Cities, we might conclude after the Boston bombing, are unsafe. Cities, we might think, are beyond hope and help.
They are places of violence not virtue. Places of suffering not security.
Like shrapnel exploding from that pressure cooker, it may seem like pain is the only thing emanating from our cities.
There is some truth to this. It’s a truth to which Isaiah pointed. In Isaiah’s “sermon on the city” (Is. 24-27) he describes how God views the earth as a city. And this city, Isaiah says, is filled with injustice and unrighteousness. It’s filled with pain and suffering. A “wasted city” Isaiah calls it (Is. 24:10)
Thus, Isaiah proclaims, God’s breaking down that city. Bringing an end to its misery. Cutting off its violence.
And God’s building up another city. This city will be a “stronghold to the needy in his distress,” a “shelter from the storm,” a “shade from the heat.” (Is. 25:4) This city will be place where “all peoples” will feast together in peace and harmony (Is. 25:6). In this city God will “swallow up death forever” and will “wipe away tears from all faces.” (Is. 25:7-8).
But this isn’t just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by. This is a city beginning to take shape in the here-and-now. It’s a city we see rising when we remember the responders and runners who ran into the blast area to help and hold the injured. It’s a city we see rising when we look at Bostonians opening their abodes for stranded travelers in the city. It’s a city we see rising when we look at the army of officers working to bring about justice. It’s a city we see rising in the image of the eight-year-old victim Martin Richard holding up his crayoned sign, “No more hurting people. Peace.”
While we mourn the reality of the first city, let’s gain hope and comfort in the reality of the second city. And let’s join our hands with one another and with God to continue building that safe city, brick by brick.