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Just Sit Right Back & You’ll Hear A Tale

July 17, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz had a pretty big impact on my childhood. He served as a writer for  The Red Skelton Show from 1956-1962, and created the TV sitcoms Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. I spent many hours watching all three shows. They made me laugh.

Photo courtesy of Dave Damico

Before he died last week, Schwartz gave the Hollywood Reporter a letter to publish after he passed away. In the letter, A Conver- sation At The Gates, Schwartz imagines himself knocking on the Pearly Gates of heaven. A Voice responds, and a conversation follows. I had to smile when the Voice acknowledged that Schwartz began writing after college and never stopped.

“That’s because writing isn’t a profession, it’s a disease;” Schwartz replies. “And it’s accompanied by a disease that’s even worse, rewriting.” (I’m right with you there, Mr. Schwartz.)

But despite this incurable affliction, the conversation illustrates how blessed Schwartz was on earth, and ends with the Voice saying: “Go ahead: Ask. Ask what they all want to know when they knock at my gate: Am I going to Heaven or not?”

“That’s what I was going to ask when I got here,” Schwartz says. “Then I suddenly realized something when we talked. Heaven is where I’ve been since the day I was born.”

That’s pretty cool, I thought at first. Sherwood Schwartz found contentment right here on earth. But the letter concludes without an invitation to pass through the gates, and implies that Schwartz is content to remain outside. It reminds me of the story told in chapter 19 of the Gospel of Matthew.

A rich young ruler asks Jesus, “What good thing shall I do to obtain eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus responds. “There is only One who is good. But if you wish to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must keep the commandments: don’t kill, be faithful to your spouse, always tell the truth, honor your parents, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“I’ve done all those things,” says the young man. “What am I still lacking?”

(Interesting. Does he believe good works are not enough?)

“If you wish to be whole, then go and sell everything you own, give the proceeds to the poor, and be content with your treasure in heaven. Then, come follow Me.”

He couldn’t do it. He had too much invested in the material world. He went away grieving, for he knew that the rewards he enjoyed in this life would do him no good in the afterlife.

In The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis wrote, “Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

This guitar has allegedly been played on every track of every ZZ Top album to date.

Too easily pleased. That’s the curse of our American culture. We have too much of the material, and it’s too easy to acquire more. I don’t know about you, but my possessions never truly satisfy. I always want more. I’m pretty sure that even if Billy Gibbons gave me his original “Pearly Gates” Les Paul, I wouldn’t be content for long.

CS Lewis also said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

As the rich young ruler walked away, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it’s easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

“Then who can be saved?” they asked.

Jesus looked them in the eye and said, “With people this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”

I don’t think Jesus is saying we shouldn’t enjoy things like good food and nice houses and Gibson Les Paul guitars. The problems arise when we get our priorities mixed up. And I think the richer we become, from a material point of view, the easier it is to forget what’s really important.

Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.

Matthew 6:19-21, CEV

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Janny permalink
    July 17, 2011 5:10 pm

    I had not seen this, what beautiful writing Richard. I have done a few Bible Studies on the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.
    This was one of my favorites:: Hearts on earth may say in the course of a joyful experience, “I don’t want this to ever end.” But invaribly it does. The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want this to go on forever.” And it will. There is no better news than this.
    J. I. Packer

  2. July 18, 2011 5:09 am

    Thank you, Janny. I have read Alcorn’s “The Treasure Principle” and “Knowing God” by JI Packer. Will have to check out “Heaven”. Thanks for reading!

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