April 16, 2019
This week, I watched with you the Cathedral of Notre Dame burn. In those moments there are no words, only heartbreak and worry. Notre Dame de Paris is one of the fixtures in your mind that you believe are too long-standing, too meaningful, too sacred to ever be touched, let alone impacted to the point of destruction. Many of us watched stunned, concerned about the centuries of relics and art displayed there.
Others of us learned that at the same time the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam, burned. All the while, some of us held in our hearts the three century-old churches burned in Louisiana allegedly at the hands of a white supremacist. The horror!
It is a stark reminder that our holiest places are never completely sanctuary. There is always a threat to what we hold most dear (and that all the places are held equally dear in the heart of God).
This week has already been triggering and hard. I pray you have ways to care for yourself, to step away, to be impacted but not decimated, and somehow, feel held. Still, let us seek God’s face together. Let us make some meaning of what doesn’t make sense. Holy places burning remind me of what Holy Week represents – that surprising ruin and devastation certainly happens in our human experience. These burnings, unfortunately, feel timely.
We observe this week that a holy, cathedral of a person, Jesus Christ, would be targeted without cause, like the churches of St. Landry parish; that his destruction would begin in a place of prayer, like the fire beginning just outside the Marwani prayer room of the Al-Aqsa Mosque; and that the powerless were forced to watch, forced to witness the physical body of Jesus be destroyed from the violence of something beyond their control, just as many of us felt while watching the spire of the Cathedral fall.
As a people of faith, we are brutally reminded that we are never fireproof, never truly far from death, and that things inevitably fall apart, no matter how we prepare.
Indeed, Good Friday is upon us with all its anguish — and yet, Sunday is on the way.
I’m not seeking to diminish our grief or pain. Yet, it is my pastoral effort to invite you to allow the movement of this week to teach and transform us. Life horribly twists and torturously turns. There will be too little of what we need and too much pain. Difficult circumstances will stack upon themselves, and the very fires of life will seem to completely destroy us. Let the circumstances do what they do. With deep and profound faith and an abiding trust, allow circumstances to break us and know they will not destroy. Rev. Cameron Trimble offers this: “Resurrection is meaningful if we feel the pain of the crucifixion. We can’t rush it. We must let it burn us, tear us down, open us up. Then, from those sacred ashes, we rise again to rebuild. Life, death, life again.”
With Jesus, and through the power of love that God represents, though there be ashes, the dust will clear and the smoke dissipate. The damage may be great, but the towers of our lives may stand. Our world as we knew it may not be resuscitated, but with God, there can be resurrection!
One day, these holy places will be restored. Some will travel to Paris, Jerusalem and even St. Landry Parish to photograph the sacred places, and remark on how well new artisans recreated what once was. Yes, these edifices won’t be the same, but they will stand as faithful witnesses of what the strong power of Love can do. They will rise from the ashes. And, so it shall be with you. Blessed be. –Rev. Dr. Kelle BrownSubscribe
Plymouth Church UCC Worship is experienced on our Plymouth YouTube Channel and Facebook pages each Sunday through September 4, 2020. Please join us for Worship, then for Coffee Hour ONLINE following on Zoom.
We look to God for the breaking of oppression and healing in the land. Let us stand together with one voice as we watch, fight, and pray with life prioritized.
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