Saturday November 6, 2021 The Twelve Days of COPmas: Day 6 – The gift of good towns and cities
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
It’s not so easy to find hymns that are positive about contemporary town or city life. There are any number that extol the beauties of the countryside, but cities, it seems, are ‘where the bruised and lonely dwell’ (Rejoice & Sing 579: Lord, thy Church on Earth is Seeking).
Yet towns and cities are where most people live, many of them/us quite happily. They are as much a part of ‘the environment’ as are villages and fields, rivers and forests.
Caring for creation, then, involves caring for the urban and suburban parts of the world’s ecological system, having towns and cities that benefit their inhabitants, and the countryside around them. In Isaiah’s vision concerning the environs of a renewed Jerusalem, distress is removed (verse 19), infant mortality reduced, life expectancy increased (verse 20), and good homes, along with decent food, are an integral part of city life (verses 21-22).
What is the God-inspired vision for towns and cities in our era? Surely it includes our green spaces and our housing estates; our allotments and our superstores; our gardens and our office blocks; our council flower beds and our church buildings; and all those associated with them. What a privilege and calling, to make the towns and cities of God’s creation (even) better for those who live there, and for the wider world as well.
Saviour, if of Zion’s city I, through grace, a member am, let the world deride or pity, I will glory in thy name.
(R&S 560: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)
God of our towns and cities, our villages and countryside, thank you for all that is good about the places where we live. Give us the vision and the strength to make them better yet, in ways that enable all to flourish together. Amen
The Reverend Trevor Jamison is minister of St Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields