Holy Saturday

Come to the New Jerusalem

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come…”

Revelation 22:17

Many years ago, when I would get frustrated with life, I would cry out, “Maranatha!”  The word maranatha is a transliteration of the Aramaic word for “come” and Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 16:22, where he says, “Our Lord, come!”  When I would use the word in exasperation, Miranda would inevitably remind me that Jesus is not going to come on a rescue mission.  When He comes again in glory He will be coming for a bride prepared for the Bridegroom!  Revelation 19:7-8 tells us that Jesus is coming for a Bride who “has made herself ready”…and is clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure.”  Jesus Himself tells us in the story of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:11, that the one who appears at the wedding without wedding garments is bound “hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  It is Jesus who clothes us.  It is Jesus who prepares us for our life together in Zion.  And He wants us to invite others into His New Jerusalem, that He may clothe them and have them live with Him in righteousness.

We do want the Lord to come again soon.  But, as we have seen through these forty days, it is the Lord who is inviting us to come!  He is ready, and it is His desire to clothe us in fine linen, the righteous deeds of the saints.  He has called us and has brought us to the New Jerusalem.  But as was pointed out on Ash Wednesday, Jerusalem and Zion are two terms for the same city.  Zion indicates our unique relationship with God, while Jerusalem is a designation for the spiritual city reaching out to, and influencing the nations of the world.  Jerusalem is the city from which God calls to those who are distant from Him.  God created us, redeemed us, and has called us to come home to Zion, so that from this New Jerusalem we might reach out to the nations of the world and see them join us in His Heavenly City.  He has called us to “Come”, and He is challenging us to call others to “Come”.  Like Philip who said to Nathaniel when the latter had doubts, “Come and see” (John 1:46), we only need invite others to come and see the New Jerusalem.  It is the Lord who will prepare them and clothe them.

The New Jerusalem was never intended to be for us alone.  There are many who are desperate for the fulness of life found in the New Jerusalem.  There are multitudes who are thirsty for the healing waters of the River of Life.  The Bread of Life is for all of the hungry in the world.  The Way of Life is for all who are lost.  We are the Bride of Christ, and the Spirit of the Bridegroom within us is calling to all:  “Come!”  St. John gives us this word of exhortation at the end of his revelation:  “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price…He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:17, 20).

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Come and clothe us in the wedding garments that You have prepared for us, that we may live with You and rejoice always in our marriage to You.  Come, Lord Jesus, that we may live with You and one another in the New Jerusalem.

May the Risen Christ be with you always.  Amen.

Good Friday

The River of Life

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”   

Revelation 22:1

I had a friend and brother priest in Dallas who was accosted one day in downtown by a street preacher.  This street evangelist asked Fr. Ted, “Have you been saved?”  Fr. Ted enthusiastically replied, “Why yes indeed!”  The preacher pressed further and asked, “And when was that?  What day were you saved?”  Without missing a beat, Fr. Ted said, “On a Friday afternoon 2000 years ago.”  The adjective used in the title for this liturgical day is very important for our understanding of our place in the New Jerusalem.  This is “Good” Friday.  It is “Good” because it was on the Cross that Jesus secured our redemption by His Blood.  It is on “Good” Friday that we all were saved!  Scripture says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).  His Blood shed on the Cross washed away our sins, and in His sacrifice we were cleansed and made whole.  His Blood bought our forgiveness and so much more.  Let’s look at what more that shed blood has done for us.

In the Revelation to John (22:1-5), Jesus shows the Apostle a vision of the New Jerusalem.  John says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  This River of Life flows from the Throne.  When Jesus was lifted up, the Cross became His Altar, His Throne, and upon that Altar the perfect sacrifice was offered.

St. John explains in his Gospel that at the Cross “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).  And in his first epistle, John says, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood” (1 John 5:5-6).  Just as the lambs were sacrificed on the altar in the Temple and the blood of the lamb was sprinkled upon the people, so too the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross and we receive His Blood in the Eucharist for the forgiveness of our sins.  The River of Life flows from the Altar of the Cross.  And note that “also, on either side of the river, is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”  

The River of Life is a river of life-giving water and blood.  This river flows through the middle of the New Jerusalem.  The throne of God and of the Lamb, the Cross of Jesus, is right in the middle of the city, and his servants worship him day and night.  John says, “they will see his face, and his Name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  This is what makes Good Friday “Good”.

