Chapter 33 Abundant Life in Zion

A warm, bright light came streaming into the room. Everything was quiet. Johan awoke from a thoroughly refreshing night’s sleep and felt so energized that he laughed. He then lay perfectly still, relishing the sense of strength that filled his whole being.

Looking forward to the day ahead, he washed and dressed, making a mental note to collect more water as the jug by his wash bowl was now empty.

He knew he did not need food to stay alive but he still enjoyed the taste of a juicy pear for his breakfast that he had picked the previous day. He sang quietly to himself as he carried out his morning routine of making his bed, sweeping the floor and cleaning his wash bowl and kitchen sink. He smiled as he heard other songs drifting on the breeze through his windows as his neighbours went about their daily chores.

After tidying the house, he took some clothes and his water jug to the stream. There he found his neighbour Harriet and they chatted happily while washing their clothes in the sparkling water.

“What do you have planned for the day?” asked Johan.

“I’m going to my poetry group this morning. We’re trying to capture the beauty of the landscape here in words, but so far my efforts don’t do it justice. And this afternoon I’m helping Yuri prepare the communal meal for this evening. It’s always fun to work with him and we belt out songs together as we stir the pots. What are you up to?”

“I’m playing tennis with Yan this morning, meeting friends for lunch and then working with the maintenance team this afternoon,” Johan replied.

After wringing out their clothes and filling their jugs, they walked back and wished each other a good day.

Johan hung his washing on the line and packed his work overalls, a change of clothes, a towel and some swimming trunks into a small rucksack. Picking up his tennis racket and taking twenty talents from the drawer, he set out for the court.


Feeling well exercised but determined to improve his game after yet another defeat at the hands of Yan, Johan was walking to his lunch appointment when three men appeared from the side street just ahead of him.

“Hey guys, how good to see you!” exclaimed Johan as he recognised Thomas, Bem and Eric’s friendly faces.

Thomas gave Johan a warm hug. “Are you still enjoying your tennis?” he asked.

Johan covered his face with his hands in mock drama.

“I would be if I could beat Yan!” he replied, through his fingers.

The men chuckled.

“Anyway, it’s good to see you too, Eric. How’s your family?” Johan asked, giving Eric a fist bump.

“Ma and Pa have just been to a gospel choir festival. They loved it. And I’ve joined a barber-shop quartet. You’ll have to come and listen when we give our first performance.”

“I surely will,” said Johan, who after chatting some more with his friends continued on his way to the Taverna Yialos, where Harmony and Fran were already sitting at a table, drinks in hand.

“Hello you two! What have you been up to?” he asked as he joined them.

Harmony looked at Fran and gestured for her to speak first. “I’ve been attending an art class. I never used to think of myself as creative, so it’s been amazing to discover that side of myself. I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m learning lots. Today was still life with a bowl of fruit. You know, I don’t think I’d ever stopped to look at things properly before.”

“We’d love to see your work, Fran. It’s so good to learn new things, isn’t it?” agreed Harmony. “I’ve been learning Greek cooking in my group.”

“You’ll be able to help the chef here soon,” said Johan with a smile.

“Don’t you think I have enough to do already?” retorted Harmony, playfully slapping Johan on the arm as Fran looked on and laughed.

“Are you ready to order?” asked Anne coming to the table.

“Hello Anne, we’re sorry you’re not able to join us this week,” said Fran.

“I was asked to do this shift, but I’ll be able to join you next week, so we’ll be able to debrief about the garden party then. Most of the preparations are complete. Would you like your usual dips and pita bread?”

“You know us well! Yes, that would be great and a jug of water with it please,” Johan replied, and Anne moved on to the next table of customers.

The three friends enjoyed catching up with each other over their meal before their afternoon activities.

“I’m tree-pruning this afternoon, and I’m wondering who will be helping me,” said Johan. “I have to admit there are a few people who test my patience.”

“Personalities can still clash here, can’t they?” said Fran. “At least until you really get to know people. It’s raspberry jam making for me today. I need to make a few more jars before the market next week.”

“And I’m working out a route for a walk I’m organising,” said Harmony. “It’ll be well away from where most people live and will take most of the day, but there should be great views and lots of wildlife too. Let me know if you’re interested and would like to come.”

As the group stood up, Anne came over, collected their talents and wished them all the best for the afternoon.

Johan bid his friends farewell and went to meet the pruning team, secretly hoping that a few of them might have forgotten to turn up.


