Silence for 2-5 minutes:
If your mind wanders, silently pray a simple prayer again and again, such as, "I surrender to your love" or "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me" until the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of peace and focus.
1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain,
2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. 3 Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.
4 For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together. 5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. 6 Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor. 7 By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. 8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah
Before the coming of Jesus, the presence of God was made manifest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Because God dwelt there with His people, Jerusalem was “the joy of the whole earth.” This elevated, God chosen community was to be a witness to the entire world.
Jesus said that His new gathered people, the church, which would be located throughout the nations of the earth and not bound to any one geographic place, would be the light of the world. Jesus declares that this community would be known by their love for one another and their many good works that would point to their Father in heaven and give Him glory. Indeed, such a community would be the “joy of the whole earth.”
We see this joyful, beloved community become real in the Jerusalem church after the day of Pentecost. The presence of God indwells this diverse group of people, who have now replaced the physical temple as containers of the divine presence. Thousands of disciples lived in a joyful society, not claiming personal possessions as their own but sharing them with the entire church. Rather than being a secluded, parochial community that only existed for the good of its own members, their lifestyle and compassion gave them favor with the people. (Acts 2:47) There was something about this community that attracted others to join their ranks, precipitating an exponential growth of faithful disciples, ready to follow Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote from a prison cell, ““The Church is the Church only when it exists for others...not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.” Once we do that, we will be “the joy of the whole earth.”
Is the modern church of Jesus Christ known as a joyful community which blesses the entire earth? If not, what must we do to regain the beauty, power and witness of the early church?
O Lord, it is easy to see the church as a place that meets “my needs.” Help me to see that the church is made up of people filled with your Spirit, called to love one another in the beloved community and sent on mission to shine as a city set on a hill. Amen.