Tuesday, December 03, 2013

living from, if not in, the city: place and "citi-zenship"

I remember standing on top of the World Trade Center (after taking this photo of my brother and mother), and thinking, "What if this building fell?"

Of course, I didn't imagine it falling in the direction/way it eventually did.. imploding top to bottom, as opposed to the "obvious" at-an-angle, leaning Tower of Pisa style
Maybe it was the Todd Rundgren line "Earthquake in New York City; the Chrysler Building fell in my yard" that influenced my imagination.

In one sense, it's a terrible analogy to imagine the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem "coming down"
onto earth in a ways/means similar to the Twin Towers..

...yet in another sense, it's very appropriate.  Not only is it described that way in Scripture, but such would be a subversion and reversal of the destructive nature of 9/11.  The text allows us to imagine very creative/recreative  move by the Creator: this "coming down"  city.   I imagine it a bit like this scene from a vintage  Peter Gabriel.. it comes down, closes down/clamps down, but  opens again...revealing the same cast of characters, but a new  contect and context. (start at 1 hour 29 min) 


Thy Kingdom come

on earth
on Fulton Mall
on time
on me

in Africa
in hell
in droves
in me. 


I love teaching "Theology of the City."

The catch is: the Bible College I teach it at is officially part of a city,
                        but it is so far out on a country highway that it is not
urban or urbane.
SO..my only choice is to (for at least one session) take a road trip/field trip so we can "have class"  incarnationally; "on site with insight."  We head on down the highway until we are in downtown Fresno.

Once, as we sat at a  downtown St. Arbuck's, with our class for once soundtracked by screaming traffic instead of a creaking heater, some  (prearranged) guests joined us for discussion.
One of the saints was Steve Skibbie, one of several saints  in our city who have intentionally moved into challenged inner-city neighborhoods. (read more:  Christianity Today).  I don't remember exactly what he said, but I remember vividly where he said it from: both from a  deep "place" he had come to live and a  a literal place in the city where he had amazing vantage and advantage points in watching Kingdom moments come down on a daily basis...on sidewalks.

I was jealous and zealous of his location...i live in the safe (unsafe) suburbs..

For class that day, we could do no other but move to a place/space/frequency/hood where we were Kingdomly connected and contexted...literally in the city.

In a recent interview, Bono tweaked one

of his taglines.  He has long said/sung versions of "Where you live should not determine whether you live or whether you die."  But this time it was, "an accident of where you live cannot decide whether you live."

Now Bono is quite a Bible reader, so he surely  doesn't believe it's literally an  accident where people are born. ..unless in the theological sense of the tern ( which delightfully means  sorta the opposite of the usual definition).  Acts 17:26: "From one person he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands."

One of Bono's "pastors," Eugene Peterson:

In the Christian imagination, where you live gets equal billing with what you believe.  Geography and theology are biblical bedfellows...I find that cultivating a sense of place as the exclusive and irreplaceable setting  for following Jesus is even more difficult than persuading men and women of the truth of the message of Jesus. Why is it easier for me to believe in the holy (because God inspired it) truth
of John 3:16 than the holy (because God made it) ground at 579 Apricot Lane where I live?  (emphasis mine)
 ...What we often consider to be the concerns of religion—ideas, truths, prayers, promises, beliefs—are never permitted to have a life of their own apart from particular persons and actual places. Foreword to Eric O. Jacobsen,"Sidewalks in the Kingdom"

 Leslie Leyland Fields --from  decidedly non-urban Kodiak Island, Alaska--recently returned from the Holy Land:

I will be leaving soon. I don’t want to leave behind the land of miracles. I don’t want to stop living this way: beginning every day with anticipation, asking the Lord to direct my feet, keeping my hands and backpack open.

I have decided to take the Holy Land with me.  Wherever God is, that’s holy land. You’re standing on it now. And when I return to Kodiak, to snow and winter darkness, that will be Holy Land and Sea as well.

This is what I remember and know again after this fourth visit to Israel. You don’t have to walk in the Footsteps of Jesus, or think you have lost something essential to your faith if you don’t make it to Israel. Yes, this is an amazing land, and I have received far more than I can carry or tell you about, but it is God who is Holy, and you can find Him anywhere. 

You just have to dare. You just have to risk.  Give strangers a lift. Put on walking shoes. Talk to people you don’t know. Listen to them. Feed them. Ask them for help if you need it.  Be a wanderer in your own town. Believe in the miracle of provision, of  multiplying oranges and fish you somehow can carry.  We can do this.

Help others see that this place, this land where you are living 

right now---

Beautiful, desolate, tropical, Arctic,

City, suburbia, wilderness, ghetto---

This is the Holy Land:

 Jesus is there

And miracles are waiting.  link

It is surely not God's will for all people to live in the city.
Bu could it be that we are indeed called ...and should will...to live from the city.
Or at least from the "heavenly realms," in which Paul says we actually are resident and embedded in.
But one cannot avoid  from the reality that Kingdom come...and kingdom now...is somehow  intrinsically and  gloriously enCitied:

I am quite sure that the Christian community in this country will eventually come around to fulfilling its role as city people.  i am confident in Eric O. Jacobsen,, "Sidewalks in the Kingdom," p. 166
this because I know about the New Jerusalem, and I also know that our current relationship to heaven is described as "citi-zenship."  For those whi can learn to appreciate the city now--so much the better.  And for those who can't?  Well, they'll just have a lot of catching up to do  -





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