It was still pleasantly warm late into the evening and many people were enjoying messing about in the river. Johan changed from his work overalls into his swimming trunks and slipped into the cool water. Feeling refreshed, he swam for a while and then turned on his back and lay still, watching the clouds.

Someone splashing beside him broke his reverie. Sylvia had spotted him and swum over to join him.

“Are you going to the garden party next week?” she asked, breathlessly.

“I wouldn’t miss it. I can’t wait to catch up with Thomas’ team and all the others.” 

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it too. If you’re going to the communal meal this evening, let’s go together. I’ll race you to the bank,” she said, before taking a deep breath and kicking out with strong underwater stokes for where they had left their clothes.

Johan coped well with his second sporting defeat of the day and was surprised to realise after they had finished drying and changing side by side that their nakedness had created no awkwardness or embarrassment. He mulled over how different it was to the way things were in the Previous Age as he walked with Sylvia to the communal meal served up by Yuri and his team of helpers.

After the meal they stayed in the square to hear Helena and Clare performing a selection of songs that had been popular in the Previous Age. One of them reminded Johan of his childhood, and he thought about his parents and Gerty. It had been so good to see them six months ago on his travels through the neighbouring villages. He relished the freedom to travel and keep in touch with everyone, and knowing that they were here in Zion brought such peace to his heart.

Feeling tired but with a deep sense of contentment, Johan made his way back home and was soon sound asleep.


The table was set in the middle of a large swathe of lawn surrounded by trees and banks of flowers. Chairs had been arranged around it, each unique and made by skilled artisans. Figures emerged from the house that looked over the garden carrying trays full of glasses.

“Yuri, would you mind grabbing the last tray?” asked Fran. “Adilah and I will set out the glasses at each place.”

“I’ll start bringing down the jugs,” suggested Johan as he placed his tray on one of the tables. “How many do you think we’ll need?”

Soon the four friends had finished setting the table and the sound of chatter and laughter signalled the arrival of Thomas and his team. Harmony, Anne, Sylvia and Carlos led the group, with Yan, Bull, Thomas and Yvonne a few steps behind.

Yuri excitedly flung open the garden gate and took each of them in his arms as they entered. Adilah giggled and danced with delight, Johan wore a huge grin and Fran beamed as she led them to where the refreshments were laid out.

“This is such a wonderful idea,” said Thomas to Fran as they sat in the bright afternoon light.

“Well, it feels rather like a full circle moment, doesn’t it?” she said. “It feels right to celebrate. Ah, here come the others!”

Every few minutes, more people appeared and gathered in pairs or small groups near the table. Johan looked around, drinking in the beauty of the scene, but his heart jumped as he recognised a smiling face approaching him. Though no longer wearing his small round spectacles and army uniform, there was no mistaking his friend Wilhelm with his distinctive cheeky grin.

“I was told I could find you here, brother,” Wilhelm greeted him warmly as he embraced his former comrade.

For a moment, Johan was lost for words. He hadn’t thought about the army and his experience of war for a long time. That period felt unreal, like a bad dream. Yet here stood a man who had shared his foxhole, drunk from the same water bottle and smoked more than his fair share of their cigarettes. Yes, this was a man who had died by his side in their dugout.

“Listen, Johan, I want you to know that I always loved you. But I need to apologise. I took advantage of your kind nature. You were always so patient and generous. You showed me love, even when I didn’t deserve it. I now see that you had agape love in your heart, even then.”

“Wilhelm, my friend, it’s so good to see you! Come, let’s tell each other our stories.”

Yuri smiled as he saw the two men strolling around the garden, arm in arm, as he arranged the bread rolls on the table. Just then, someone cleared their throat behind him. Turning around he saw a tall man with a newly trimmed beard and short black hair. It took Yuri a moment to realise he was looking at Angush.

Angush stood there, clearly nervous, waiting for Yuri to speak. Yuri felt a flush of shame – this was a man he had violently assaulted – and then the thought flashed through his mind that Angush might have come to take revenge. But as Yuri took a deep breath and felt the pure air of Zion in his lungs, peace spread through his body.

The moment was awkward; neither man could deny that. They stood, each hesitating to be the first to offer a handshake, but the momentary tension was broken by Johan and Wilhelm’s voices and laughter as they walked nearby. Yuri slowly extended his hand and Angush grasped it, letting out a relieved and grateful breath.