Maundy Thursday

The Living Bread

“I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35

It is Maundy Thursday.  Tonight we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  In His love, Jesus gives us His Body and His Blood in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  When we come to the Altar and receive the Sacrament, we receive the Bread of life, the Body of Jesus.  Nutritionists will tell us that we need to be careful about what we eat.  The 19th century French author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin is credited with saying “You are what you eat.”  He actually said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”  Nevertheless, what we eat does change us, for either good or bad.  What we eat can affect our physical, mental, and spiritual health.  In the Holy Eucharist we have the greatest food of all, Jesus, the Bread that came down from heaven.  When we receive the Holy Eucharist we become what we eat — His Body!  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”  Tell me that you eat the Body of Jesus, and I will tell you that you are being transformed into His likeness.

In St. John’s Gospel, the Apostle presents seven I Am statements given by Jesus to describe Himself.  (I will append them to the end of this meditation.)  It is highly appropriate that the first of these seven is this: “I am the bread of life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:35,51).  The Eucharist is God’s chosen means for us to remain intimately in “communion” with Him.  The word communion comes from the Latin meaning “participation in something as one; or that which is common to all.”  St. Augustine said that communion comes from the Latin com- “together” and unus “one.”  When we receive Communion—the Body of Christ—we are in communion with Him, and we all come together as one in Him.  That is life in the New Jerusalem, living together as One Body in Jesus.  We cannot live in the New Jerusalem without living our lives in Jesus.  And it is in receiving the “Bread of Life which came down from Heaven” that we are drawn together in Him.  He feeds us, nourishes us, heals us, and keeps us alive in His living bread, His Living Body.  We NEED the Eucharist to maintain that communion with Him, and in Him with one another.

What does the New Jerusalem look like?  As we noted on Sunday, it looks like Jesus.  It looks like the Communion we share with Him and with one another in Him.  The New Jerusalem comes alive in the Eucharistic banquet of the Lord where we come together as one in Jesus Christ.

Here is the list of those seven I AM statements in John’s Gospel:

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35)

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1)

Wednesday of Holy Week

Jesus Dwells with Us

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,  glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

Many years ago, when I was in the Episcopal Church, I was one of the spiritual directors on a Cursillo weekend.  During the weekend, one of the other spiritual directors was giving a talk on the Real Presence of Christ.  He pointed out that when the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus is in the tabernacle, it is appropriate to genuflect—to go down on one knee—before the Lord’s Presence.  However, when the Sacrament is removed from tabernacle and displayed in a monstrance or a pyx on the Altar, it is appropriate to do a full solemn bow on both knees.  He demonstrated how to do that.  He then explained that when the King is on His throne and we can see Him face to face, we honor Him with a profound, humble bow.  Then, Fr. Lee turned and fell on both knees before the gathered Cursillistas (the participants in the weekend), and bowed before them.  He rose to his feet and said, “You are the Body of Christ.  I can see the King face to face when I see you!”  Later I told him that it was a powerful moment, that there were numerous shocked expressions on the faces of the people.  He said, “Yeah, it’s kind of hokey, but it makes a legitimate point.”

We do honor the Lord when we genuflect before the sacrament.  We drop to one knee whenever we pass before the tabernacle in the sanctuary.  In the Scripture quoted above from John’s prologue, we know that Jesus dwells with us.  The word John uses for “dwell” literally means He “pitched His tent with us.”  There may have been in John’s mind a recollection of the tabernacle in the wilderness—the tent where the Ark of the Covenant resided.  God pitched His tent with Israel.  And in Jesus, He pitched His tent in the Person of His Son.  The King is present with His people.  Yes, He dwells with us!  

Jesus told His disciples that, “You know him (the Spirit), for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).  And St. Paul emphasized the fact that Christ dwells in us, saying, “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:14-17).  Fr. Lee was right.  We are bearers of the One who was made incarnate.  Jesus dwells in us.  And He fills us with His grace and truth.  That is the Gospel.  That is the Good News of life in the New Jerusalem. 

