When the church burns

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The world paused yesterday to collectively gasp, then to mourn, as the beautiful cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burned. 2 centuries in the making and standing as a marker of creativity and devotion for 7 centuries since,  the loss is beyond calculating. Even those of no Christian faith felt sorrow at the destruction of the church which stood at the center of the city, a place where kings were crowned, the famed buried, and faith was celebrated.

As I watched the news story, I was reminded of the transitory nature of the things of this world and the eternal nature of the true Church, the Body of Christ. My shock and sorrow was tempered by the solemn realization that Christ is greater than His churches!

We grow so attached to our holy places, our churches, our homes for worship – be they cathedrals in the city or chapels along a country lane. That is not a sin! After all, the devout experience the collective gathering of God’s people in those buildings. They mark the passages of life – birth, marriage, baptism, death – there. Then, the church building burns and we realize that as much as we love our ‘places’ our faith is larger and more enduring than the buildings in which we gather.

My own Christian journey includes several churches along the way, places where I met Jesus and the Spirit in worship, where I found love and encouragement in the faith. I visited the little chapel that was the church of my childhood last Summer and was shocked to find it a ruin, the roof collapsed, trees growing in the rubble! (It was no cathedral, to be sure.) Did that destroy my faith? Of course not. The echoes of the worship remain and the patterns of faith laid down there continue in me.  Another church that was pivotal in my past fell apart as people forgot Who they gathered to know and serve. As they fought, one by one people left the place and now the doors are closed. But, the seeds sown in my heart still are fruitful!

The Words says, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith.” He is the enduring center of our worship. Building will come and go. Congregations will grow and falter. Movements will arise, thrive, and die but the Gospel of Christ will continue until the Father says, “It’s time for the fullness of the Kingdom!”

Ultimately these temples of the Spirit, our bodies, will die, too! But, then there is glory unimaginable. Build your life on the lasting hope of Jesus, laying up treasure in that place “where moth and rust do not corrupt and thieves cannot steal.”

Here is a word from the Word. May it, though stark, encourage us to a right perspective.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down
—when we die and leave these bodies—
we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by
God himself and not by human hands.

We grow weary in our present bodies,
and we long for the day when we will
put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.

 For we will not be spirits without bodies,
but we will put on new heavenly bodies.
Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh,
but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all.
We want to slip into our new bodies
so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.
God himself has prepared us for this,
and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident,
even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies
we are not at home with the Lord.
That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.”
(2 Corinthians 5:1-7, NLT)

_______

The Church’s one foundation is
Jesus Christ, Her Lord.
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died

Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth
Her charter of salvation
One Lord one faith one birth
One holy name she blesses
Partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued

Samuel Wesley, Public Domain

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