Listening to the beautiful One Quiet Night album by Pat Metheny is a great way to end a busy day. People are drifting off from school, my desk is its usual mess and there is that end of the day feeling that I haven’t quite completed everything I wanted to do. If you don’t know this album start with his cover of Keith Jarrett’s gorgeous My Song. Music to have in your head as you cycle home.
Started the day talking about heaven to the children; a strange concept that is made much easier by the understanding that the emergent church folk – particularly Rob Bell, following Tom Wright – have brought us. We read poems by Steve Turner and Mary Joslin, listened to the glorious “Festival of Friends” by Bruce Cockburn and then I rounded it off by reading from the start of Revelation 21. It just seemed so tender and beautiful to me at the time – a real promise of God’s unyielding and loving determination to bring good to this earth and the lost and hungry souls that wander in it, and by any means possible, to rescue them:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
And they are. More and more I feel that this world has no use for Christianity unless it can convey the determined and affectionate attitude of a perfect Father and Creator to his creation. There is nothing that has ever happened on earth to date that will match the holiness and beauty of the new Jerusalem appearing before us as the culmination of the triumph of the Kingdom of God across the earth. Do I want to be there? You bet.
Now that the day has slowly drifted to an end, the little worries start over – have I spoken plainly and kindly to people, or hurt them? Have I worked thoroughly, as a good craftsman, or been sloppy in the work I am called to do? Have I made it good work, or just work? This is why I have to be glad of, and submit to, the King who says over and again that he is making “all things new”.
A story to finish with. My dad, as part of his job, once invaded France. Not by himself, you understand, but with 160,000 others. He landed at Ouistreham, near Caen, as part of 6 Commando, just before 9 a.m. on 6 June 1944, and fought his way over what became known as Pegasus Bridge to the village of Amfreville. And there he spent his first night, under a hedge in the French late summer evening. We went back, a couple of years ago, to have a look. The 6 Commando memorial had been remodelled and was very smart. As soon as he saw it, Dad headed off into a nearby farmhouse courtyard, round a corner, myself and my sister in pursuit, and out into a field where he found the hedge under which he had spent his first night on French soil.
Last month, when I was in Brugge, I met a teacher from Holland who regularly takes herself and her children to Normandy to the cemeteries and museums to teach her children that they have to be grateful for the sacrifice that Allied soldiers had made in liberating Europe. I told her about my dad’s relatively minor part in it and she immediately came alive and asked when I was next seeing him. “You must tell him how grateful we are” she said. “We are still so grateful for what he did. Will you tell him?” Well, yesterday, I saw him for the first time since that meeting, and told him what Anneke had said. He too came alive at her words. This thing still moves him, and us, tremendously. Anneke and her family aim to visit Amfreville this winter and look for the memorial from 6 Commando.
This is a real reflection of sunset. An angel weeps.
But the new Jerusalem is on its way.
Every eye will be dried of tears and sorrow will flee. One day.