Monday, November 13, 2006

City on a hill

Paris has been called the "city of light". There are several good reasons for this. Often at nighttime, the Eiffel Tower sends out purplish-white beams of light sweeping across the cityscape like a lighthouse, a beacon to all lost tourists straining for a glimpse of that familiar shape. Those same searchlights touch countless strings of lampposts. Garish spotlights from boat tours cruising up and down the Seine. Entire constellations of illumined apartments. Small yellow squares of friendly cafe windows. Tiny, glowing dots of orange on the end of a million and one cigarettes. Lights that move, sway, bounce, sparkle, and just stay put. What's more, if it rains, the effect of every one of these lights is multiplied by at least two, reflected in the wet cobblestones.

But supposing one such stormy evening, you duck into one of the thousands of narrow rues that zigzag over the map of Paris. Suddenly, everything is as black as ink and you must strain your eyes to avoid turning your ankle. Here, the light is very light. And the dark... is very, very dark.

You probably know where I'm going with this.

In a city gleaming with history, architecture and art, music and literature, there is the corresponding reality that many who live here do not think of the God who created all such beauty and truth. It makes me think of Paul, who took great pains to remind the philosophers in Athens of the proofs of the living God right under their noses: "as your own poets have said..." That is, the light of the truth is as plain as the lit facade of the Notre-Dame after dark. It's just that these monumental truths go largely ignored by anyone but gaping tourists.

O, to remain a gaping tourist.

And be willing to be gaped at. For, if we truly belong to Jesus Christ, we are the "light of the world," and "a city set on a hill" that cannot be hidden. Karl and I experienced this quite literally on Sunday evening, when we gathered with a group of young couples on the a 5th floor of an apartment building on the south edge of town. Nearing the end of the weekend, the neighborhood was quiet and dark --rather gloomy. In brilliant contrast, within the warm walls of this home, there was a group of individuals burning with excitement to talk about their varying passions in life and common love for God. Eyes snapped and comments sparkled; words and thoughts were challenged and refined (in several languages at once), and love was shown in the simple kindness of a casual spaghetti dinner.

It's good to have found such a well-lit hilltop.


the poet said...

... And to have found the company of other "gaping tourists". Thank you for the reflections and the cobblestones and the streams of light. Tonight, myself, I was encouraged by the profound beauty of the swaying autumn trees. They lifted my weary heart into God's own heaven with their displays of wild wonder.

tri-mama said...

love this

Anonymous said...

I read today: "When acts of love fall into your life, does their ordinary apprearance blind you to their sparkle? Or are you amazed and blessed as you would be if gems fell from the sky? Does simply knowing Jesus dazzle the eyes of your heart more than anything can? If so (when) ...miracles fall into your front yard...they will not be wasted on you, for you will know true gems when you see them." Love you for giving us glimpses into both your surroundings and your souls.


Anonymous said...

nicely done