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Odd Choice

I’ve sung Jerusalem twice this week; once at a funeral and again at last night’s Cowley Deanery Synod meeting. I’ve mused before on whether the intended answer to the questions in verse one should be “no” rather than “yes”. Surely Blake knew that ’twas on a green hill far away…

Armed with the implied negative, I felt less ambivalent about singing it and then, in verse two, it struck me that as well as probably not suggesting that Jesus walked about in England during his earthly ministry, it really isn’t a very patriotic song either. It is saying that England is a green and pleasant land worth fighting for rather than giving up on; on the other hand, it is also implying that the status quo is not something to be preserved but overturned.

I now feel I can sing it heartily and enjoy the robust tune: it isn’t a song of yearning for a bygone age but of being committed to whatever struggle it takes to make this nation a Jerusalem, in the sense of a city of blessing rather than a place of unresolved conflict. Here we have no lasting city but we are seeking the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14).

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