LOOKING FOR A CITYHere among the shadows in a lonely land,We’re a band of pilgrims on the move;Burdened down with sorrows, shunned on every hand,
Looking for a city built above.
Chorus:Looking for a city, where we’ll never die,There the sainted millions, never say good-by,
There we’ll meet our Savior, and our loved ones too,Come O Holy Spirit, all our hopes renew.
Here in disappointment we so sadly roam,Friends no longer speak one word of love;
O we have found contentment, Jesus promised us a home,And I’m looking for a city built above.
In this land of dangers going here and thereTrusting in the blessed Saviors love;Tho’ we may be strangers, in this world of care,Looking for a city built above.
Like many of the great Red-back hymnal tunes, this week’s hymn was inspired by a short phrase found in the Bible. Found in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11, the Bible says of Abraham “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Abraham was a man of faith, not just because He believed in a Promised Land on this Earth. Abraham was also looking for a city whose builder and maker was God – the real Promised Land. A city that is four-square. A city with no imperfections. A city with gold streets, pearly gates, and jasper walls. A city wtih no crime, no traffic, no smog, and no poverty. This hymn is a great reminder that we too should be a people of faith that are “looking for a city.” Not looking for perfection in this world. Not looking for a religious or political leader to change the world to a much better place, or looking for a mayor to clean up our city (No offense to Mayor Tom Rowland of Cleveland, Tennessee – he does a great job). No, we are pilgrims looking for a city built above.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
“Come O Holy Spirit, all our hopes renew” – There are many names for the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The Comfortor. The Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit of grace. The Spirit of adoption. The Spirit of truth. But the Holy Spirit is also one who renews. He gives new life, new energy, and new purpose. When we are discourgaed by our circumstances, the Holy Spirt comes and renews our hope. When we are in despair about our nation spiritually, the Holy Spirit renews and revives us. Psalm 104:30 says “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” Yes, the Holy Spirit can renew the whole earth. If you are in need of renewal today, can I encourage you to pray the words of this song “Come O Holy Spirit” and I trust He will be there to renew your hopes and your spirit.
“O we have found contentment” – Have you found contentment? If so, can you give me directions on how to get there? I have driven around and around and still can’t find it. I almost wish you could name a city “contentment.” Wouldn’t that be a great place to live? The Apostle Paul tell us in Phillipians 4 where to find contentment. It is in Christ. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. In hunger, you can find contentment through Christ who gives you strength. In want, you can find contentment through Christ who gives you strength. Location does not drive contentment. Circumstances do not dictate contentment. Jesus is the only source of true contentment. If we want real gain in this life, I Timothy gives us the answer – “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
For some strange reason, I thought of the city of Philadelphia when I thought of this song. I don’t know why, but stay with me. I have always found it interesting that the “City of Brotherly Love” has one of the worst reputations for how the Philadelphia sports fans treat their sports teams and their rivals. (If you are from Philadelphia, please don’t take offense. I am going somewhere.) Philly fans in baseball, football, hockey, and basketball are considered some of the harshest fans there are. They are knowledgeable sports fans. They are passionate fans. But this “City of Brotherly Love” shows very little love to their fellow competitors. You can ask New York Giant players or Dallas Cowboys how they are treated when they visit Philadelphia to play the Eagles. The nickname “City of Brotherly Love” just does not seem to align with the reality of what happens regularly in the stadiums and sporting arenas in Philadelphia.
But I wonder if the same could be true of some Christians. We carry Christ’s name – we are “Christ”ians. We are knowledgeable about the Bible. We are passionate in our worship of Him. But what is missing in our lives is love for our fellow man. We are harsh to the world. We are indifferent to sinners. We don’t bless those who curse us. We are “Philly” Christians. Paul writes in I Corinthians 13:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the]greatest of these is love.”
You see Paul too was “looking for a city.” He recognized that the perfect had not yet come. He understood that we see in a glass dimly, but one day we would see Jesus face to face in that city built above. But Paul also recognized that while we are “here among the shadows,” we can still be a people of love. We can be surrounded by a world filled with sin, and grief, and despair, and yet live with a purpose knowing that there is a better place. We can be a people of “brotherly love” who are “looking for a city built above.”