Call it what you will — Camelot, Emerald City, The Shire, a New Jerusalem — those of us who imagine a great revival and a new Republic imagine a better place that is built, from the ground up, on common assumptions, a law written on the heart. When that really happens, when it’s more than just a passing tent meeting, the physical and the cultural landscape changes for the better. The streets are sparkling clean. Children are eager to learn. You can hear concerts, large and small, every night. Novels are being written. Old men teach Greek and Hebrew. The poor are given work, and thus food, and shelter. The pubs are home to conversation, and romance, in addition to the ale. Crime is a sad exception, not the rule.
When Christ is truly preached, truly understood, that all happens in some measure. (There’s a reason, in other words, why Arizona is more pleasant than Zimbabwe.) If Christ really is King, we go about making Heaven, tending the vineyard, now, not by pining away for our own lives to end here.
But, and this is where I find it all curious, and magic, Jesus can turn to a repentant thief, upon his execution, and promise him paradise — instantly. New workers may show up at the vineyard and only pull a five minute shift and they receive the benefits of God’s kingdom, the same as those who have been working for decades. It’s tempting to worship, in other words, the rhythms and the habits of the city itself; it’s tempting to think a new innovation, or a better concert schedule, or a more thorough instruction in virtue, or even a more precise application of God’s law is responsible for the city’s happy glow. All of that is important, but it’s nothing without the weeping faith of the thief, who finally sees the source of all the healing Glory.