There is much upset on the wires about a Mail cartoon by Mac suggesting that Cilla Black, at the Pearly Gates, is being held up due to thousands of "illegal immigrants" trying to get into the Kingdom. I'm not gonna link to it. They've got enough clicks today.
And I'm not going to try and defend Mac for what seems to be a fairly crass cartoon. Though I don't imagine he was personally responsible for the headline, there's still no way of telling what on earth he thinks is funny here.
But I will point out the following.
Jesus said "the first will be last and the last first". I pray that Cilla Black, through the same grace on which we all depend, will be welcomed to the place where there will be no need for surprise reunions. But if there is a queue at the gates, all we comfortable Christians may find ourselves waiting while the people who really did suffer and thirst for righteousness are let in first, for the food and drink they so dearly need.
Jesus said "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it." There are people so desperate for the kingdom of heaven that they will climb over the fence rather than wait politely at the gates for an appointment with St Pete. You see those figures climbing over the fence? Do you want to be with God so much that you'd rather climb over the spikes than wait for somebody to open the gate for you? If so, then you've maybe grasped what Jesus says.
See that's the trouble with a halo. It's inclined to slip off and get caught on the spikes on that fence. If you're taking the kingdom by force, you're not gonna want excess baggage, are you? Leave that to the nice holy people, queueing up outside like a family from Luton on a booze cruise, marooned just outside Hythe in a VW Sharan.
Of course, there's other images of getting to the Celestial City than a gate and walls. There's the idea of getting there over water. Today, another boat containing hundreds of people capsized off the Libyan coast. Thousands dead this year already. Many Christians, many fleeing persecution. If a Christian running from persecution for his or her Lord's sake goes down in a boat, it's my fervent belief that they will wash up on the right side of that eternal Jordan that waters the trees of the holy city. And, if our God is as merciful as I believe, many others on those boats will wash up with them, along with people who have been frozen, fallen from planes or been struck by trucks as they seek either safety or a better life - and who could blame anyone for looking for either?
So rest in peace, Cilla. You were loved, and I pray that you're now reunited with the loved ones who go before you. I also pray you'll resist the urge to haunt Mac for making you look like Margaret Thatcher. But if our God is like I hope, then, like all the rest of us who have had it fairly easy and been pretty comfortable, it's only fair you'll have to wait for your turn at the gates. Unless you want to climb over the fence?