Who does not have questions about God when an ancient, invaluable, precious cathedral catches fire during Holy Week in Paris, and manmade bombs destroy several churches on Easter Sunday making martyrs of the hundreds of worshippers in Sir Lanka? What is God’s lesson?
My son, Ben, was asked this question from his friend and his comment—that the burning of Notre Dame exposes more about the hearts and minds of Christ-followers in our post-Christian era than a judgement from God—made me stop and think. Where do you find groups of people willing to sacrifice, dream, endure hardship, work, design and create an elaborate place of worship recognizing that since it would require 100 years to complete, they would not witness its magnificence in their lifetimes? What do Christians dedicate their sacrifices, dreams, endurance, work, and creativity to in our days? Has the world so infiltrated our churches that we don’t dream and plan for the witness we will leave behind for the generations to come? Do we work to produce multifunctional houses of worship that can easily be sold to a business so that the equity can be salvaged?
Ben also introduces me to songs of inspiration that I would not naturally come across. One of my favorite songs from the band he likes, La Dispute, shares this message very clearly. "St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues” describes the decades of a beautiful church filled with worshippers in the 1960s, in flux in the 1970s, lacking funding in the 1980s, filled with drugs, crime and overgrown weeds since the 1990s, now vacant and condemned. The song writer equates the demise of this once beautifully designed home for worshipping God to his own soul. He wonders is there hope?
[So, I've been thinking about that, Sometimes go slow when I drive by, How a home of stone and a house so holy Grows so empty over time. What gave those people purpose Past death approaching constantly Now left to crumble slowly, Now left to wither with the weeds.]
Now left to ice and vandals,
The advent candles long since gone,
The old foundation shifting hard,
The concrete overgrown, but
That stained-glass window sits untouched amongst the brickwork worn,
A symbol of the beauty only perfect at that moment we were born.
[And just the other day I swear I saw a man there Pulling weeds out of the concrete, sweeping up and patching cracks, I saw him lift a rag to wash the years of filth from off those windows. Made me wonder if there's anyone like that for you and me and Anybody else who broke and lost hope.]
Songwriters: Bradley Ryen Vander Lugt / Kevin Scott Whittemore / Adam David Vass / Jordan Lee Dreyer / Chad William Sterenberg
St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues lyrics © Vagrant Records Publishing
Notre Dame is burning. What does this say about your soul? What does it teach about your church? Revelation 3:14-21 is a fitting lesson for individuals and the church today.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Do you see your soul in Notre Dame Burning? Are you rich in this world and yet remain spiritually wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked because you do not open the door to Jesus? Can you see your need to repent? What will people ponder when or if they can discover how you worshipped God in the generations to come?