Why Sidewalks, Plazas, & Bike Lanes Matter to God

October 2012
by Amilee Watkins

Does God care about physical place? Does this earthly city in which we now dwell with all of its architectural glory and all of its devastating decay, matter to him? Perhaps sidewalks, plazas, and bike lanes have more to do with God than we may have imagined…
 
Join us for an evening with guest Eric O. Jacobsen on Thursday, October 4 at 8:00PM for our next Gospel & Culture Lecture. Jacobsen’s book, Sidewalks in the Kingdom, addresses what it looks like to be a physical community in a physical city bearing witness to the reality of the coming kingdom of God. 
 
Every day, we walk the sidewalks of this great city. Occasionally perhaps we pause to consider the startling beauty of the skyscrapers towering overhead, or the majesty of the bridges spanning vast waterways on all sides of Manhattan. And yet, do we actually ponder as the Psalmist in Psalm 84, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, Almighty”? Do we live out of the reality that God’s Spirit dwells in and among his people, moving throughout this city to bring about his purposes of renewal?
 
If we take a step back and look at the entire biblical narrative, we see that from beginning to end, there is a clear emphasis on the dwelling place of God. Before sin entered the world, God’s original intention was to be physically present with humanity, his most prized creature, made in his image. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. They delighted in his presence and were completely at rest. Yet, after the fall, this union could no longer exist. Mankind was “cast out” of the garden, and began the age-old journey of restless wandering, away from the presence of God. 
 
As we read through the Old Testament, we see that God was continually seeking to make his dwelling place among his people. Israel wandered for years, and even during this time when there was no physical land for them to inhabit, God commanded his people to set up the tent of meeting as a temporary physical location in which He could dwell. Once they were settled in the land God provided, clear direction was given to erect an actual building wherein God’s glory could reside among them. 
 
Jump forward now to the New Testament. Despite humanity’s inability on its own to be directly in the presence of God, God still longed to dwell among his creation. So God himself entered history in the person of Christ. We see glimpses of the garden and how things were intended to be as Christ walked and talked with humanity. Moreover, he became the ultimate sacrifice, taking on the role of the great High Priest who alone could enter the presence of God on behalf of the people. And upon his death, God’s people were given complete access to the presence of God forever. Christ left the Holy Spirit with the early church when he went to the Father, so that God might always dwell among them.
 
And yet, we know that our restless wandering hasn’t ceased. God longs for us to rest in his presence—the work of the cross is our assurance! Nonetheless, we forget this overarching theology of place – that all of history is moving towards the kingdom, the city garden, where God makes his dwelling place with us once and for all. 
 
Come be part of a discussion of what physical place means in the kingdom.
 
Go to www.faithandwork.org/gospelculture for details and to register.
 
“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21: 3)


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