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Seeing the city of God—right here

From the July 7, 2003 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


News stories from around the world warn of unemployment, suffering economies, and financial fears among all sectors of the work force. People on limited incomes, or those facing loss of income, feel threatened and are worried that the future has lost its promise. It seems more and more difficult to keep pace with an increasingly upward cost of living, especially when it comes to housing costs. Amid all this, spiritual thought breaks through with light and hope.

John didn't have to leave this earth to see and feel the infinite goodness and beauty of the "new Jerusalem."

In the book of Revelation in the Bible, St. John told of a vision he experienced while he was on the island of Patmos in Greece. He wrote: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:2–5).

For centuries, that Scripture was interpreted to mean that in the afterlife believers would ascend to a glorious "city of God" where all pain and suffering would be left behind on earth. Yet, in 1875 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures presented a radically new view of this passage. Mary Baker Eddy, the book's author, wrote of John's experience: "This heavenly city, lighted by the Sun of Righteousness,—this New Jerusalem, this infinite All, which to us seems hidden in the mist of remoteness,—reached St. John's vision while yet he tabernacled with mortals" (p. 576).

So, clearly, John didn't have to leave this earth to see and feel the infinite goodness and beauty of the "New Jerusalem." He was already there.

This city, therefore, is where anyone can experience God's presence. God is never aloof from us, dwelling only in some faraway, otherworldly environment. This "city" is present for us too, these many centuries later after John first wrote about it, because God is present at all times. And if God is present, surely goodness and abundance are present. Today, like John, we can feel reassured that the security we long for is of God—right here, right now. And that is what is wrong with the picture of joblessness, unavailable housing, and poverty: Those are not conditions of the holy city.

Recently a friend remarked that he did not have a job. What he meant was that he didn't go to an office or a building site or a kitchen or a fishing boat, where he could put in eight hours of labor and get paid at the end of the day. But still, he recognized that he did have employment. And that employment is what we all have to do: to follow Jesus' example, and "be about [the] Father's business" (Luke 2:49). This approach is not just a naive assumption that doing good works alone will pay the rent. Rather, it implies asking before any other job search, "Father, what would You have me do today to serve You?" We are, after all, God's servants. When we are fully employed in "our Father's business," we take the focus off our own desperation. And, in so doing, we learn to trust His guidance and provision for us.

What John beheld was the very present reality of God's infinite love for His entire creation. This reality is spiritual—not dependent on material circumstances. And when we lift our sights above poverty and loss to see this reality, this holy city of God, we can actually experience it in our lives. This view of spiritual reality that we all have from God informs and defines outward experiences. This view involves a radical shift in perspective that allows us to see that God always will be our security—"our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1).

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