by The Rev. Rich Heinz
The commercial begins with a racing, horse-drawn coach. The white horses gallop toward the home where the children are sleeping, while parents are online, discovering that there is an affordable vacation package for them. The excitement rushes through your veins as you begin to think, “Maybe there is a great bargain for me, too!” and you check out the Disney website.
In recent years, an advertising slogan has emphasized Walt Disney’s remarks from the opening day of Disneyland, collectively referring to the Disney parks as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” But are they? Are you truly happier there than any other place on the planet?
There is a certain rush as you go through the gate, and enter Main Street, USA. The excitement builds as you stop for your first “must have” photo with the castle in the background. Your week continues to place one treat on top of another, as you receive excellent service, happy pampering, and continuous smiles and courtesy in shows and on rides.
Yes, Disney provides an amazingly high level of service and leisure. In many ways, most people would agree that it is the happiest place on earth. But let’s take a moment to ponder that thought.
As we approach All Saints Day, we are reminded of our heavenly future with the Lord. "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:15-17 ESV).
Christians have this wonderful promise of a blessed eternity with the Lord. And yet it’s not only a future promise; Christ blesses you even now to enjoy a foretaste of this feast to come. Every time you gather around His altar and our Savior places His holy Body on your tongue and quenches your thirst with His most precious Blood, He truly comes to you! He brings a bit of heaven here and now, so that our holy God touches you. Heaven intersects earth! In every chancel where Jesus delivers Himself, an amazing and wondrous event happens. Oh! That your eyes could actually see the miracle taking place! Jesus Christ is bringing the throne of Most High God to your parish altar. The Lamb of God who is slain and risen feeds and gives drink to His great multitude that no one could number (Rev. 7:9 ESV).
So, as dear Dr. Luther would ask: “What does this mean?” It means that there is not one single place elevated among all others as the happiest place on earth. Actually, there are thousands upon thousands of “happiest places on earth” on any given day. Every altar on which our Lord Jesus becomes incarnate in bread and wine becomes the happiest place on earth. Wherever our Lord celebrates His Holy Eucharist, preaching His Gospel in your ears and placing His Body and Blood in your mouths becomes the happiest place on earth for you!
For a Disney fanatic like me, this really gives some food for thought. As beloved as my family’s favorite vacation spot is, we are given perspective by our loving Savior. Every Lord’s Day He reminds us: THIS is the happiest place on earth!
The Rev. Rich Heinz is senior pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN. He and his family just returned from an eight day vacation at Walt Disney World and the Disney Wonder, a Disney cruise ship.
Created: November 3rd, 2007