Many an English child of my generation grew up with the astronomic ditty:
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Far above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.’
Or, if the child minder had a degree in the English language:
‘Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific;
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific –
Loftily poised in the ether capacious,
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.’
Joking apart, it is important to notice that the Bible’s storyline ends with a similar vision, but on a vastly superior scale of grandeur. The ultimate community of Christ (‘the holy city, new Jerusalem’) is seen by John as sparkling like a plethora of gemstones constantly ‘coming down out of heaven from God’ (implied by the use of the verb’s present participle, Revelation 21:2, 10) out to the nations of earth who can walk in its light, and feel welcome through its twelve open gates (verses 24-26). See Revelation 21:1 – 22:5.
Another piece of childhood poetry is the Sunday School hymn, Jesus bids us shine. Most of us fail to notice the subtle bit of heresy in the lines:
‘In this world is darkness, so we must shine –
You in your small corner and I in mine.’
In actual fact, Jesus bade us shine not separately but together as a covenant community:
‘You [plural] are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid’ (Matthew 5:14-16).
Unlike a cult in which every member imitates all the other members in style, God’s city ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls’ (Zechariah 2:4). We build walls in self protection, but we don’t need them because the Lord went on to promise Zechariah: ‘And I will be a wall of fire all around … and I will be the glory in her midst’ (verse 5).
Sure it’s tough being together in community. But the divine lapidary (gem-cutter-and- polisher) uses all that pain so that we reflect and refract the light of his glory more efficiently. Never let us forget that every one of those gems that here shine together ‘like a diamond in the sky’ came from the dark recesses of the earth. Also, the irritant grit in the oysters deep in the sea resulted, because of the oysters’ positive response, in those open gates of welcoming pearls (Revelation 21:21)! It is in such a community that God feels truly and effectively at home (Revelation 21:3).