AS MUCH AS WE LIKE TO TELL OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN THAT, "THE CHURCH IS NOT A STEEPLE..." (which is ABSOLUTELY true) I would make the case that if your heart did not sink tonight at the absolutely horrific news out of Paris concerning the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, you have no heart.
There are no words to respond to something like seeing literally 850+ years of history going up in smoke. Pope Alexander III witnessed the laying of the foundation stone in 1163. (Here's a little perspective - Pope Francis is the 95th successor to Alexander III!)
Tonight, dear friends, let us pray for our Christian brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Paris as they deal with the absolutely crushing reality of this cathedral that has served as a home to the faithful for multitudinous generations is gutted.
Even as we know the absolutely irrefutable reality that we are not to worship ANY church facilities, understanding that even great cathedrals such as Notre Dame undergo multiple renovations over the years to accommodate contemporary opportunities unimaginable in 1163, we also become attached to those sacred spaces in which God has done truly transformational work in our lives and the lives of those we love and cherish.
This is Holy Week. The message of Holy Week is that we worship a Christ who overcame the worst the world could throw at Him to show us the reality of God's eternal love and grace is more powerful, and more important, than any temporal things that grab our attention, including the sacred spaces that have helped influence and shape our faith.
Let us grieve the truly gut-wrenching destruction of one of the world's great cathedrals. In the midst of our sorrow and disbelief, though, let us also take time to give thanks to God for 850+ years of influencing the faith of the church through the inspirational architecture and ministries of this holy ground.
And let us give thanks that NOTHING - even truly devastating destruction such as we see in the picture above - can keep God's work from continuing. We join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in their grief, because we believe - as we state in the Apostle's Creed - in the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic church. When they hurt, we hurt. Tonight, we hurt for our Roman Catholic family.
Finally, let us take time to give thanks to God for those sacred spaces that have a special place in our heart, for we never know when they will be gone. This evening, I was honored to give Laraine Waughtal, my successor as pastor at First United Methodist Church in DeRidder, a tour of our campus. As I did on my first tour of this great facility, she could sense and feel the spirit of the generations who have gathered in our own sacred space, the oldest part of our campus, with it's over-100-year-old stained glass. Literally thousands of people have experienced God's sunlight radiating through that glass, and as Laraine and I were talking in there, I gave thanks to God for allowing me and my family a season to experience such a sacred space.
May we never take our sacred spaces for granted.
Grace and Peace,