Archive for December 8th, 2020


I have come home numerous days lately to the sounds of choirs singing the anthemic hymn Jerusalem (hubby loves epic music). Last week, as I opened the door to be greeted by this song, my mind played a game of song association and immediately city of peace cried out from my mind.

City of peace … this city, called home by three very different Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity … from such common beginnings came three such unique faiths) all of whom have skeletons in their closets, regarding peace (as in pacifism).

The words of this iconic song are as intriguing as Jerusalem meaning city of peace. Written, as part of the poem Milton, by William Blake. There are some who interpret it as part of a legend of how Jesus somehow ended up on England’s green land in his time on Earth.

Considering Blake (perhaps best described as a non-conformist Christian, for his time) wrote this poem during the dark and dirty Industrial Revolution (referenced in the line “among these dark satanic mills”), illustrating, perhaps a more anti-establishment mindset (or, as NT Wright suggested, Blake might have been referring to the “great churches” as he had used mills as descriptors for the Church of England, in other writings).

This anthemic hymn, though, may not be more than a famous poem had the words not been put to such epic music by Sir Hubert Parry, who was indeed the one who crossed out the original title (“And did those feet in ancient time”) and re-titled it Jerusalem. With his wife, both supporters of the women’s suffrage movement, Parry was happy to allow the song to become the Women Voters’ hymn, saying, “People seem to enjoy singing it. And having the vote ought to diffuse a good deal of joy too.”

Whatever spiritual meaning this song was for Parry and Blake, it is in the final lines that stir up ones spirit.

The final stanza is a call to arms, to fight …

til we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land

I would suggest that this call to arms, if Blake indeed had the spirit of God within him, is an inner, personal, spiritual call to arms. A call to pray, to the sacraments that draw us closer to God, a call to repentance … which avails us to the most exquisite form of peace … peace with our humble humanity and God’s sovereignty … peace in our souls through peace with our God.

Perhaps, we could even rephrase those words, making them more personal still …

til we have allowed God to build Jerusalem in the very fertile sod of our own hearts

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9


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