Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Start:Stop - I saw a new heaven and a new earth


Good morning and welcome to Start:Stop, when we start the day by stopping to reflect for a few moments here in the beautiful surroundings of St Stephen Walbrook. This reflection will last about ten minutes and you are welcome to come and go as your schedule dictates. 

We begin with a short Bible reading, from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21 verses 22 to 27. In it, we are shown a vision of the heavenly city. If you want to follow along you will find it on page 281 of the New Testament.

Bible Reading - Revelation 21.22-27

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


Reflection  

The Book of Revelation, the final book in the biblical canon, is seen as the culmination of its prophetic tradition. The author, the prophet John, draws extensively on the past. His vision of our destiny is presented as a marriage between heaven and earth - a City which comes down from heaven; the path to which has been walked by Christ. The description of the City echoes earlier prophecies by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and others, but this is not just a return to the past - time-traveling back to Eden. In the New Jerusalem, the whole City shines with the glory of God’s eternal presence; nothing separates God and his people, who dwell in perfect union.

The vision of the New Jerusalem has inspired countless artists through the ages.  

On this day in 1951, the King, Queen and The Archbishop of Canterbury opened The Festival of Britain, which celebrated and promoted new ideas in design, technology and the arts; offering a new vision of life in peace time, after the horrors of the Second World War.

Held one hundred years after The Great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain was housed in a series of pavilions built on a heavily bombed site on London’s South Bank. Most of these, such as the futuristic rocket shaped Skylon and the Dome of Discovery, were temporary structures that were eventually taken down; although some buildings - like The Royal Festival Hall and the British Film Institute - remain standing today. 

Like the vision of the prophet John, the Festival celebrated the past but presented a new vision of the future. “The Land and the People” was one of its central themes. Exhibits drew on memories of who the British were and presented these alongside new designs and ideas for the future - helping people to accept a landscape under reconstruction and hope of a better world to come - in every sphere of life - from education to transport, health, housing and culture. 

Visitors to the Festival of Britain remember the bold colours and the fantastic shapes of its pavilions and the exhibits they contained. This sense of wonder, vitality - brightness - is energising. In John’s vision of the New Jerusalem the whole City permanently shimmers in this life-giving light - there is no need for the sun or moon to shine upon it; there is no night here. 

The Festival of Britain sought to project a positive image of the nation abroad; a people “winning at peace” against the looming threat of nuclear war. In John’s vision of the heavenly city, human cultures in all their diversity work together in peace and harmony before God. The nations of the earth walk in the light of the city; whose gates are never shut.

Perhaps the most striking feature of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem is its revelation of the whole of creation enjoying the glory of God; shining in glory and glorifying God by returning that glory to its source. “People will bring into [the City] the glory and the honour of the nations.” Creating not just a Festival of Britain but a celebration of the whole earth.

May we, who shine in Christ’s resurrection light, be inspired by the brightness, the unity and the glory of the heavenly City. May we reflect this transforming light as we return to the streets of this City today. 

A few moments of silence before we pray. 


Prayers

In our prayers, the response to: The glory of God shines on the City is: We walk by its light
 

The glory of God shines on the City 
We walk by its light.  

May the brightness of the heavenly City inspire us;

to embrace the rich sights, sounds and textures of this day;
to imagine new ways to enhance the abundant beauty of the world around us; 
to illuminate those times when our actions dilute the vibrancy of life;
to help us to grow in our willingness to be changed. 

The glory of God shines on the City 
We walk by its light.  


May the unity of the heavenly City inspire us;

to open our eyes to new perspectives and not be blinkered by our own;
to remember the past, relish the present and rejoice in the promise of the future;
to resolve conflict in our homes, workplaces and between the nations of the world;
to keep the doors of our hearts always open. 

The glory of God shines on the City 
We walk by its light.  


May the glory of the heavenly City inspire us;

to journey closer to it this day, following in the footsteps of the Risen Christ. 
to remain strong in faith and hope in times of difficulty, 
to be ever thankful for the abundant life we have received;
to praise God in all we think, say and do this day. 

The glory of God shines on the City 
We walk by its light.  


Blessing

May the blessing of God 
the Father, the architect of the Heavenly City,
the Son who lightens its streets
and the Holy Spirit who leads us there,
be with us this day and always.
Amen.  


Thank you for joining us for this Start Stop reflection, which will be repeated in a few minutes. We are here every Tuesday morning from 7.45-9.00am. Join us this Thursday evening for Rush Hour Jazz from 5.30pm and slow down in style on your way home, no charge, no tickets needed just drop in. Have a great day and a wonderful week ahead.


Image : The National Archives

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