“It’s all ok, isn’t it?” asked Yuri quietly.

Angush let out a deep breath. “Yes, it is. It is.”

“You look well,” said Yuri.

“Fortunately scars don’t remain here in Zion,” said Angush with a straight face.

Yuri was unsure how to respond, but Angush immediately burst into laughter.

“Don’t worry. Everything is ok. I know who I was – or who I thought I was. I’m not that person anymore.”

“I can see that, my friend,” replied Yuri. It was true. There was no sign of the arrogant smirk that had always been on Angush’s face, and no false happiness, no projection of ego.

“I am grateful to you, Yuri. Meeting you in my second jubilee set me on a new course. No one had ever stood up to me before, and no one had ever challenged the way I lived.”

“I didn’t go about it the right way and I’m sorry for attacking you. I was so full of rage back then. But meeting you helped change my direction, too. For the first time I realised that I believed in some kind of justice and that I had a sense of right and wrong.”

Angush nodded. “I think we were a mirror to each other. It began the process of purification and here we are now in Zion as new creations. Fully alive and fully human – just as Papa God meant us to be. So why don’t I give you a hand with those bread rolls?”

The two former enemies continued to talk as they headed to the kitchen to fetch more bread with the joy and relief of reconciliation filling their hearts.

Fran sent off the next batch of fresh rolls with Yuri and Angush and clapped off some of the flour that was on her hands. She stood on the veranda surveying the scene when she noticed a familiar figure walking purposefully towards her.

“Reverend!” exclaimed Fran.

“Hello Fran. No more of the ‘Reverend’! Do call me Brian. I heard that you would be here and wanted to talk with you.”

“Well, it’s good to see you, Brian. You’ve probably been here longer than all of us!”

“Now, Fran,” said Brian gently, “you know it doesn’t work like that. It’s been a long journey and I have to admit I’ve only recently arrived in Zion. Now that I’m here, I want to apologise to you and all my parishioners. I told you that God would only save a few chosen people who believed the right things and that everyone else would be punished for all of eternity. I feel ashamed that my idea of God was so small, so tribal and so vengeful.”

“Yes, we thought we had it all worked out, didn’t we? We were right and everyone else was wrong. To be honest, I think we rather relished that idea.”

Brian nodded. “I think you’re right. But I’ve been humbled. Meeting Jesus and then everything I experienced throughout many jubilees challenged my beliefs. Jesus knew exactly what was needed to free me from my spiritual prison, and look at us all now! God’s plan was so much bigger than we could ever have imagined.”

“Yes, Jesus has been so patient and kind to us. It took a while but our hearts changed eventually.”

“Amen to that!” said Brian with a grin.

Back in the kitchen, Adilah was kneading dough for the final batch of baking with such concentration that she didn’t notice a figure appear next to her until another fist was plunged into it. Adilah looked up and Eshe burst into bright laughter at her expression of surprise.

“Eshe!” Adilah flung her arms around her sister, and they held each other in a tight swaying embrace.

“Let me look at you,” Adilah said through tears of joy.

“I’ve come to find you. Our entire tribe has a place on the plains of Zion. So many have come together there – many who were with the militia, and many who were captives. Oh, Adilah, it is the healing of our nation! You must come and see for yourself.”

“Of course, I will come. My heart is so happy it is dancing! But first, stay with me for this meal. Let us celebrate with everyone here, and then I will come with you.”

The sisters embraced again and talked of the paths that had brought them to this moment as they worked together on the final preparations for the meal.

Soon it was time for everyone to be seated around the table and the food was served. Stories were shared about the journeys each had been on and how they had learnt the way of agape love. Gladness and gratitude flowed through the conversations as the dancing lights of the new heavens illuminated the garden. Across the ages, wherever people have formed communities there have been such gatherings, but here in Zion, with no need to hide behind masks or fear being judged by one’s neighbour, they were free to enjoy the fullness of every moment.

As people finished eating, Adilah stood and asked for attention. “Let us raise a glass to Jesus, the overseer of our journeys towards finding agape love, to Ruach dwelling within us and to Papa our Father, who, as promised, has given us this abundant life that will only grow richer in the ages ahead.”

All stood and raised their glasses. As they looked around at the company gathered there, they were in awe of what agape love had achieved, and each renewed their faith in the future that Jesus was masterminding. It was true; there was indeed hope for everyone.