October 2017

October 2017

I have created humankind... he shall build my city
(Isaiah 45. 12-13)

In 1985 the Church of England published the Report Faith in the City.  At the time our cities were becoming places of decay and disgrace, but the government, after a cool response, actually saw the point and a good deal of the urban regeneration that the Report recommended began to happen. Today, with a widening gap between rich and poor, much still needs to be done. But the work, whether by Church or State, will not be effective without a strong Christian focus on the City of God.

The Bible has a good deal to say about cities. In this key section in Isaiah, we find words addressed by God through the exiled prophet to the Persian emperor Cyrus, commanding him to rebuild Jerusalem. The prophet's vision is not confined simply to that one event in history. The significance of Jerusalem lies far deeper than the bricks and mortar which constitute its earthly existence at any particular moment in time. Christian poets and hymn-writers make the point: Jerusalem the golden, Jerusalem my happy home, Ye choirs of new Jerusalem, and of course William Blake's Jerusalem. 

In fact, the vision of the exiled prophet in Babylon is closely linked to that of St John and the other New Testament writers who speak of the heavenly Jerusalem which is the ultimate dwelling-place for all God's people, at all times, in all worlds. The revelation of God in Scripture begins in a garden and ends in a city, and this process or movement city-wards is an expression of the gathering together into the unity of God the Supreme SELF of all the lesser selves whom God has created, and ultimately the gathering into One of the whole of creation. The process is carefully described in Robert Coulson's book The Threefold Reality, specifically on pages 48, 59-60 and 78.

The theology of the city needs to be worked out against this background, and that task can best be under-girded by contemplatives who will work at receiving the spirit and life conveyed by this Divine Saying.