The City

“I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem  …” Revelation 21:2

“You have failed this city.” That is the mantra from the TV show “Arrow“, about to begin its third season on the CW Network. Billionaire Oliver Queen returns to Starling City after he was presumed dead. His mission: to right the wrongs committed by leaders and various citizens in his home town. The first season sees Queen, who functions in disguise as “Arrow” (based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow), as repeating that line just before killing the bad guys: “You have failed this city!

Who? Who has failed the city? Who has failed in the city of Detroit such that 19,000 residents have had their water shut off since last March for lack of payment? An automobile industry that once boomed and offered good paying jobs has all but collapsed, leaving thousands of the residents – 38% of the city’s population – living in poverty.

“This is America,” shout some of the residents. “Water is our God-given right!” Should access to clean water be offered free of charge?

“I don’t know how to put in the pipes, filter the water and move it from the river to people’s homes for free,” said one city official. Who has failed Detroit? Do we all have to accept some of the blame for not buying more cars made in America? Is it the mayor and the city council who have failed? Is it the residents themselves for allowing their economy to be so dependent upon a single industry?

Last Sunday Zach Hoag shared a message at First UMC Burlington inspired by St. Augustine’s “The City of God.” Augustine defends the Christian Church against the accusations that Christianity’s God failed to protect the Roman Empire. Is God the one who has failed the city of Detroit?

Human beings have a shared vision – we yearn for a safe place to call “home”. A family, a town or city – a community of which we can be a part. In his minds’ eye John sees a city – a “new Jerusalem”. Death will be no more. There will be no more sadness or weeping. It’s a grand vision; but truth be told, some people would be satisfied if they could just afford a roof over their heads and a clean glass of water.

I’m looking at our city – Burlington. It’s Vermont’s city. We have a beautiful waterfront, a lively pedestrian area with shops and restaurants and street performers … and people who are struggling to make ends meet in their lives. Perhaps today we can pray in a special way for this city – the folks who live, work and study here and for the “New Americans” working hard to make a life for themselves and their families.

God has provided us with a lake surrounded by mountains. We have beautiful summers and real winters. Autumn’s colors take our breath away for their splendor. Sap flows in the Springtime bringing sweet syrup to us. When I look around it seems to me that God and Nature have done their part to provide the raw materials we need. But when it comes to justice, equal opportunity, decent jobs and wages, and a willingness to love our neighbor – that’s up to us. Let’s not fail our city.

A blessed Tuesday …

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.