.
Now we were meeting people in person. We got more than little snapshots of people in their camera frame, we got to see them in 3D and without masks on. We got a greater sense of their personalities, what they were like in real life. Some people we immediately recognised from the screen. We had a bit of a feel for what they were, others didn’t immediately look the same as on camera.
On the first Sunday meeting back together I got to be on the welcoming team. That means I got to see how people were approaching. You could see the mixture of emotions, excitement and uncertainty mingled together. It was telling to see how the very small children were approaching, many with quite significant levels of apprehension. You realised that outside of their immediate family many would be seeing real people in 3D unmasked for the first time.
In the final Narnia book, The Last Battle, CS Lewis talks about “shadowlands.” We tend to think of heaven and eternity as a bit shadowy and ethereal but no, for Lewis, the “shadowlands” refer to this earth and this life now. Similarly in the Great Divorce he pictures heaven as this great and vast, solid, 3D place in contrast to which hell is shadowy, thin, gloomy and small enough to fit into the tiniest of cracks. I think Lewis offers us a crucial reversal of conventional thinking. You see we are tempted to enjoy life too much now and see that day when Christ returns or calls us home with reluctance -a time that we don’t really want to get to until we are tired of life now and ready to give up.
The heaven, or new creation of Scripture is not less real, more shadowy than this world now. It’s more real, less shadowy. It’s a place filled with joy, wonder, laughter, and praise. It’s solid and exciting. Going to be with Christ will be like moving from Zoom to in person church. It will be like moving from 2D to seeing and experiencing life in 3D.
 The story is powerful in helping us to think about the wonder of eternity but shouldn’t be treated as an exact theological exposition on heaven, hell and eternity.