Monday, January 26, 2015


JERUSALEM (from 'Milton')

by: William Blake (1757-1827)

AND did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

This poem has been on my mind for the past month or so after listening to the song Jerusalem by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.  I recall the music from the movie Chariots of Fire, but I never got a good look at the words.  ELP took a song long in the domain of warbling boys' choirs and made it sound like the stirring anthem it was surely meant to be.

There is something about this song, the music and the poetry, that is haunting rather than catchy.  I didn't find myself singing it, just wishing I could sing it.  Like one of those dreams that flashes away when you wake up and you are just left with an impression that you wish you could have it back.  The poem is zealous and captivating, and it touches something that is right.

In the poem, William Blake is pondering a legend that Jesus Christ visited England during his "unknown years".  Blake is saying that Christ's presence would have defined some localized heaven on earth, some form of that Jerusalem that is His to establish.  This poem marvels at the idea that those feet, that Countenance Divine, the Holy Lamb of God Himself may have walked in radiance over the poet's homeland, through the quiet pastures that had been more recently brought under the rule of the dark Satanic Mills of industrialized England. 

There is here an eagerness, a longing, an impatience to take up the battle to somehow hasten God's kingdom on earth.  Bring me my bow of burning gold.  Bring me my arrows of desire.  We should desire that, no?

I talked a bit to Joie about this and she mentioned the words of the commander of the army of the LORD to Joshua in Joshua 5:15.  "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy."  Not so much that the specific location near Jericho was holy, but that Joshua's location was set apart, sanctified, and that he was ordained for a purpose in that place.  The place where you are is holy.  Here.  Treat it as holy, recognize it as the Lord's domain.  How would our lives be different if we lived like that?  Shout for your bow of burning gold, pray for your arrows of desire, that you can bring glory to your God on whatever scrap of land he gives you, for there he will bring His kingdom. 

So what is a disciple's role in the establishment of the kingdom of God?  I looked at a number of times the kingdom of God is discussed in the Bible.  For the most part, we do not find Christ or his followers rallying troops.  There are exceptions, of course (2 Peter 3:12, Ephesians 6:11, Luke 22:36).  Predominantly however, this awaited kingdom is differently described.  The kingdom of God is portrayed as a gift (Mark 10:15), a calling (Luke 9:62), a charge (Matthew 16:19, Luke 22:29) an inheritance (Matthew 25:34, James 2:5, Colossians 1:12), an irrepressible empire with a prior claim on our worship (Matthew 12:28, Luke 10:8-11, Luke 19:40, Isaiah 45:23, Revelation 5:9-10), and a mystery (Luke 8:10).  People possess the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20, Mark 10:14), they see it (Mark 9:1), they are close to it (Mark 1:15, Mark 12:34), they work for it (Colossians 4:11) they suffer for it (2 Thessalonians 1:5), they wait for it (Mark 15:43), they enter it (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:15), but there is not so much of the language that the zealot expects about fighting and building.  The kingdom of God is built where Jesus walks, where his gaze of Lordship falls on the unworthy sheep of the pleasant pastures.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nate, It's been some time since I've read/commented on your blog. Enjoyed this post as it resonates with posts by Anabaptist folks that I follow from time to time. There is an interesting emphasis away from 'church' as building and hierarchy to one more diffused as 'salt'/kingdom. This puts a great deal more responsibility to share the "the good news" with individual followers. Hope you and your family are thriving wherever you are.