Glimpses of the New Jerusalem


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Glimpses of the New Jerusalem
By Bobby Neal Winters

Over the last four weeks, I have preached the same sermon about the New Jerusalem eight times. Such is the life of a Lay Preacher during the summer when pastors are taking time off. The repetition has brought me an appreciation of the symbolic language used by John the Elder in his attempt to transmit a vision of the City of God when all things are completed. It is a vision of water and light. A crystal river bisects the New Jerusalem and runs though a forest of the Tree of Life.

I have to think the writer Norman Maclean had this in mind when he penned his masterpiece "A River Runs through it." This short story has been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and directed by Robert Redford. The film is brilliant too, and Redford goes a long way toward preserving the language by providing narration, but if you love language, you owe it to yourself to read the story.

It is about a father and two sons who are connected through fly-fishing. Fly fishermen are not like other sorts of fishermen. I have only gradually come to know this.

There is an insanity in the human race that manifests itself in golf, deer hunting, and fly fishing. It may manifest itself in quilting too, but I have less direct evidence for this.

While there are normal folk who take part in these activities, the tendency is for them to become manias. This revelation came to me while I was living in Utah. I was driving along the Provo River one day and saw it was filled with fly fishermen who were up to there fundaments in ice cold mountain water as snow fell around them.

Call me narrow minded, many have mainly my daughters, but if you are standing in water up to your hoo-hah flicking a long stick back and forth while snow falls all around you, you've got a problem.

Cold water is a systemic difficulty with fly-fishing, as trout love it. This is why I never knew how crazy fly-fisherman are until I lived in the west for a while. They do stock trout in the Blue River a little ways south of where I grew up, but I had never fished there. However, my family and I just returned from a vacation at Bennett Springs State Park near Lebanon, Missouri where there is a trout hatchery.

Crystal water flows out of the ground there, with forests on either side. While Revelation says the leaves of the Tree of Life are good for the healing of the nations, you'd better be careful at Bennett Springs as many of the leaves are poison ivy. But that is a minor point as you can see trout through the clear water.

My family and I are not fishermen even of the regular kind, but we did extract a lot of joy from watching others fish. There was a pair of young women fishing together, one with a white jig and the other with a hellgrammite. At one point, the husband of the one who used the hellgrammite came by with her one-year-old. He watched the child play in the shallows so his wife could fish.

A young man in his early twenties came upon the scene. He had crossed deer antlers tattooed on one shoulder and a palm tree on the other. He tossed a little jig out and caught four fish within fifteen minutes.

There was a boy of ten whose right arm was normal out to the elbow, but beyond the elbow there was a stump of one-inch length. He cast with his left arm and reeled with his right. His mind was set on a particular fish that was as big around as a can of peaches. He was a latter-day Ahab after a rainbow-colored Moby Dick.

These were all regular fishermen, not fly fishermen. However, fishing in the other direction, away from the crowd, was a woman in her late fifties. She wore a hard-do so tall as to pose a hazard for the other anglers, but if she was afraid, she didn't show it. There were countless trout in the clear water of respectable size, and some of these were close enough behind her for her to grab. The other anglers were casting at them, risking giving her a new ornament for her hair, but she was oblivious.

She cast her fly and patiently waited. This was a woman who had spent enough time on little fish. There was a big one somewhere out there in the deep, dark water, and she was willing to wait for it.

While watching all the different fishermen, I got to know one of the fish. I could pick him out from among the rest because he had a spinner sticking out of his mouth. He must have liked shiny things as he attempted to strike every spinner that went by, but he couldn't because he already had one hooked firmly in his mouth.

There must be great moral lesson here, but I will leave it for the reader. The New Jerusalem is not here, but we are given glimpses every now and then.