The other day, I was chatting with a gal who was telling me she was on a special journey to bury her sister’s and her brother’s ashes. Although it had been a challenging year for her, she was sharing with me that she had learned a lot as she embraced her sorrows and confronted some critical life and death issues.
Our conversation was both inspiring and convicting. I’ve been contemplating the meaning of, “The New Jerusalem,” the subject of the upcoming Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre symposium that will be taking place in Florence this coming spring. Although aware the New Jerusalem is heaven when I recently re-read Revelation 21, I found it refreshingly hopeful and alive!
That the “holy city will come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” is a beautiful promise. As is the further assurance that “the dwelling place of God is with man, God himself will be with them as their God, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Our Lord wants Christians to live as a citizen of two countries, Earth and Heaven. The New Jerusalem is essential to remember now in this world, the Old Jerusalem, to give us hope in a dark world and promise of the reality of where we are going.
I was blessed in church the next day as I studied the Pentecost fresco in our church and saw Jerusalem in the background. I only had to shift my eyes slightly to look up and see the New Jerusalem depicted the apse. And then we sang a hymn describing the Cities splendid glory:
O holy city, seen of John, where Christ, the Lamb doth reign
within whose four-square walls shall come no night, nor need, nor pain,
and where the tears are wiped from eyes that shall not weep again!
O shame to us, who rest content while lust and greed for gain
in street and shop and tenement wring gold from human pain,
and bitter lips in blind despair cry, “Christ hath died in vain!”
Give us, O God, the strength to build the city that hath stood
too long a dream, whose laws are love, whose crown is servant-hood,
and where the sun that shineth is God’s grace for human good.
Already in the mind of God that city riseth fair:
lo, how its splendor challenges the souls that greatly dare-
yea, bids us seize the whole of life and built its glory there.
Composer William Russell Bowie, 1882-1969