Tuesday of Holy Week

Jesus is the Light

“Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”  

John 8:12

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

John 12:36

One of the great joys I have is studying the night sky, the heavenly sights our Lord provides for all who are willing to look up.  A number of years ago as I was watching the International Space Station make its way overhead, my phone rang.  It was a parishioner who was outside looking for the ISS.  She described what she saw and asked if that bright object zipping across the sky was truly the station.  I assured her that it was.  She said, “It’s so bright!”  I asked her if she knew what it was she was looking at.  She stuttered a moment then said, “I’m not sure.”  “The station has no outside lighting,” I explained.  “What you are seeing is the Sun reflected off of the huge solar panels.”  All of the manmade objects in space and all of the planets are reflectors.  None of them produce their own light.  The Moon is probably the best example for us of the Sun’s power to be reflected.  We were reminded on Ash Wednesday that we are dust.  The Moon is simply a hunk of rock, and as we saw when the Apollo astronauts scooted about on the lunar surface, it is covered in dust.  The Moon has no brightness in itself, it can only reflect the light of the Sun.  But the Moon does reflect the Sun brilliantly.  It is the second brightest object in the sky after only the Sun itself.  We are dust, and we are called to reflect the light and glory of God.  We have no brightness in ourselves, but we can be, like the Moon, reflectors of God’s glory.

The secular world is mired in darkness, and has been for some time.  We have had two years of some of the most intense spiritual darkness in our lifetime.  But we don’t walk in darkness because we walk in Christ!  We are children of the light and have the Light of Life living in us.  And, though we are dust, we are reflectors of God’s glory and light.  Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light.”  This is not call to an intellectual assent, it is a knitting of our hearts to the heart of the One who is the Light of the World.  It does no good to point out to others how dark things are around us.  They don’t need that reminder; they need the Light of Christ.  We are called to be bearers of the light.  We believe in the light in order to be sons of light, children who look like the one who has brought us to new life.  When in Him we are reborn, we become sons and daughters of the One who is Light Himself. 

In the early chapters of his prophecy, Isaiah prophesied to the Jews who were living in the dark and evil times before the exile.  The Lord had shown him what trials lay ahead for Israel.  But he was also a messenger of hope.  He prophesied, “The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame…” (Isaiah 10:17).  There is a message there for us in these trying times.  We can not kindle the fire.  We are not the light.  But the One who is the Light of the World, will kindle a flame in His People, and bring light to those who walk in darkness.  Isaiah also gives this exhortation, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10). The only way out of the darkness is Jesus.  He is the Light.

We are the Body of Christ.  His Body is the Temple, and Jesus Himself is the one who brings light and life to that Temple.  He is the lamp, that eternal flame that burns night and day before the throne of God (Revelation 21:22-25).  Let us reflect that light that others may see their way through the darkness into the Light of God, that they too may know the Way and the Light of Christ.

Monday of Holy Week

Jesus is the Way

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

A young lady came to me in great distress.  She was unsure of her salvation.  With tears, she asked, “Am I going to go to heaven?”  I gave her a hug and asked her, “Are you living there now?”  When Jesus told his disciples that He is the Way, He was not pointing to an after-life experience.  He is with us, and we dwell in Him.  He said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7).  From NOW on you know Him.  That knowing is an intimate relational knowing, like a wife and a husband intimately knowing one another.  Are you going to heaven?  Are you living there now?

To know Jesus, the Way, we must make Him the priority in our lives, to live for Him, to live in Him.  As Christians living in this secular world, as we have seen during this pilgrimage, it is often difficult to keep our focus on Christ.  There are many potential distractions.  How are we handling these distractions?  What efforts are we making to live differently from the world?  What are our daily habits and routines?  Are there things we do on a daily basis to draw us closer to Christ?  Are our lives reflecting the kingdom values of the King?  Are the things we are doing bringing worth to the Great High Priest?  It is a question of our rule of life.  What are our priorities?  What is the “way” we are following?  

A “rule of life” is not simply a monastic discipline.  Everyone has a rule of life.  What is your daily routine?  Think about what you do when you rise from sleep.  What preparations do you make for the day?  What are the things that you do at work, school, or around the house?  What is your evening routine?  How do you close out your day?  Where is Jesus in that daily routine?  Is He your first thought of the day?  Do you talk to Him, listen to Him, before you make your morning breakfast?  Is His plan for your day your priority?  Do you take time for Him through the hours of the day?  Do you commend the day’s events, triumphs, and tragedies to Him before retiring for the night?  Is His Kingdom your priority on a daily basis?  Is He the Way you walk in your daily life?  How you live your life—that is your rule of life.  Everyone has a rule of life.  What is the source of your rule?  What is the focus of your life?

