Paris in the Spring
A place does not matter any more than the value we give it. There are many amazing places around the world, but the ones I love best are the ones with memories and relationships attached. Similarly, we can worship anywhere and we are called to worship the Lord daily (Rom. 12:2); and yet the places that I have worshipped in the past hold those powerful, reflective memories that continue to move me. I have been to Notre Dame Cathedral. Jim and I went for our 20th wedding anniversary almost 20 years ago! I still remember the conversation we had and the prayer we prayed there.
Additionally, I know that God’s best plan was to live in us; we are the temple of the Lord. We house the Lord Almighty and He is the portable God who goes with us wherever we go. But that does not mean that sacred places don’t exist. Of course they do. Some are famous and some are personal and obscure. Nonetheless, they are special for a variety of reasons.
There is something about a church building set aside for worship of God that occupies a clear space at the center of our lives (as well as the cities and towns they are in). I know the building is not where God exists and I have played my fair share of games in the meeting spaces where I have also worshipped. But there is a common recognition that there is holiness and beauty in the world when we see a holy site. This week the world watched in horror as Notre Dame, an historic icon and a global treasure, burned.
Even in the midst of such an unnerving scene the glimpses of true beauty are there if we notice. People who have not worshipped the Lord in years were drawn in and grieved for the loss of a sacred space. People stood stunned. They wept and prayed. They sang. They stepped up to the “proverbial offering plate” and volunteered to help salvage and restore this monument that stands tall for God. The divine image that humanity bears revealed itself and will continue to do so. I am reminded of the stories of 9/11 that shined through the darkness, even though the twin towers were not places of worship, Or the worshipful moments at the town square in Disneyland, of all places.
I am reminded of a few things. First, anything can change at a moment’s notice so make the most of every day. Live gratefully and learn to not take things for granted.
Next, many buildings burn every day. People die. Most are not noticed except by those who love them, which is the point! Crying over a loved one’s death does not mean that the stranger at the back of the newspaper obituary’s life does not matter. Of course it does, but the personal, emotional connection we have with someone we know leaves us broken hearted. Similarly the familiarity of a cathedral in the middle of Paris is like an old friend.
Buildings, souvenirs and photo albums represent the deep connections we have for things and people in our lives. We are supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Perhaps someone does not have any kind of attachment to a 1000 year old church in France, but someone else does, whether it is for the wrong reason or not. Notre Dame, though it does not house God, houses people who do. It points to God and reminds people that He is near, even to those who have not paid attention or forgotten or lost hope.