It’s all about Jesus.  Jesus is the One who has “made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”  Jesus is the Way.  When we walk with Him, dwell in His Kingdom, we honor Him.  Our lives in the New Jerusalem should reflect our place as citizens of this Holy City.  When we live our lives in Christ, when we live a rule of life that makes Jesus and His will our daily priority, then to Him will “be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Holy Week – Palm Sunday

A Kingdom and Priests

“And they sang a new song to the Lamb, saying,…by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 

Revelation 5:9-10

Our pilgrimage is nearly complete.  We have made it to Jerusalem.  We are dwelling in Zion.  We have come home to the Lord and now we are preparing to walk with Jesus in His way.  And His way is the way of the Cross.  His way takes us through Holy Week on the via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows, into the light, the joy, and new life in the Resurrection.  In this final week of our Lenten pilgrimage, during this Holy Week, we will meditate on what it means for us as Christians to truly be residents of the New Jerusalem.  What does the New Jerusalem look like?  How do we make our home here?  What does that home look like?  It looks like Jesus.  We make our home in Jesus.  And He, by His blood, has made us “a kingdom and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.”

We, the Body of Christ, become a kingdom when we are united in the King.  We are made priests when we share in His High Priesthood.  We have been made a kingdom and priests by virtue of His saving act in the Passion we observe this Holy Week.  St. John relates to the seven churches in Asia the revelation given to Him by Jesus.  He says to them, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).  It is by the blood of Jesus that we were “freed from our sins…and made a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.”  But let this not go to our heads.  We have no kingly authority, apart from the King.  We have no priestly ministry without the Great High Priest.  It is all about Jesus.

We have all heard, at one time or another, the saying, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.”  God didn’t choose them, He made them.  He covenanted with the Hebrew people, taking a wandering band of twelve tribes and uniting them as one people.  God made them into His one chosen people at Sinai.  In His covenant promise to them through Moses, He said, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’” (Exodus 19:5-6).  And God eternally sealed this covenant in the blood of His Son, Jesus.  So, when we pray for His kingdom to come, we are praying that His will be done in us, that we “will indeed obey His voice and keep His covenant.”

This is Palm Sunday.  We have been exhorted throughout our pilgrimage to be different from the world.  What we see on Palm Sunday is a prophetic parade announcing the arrival of an alternative empire—the kingdom of God.  This kingdom, those who reign in Jesus, derives its power by embracing the cross and fulfilling the will of God.  It is the only hope the world has for true liberation, freedom from exile in sin.  It’s all about Jesus.  Jesus the Way.  Jesus the Light.  Jesus, the One in whom we dwell.  Jesus the New Jerusalem.  Holy Week is Jesus.

Saturday of 5 Lent

The Blessing of the Lord From Zion – Psalm 134

“May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!”

Psalm 134:3

The blessing of the Lord is that we may dwell with Him.  Zion is the Lord’s dwelling place, His blessing emanates from there, and those who receive His blessing respond to His call and come to dwell with Him in Zion.  “For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it;the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it” (Psalm 69:35-36).  The last line from this final Song of Ascent is not only a petition, “May the Lord bless you…”, but an awesome promise.  We have made the journey out of exile.  We have been welcomed into the dwelling place of the King (Rev. 21:3).  We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the King (Romans 8:14-17).  Now we are called to reign as priests and kings(Rev. 5:9-10), even though we were but dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27).  Now we are dwelling and reigning with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords(1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16).  The God who “made heaven and earth”, the creator of all things including the New Jerusalem and us as the people of God, has made us worthy to dwell with Him.  And He alone, therefore, is worthy of all worship, our King and our God.

Take encouragement from the words that the prophet Isaiah (30:18-21) delivered to those were taken into exile in Babylon.  “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”  And the prophet Zechariah (8:3) encouraged those who made it back to Zion and were rebuilding the city.  He said, “Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.”

Zion, the New Jerusalem, is our home!  God has prepared it for us, and He has prepared us to dwell with Him.  He blesses us from Zion.  His blessing is that we will dwell with Him in His dwelling place forever.

Friday of 5 Lent

A Liturgy of Blessing – Psalm 134

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord.”

Psalm 134:1

Take a moment and read Psalm 134.

We have made it to Jerusalem.  We have entered the city, rebuilt the walls, and made Zion our home.  The Temple has been restored.  And the Lord has declared His blessing over Zion.  The congregation has come together in worship and praise, and now it is time for everyone to make their way back to their homes to find rest and refreshment with their family.  The Songs of Ascent have come to their conclusion.  And what could be a better conclusion than Our Lord’s benediction from Zion.

Psalm 134 is a liturgical psalm, once again in the form of a versicle and response.  Verses 1 and 2 are sung by the congregation.  Verse 3 is sung in response by the priests—a benediction emanating from the Temple.  The Lord is sending the worshipers to their respective homes after a fruitful day of praise and worship.  The evening has come and it is time for families to retire for the night.  St. Benedict called for this psalm to be said every night at Compline, the final service of the Liturgy of the Hours.  There could be no more fitting conclusion to a day of worship and walking with the Lord.  

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,” the people cry out to one another.  Some Christians have trouble understanding what it means to “Bless the Lord”.  Is it not, they say, the Lord who blesses us?  Yes.  But it is the Lord who is blessed when His people come joyfully together and celebrate Him and His goodness toward us.  It is like the joy of a proud parent seeing his or her children relishing life and sharing that joy with them.  For us to “Bless the Lord” means that we praise Him with words that declare His greatness and goodness.  He is richly blessed when His children rejoice in Him.  And so the Psalmist exhorts the people to “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!”  And the Psalmist, and many centuries later, St. Paul, exhort the faithful to pray with holy hands uplifted.  The Psalmist says, “Lift up your hands…and bless the Lord!”  And Paul instructs, “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands…” (1 Tim. 2:8).  

As noted above, Benedict calls for this Psalm to be prayed every night at Compline.  And in the service of Compline in the Book of Common Prayer you will find this psalm as one of the psalms appointed for that office.  What better way to conclude a day than to put all of the events, thoughts, victories, and troubles of the day into the hands of the Lord.  In that relinquishment of the day we can find peace for the night ahead.

Thursday of 5 Lent

United Under the Lord’s Blessing – Psalm 133

“For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was interviewed on the television show, Meet the Press, on April 17, 1960.  In that interview he made the following statement about the Church: “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated of hours, in Christian America. I definitely think the Christian church should be integrated, and any church that stands against integration and that has a segregated body is standing against the spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it fails to be a true witness.”  Divisions in the Church, though, go far beyond racial discrimination.  Sadly, the disunity of the Body of Christ is in great evidence throughout the world.  Here in Asheville, many attempts have been made to bring the various churches together for united worship.  At an organizational meeting for a pastors’ prayer summit, the divisions became glaringly obvious.  There was one pastor who said that there could be no praying in tongues or he would leave.  Another said unless all Scripture readings were from the King James Bible he would not come.  One pastor pointed at me and asked if I was Catholic, adding “I won’t pray with a heretic.”  There are liturgical churches and non-liturgical, sacramental and non-sacramental, infant baptizers and believer baptizers, Catholic, Protestant, and Messianic Jew.  And, sadly, never shall they meet under one roof.

The Psalmist said, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”  But how is that ever going to happen when we argue about and emphasize our differences.  Coming together in the New Jerusalem we can hear the words of this Psalm, “For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”  So much of what divides us is cultural, not Scriptural.  We are afraid of losing what we think of as our unique identity.  We identify with the denomination instead of seeking our identity in the Lord Jesus Himself.  But what is the cure for this disunity?  Brian Zahnd, in his book Postcards from Babylon, says, “Those who feed on faith, hope, and love stand out in a culture characterized by fear; they are distinguished by the healthy glow of a robust peace.”  This is what the Psalmist is pointing toward in his call to worship in Psalm 133.  This Song of Ascent is calling to the returning Jews to focus on the Lord and worship in His restored Temple.  The One True God, and He alone, is the heart of our unity as the People of God.  It is not doctrine, but dominion that unites us.  The Dominion of God.  His dwelling place.  His Jerusalem.

It is in the New Jerusalem that the dividing walls of hostility between believers are broken down.  The Spirit unites, and the brotherhood of the faithful without schism or rivalries can come together in peace and unity.  This was the vision that St. John witnessed on the island of Patmos.  He said, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”  (Revelation 7:9-10).  Let us thank God that this is a present reality in the New Jerusalem.  And when we dwell there, we can know that joy and peace.