So I was watching the coverage of Notre Dame Cathedral burning down and I had a bunch of thoughts wandering through the brain. Those annoying and nagging thoughts. You know – those thoughts you really don't want to say out loud for anyone else to here? Like that time you really wanted to tell your cousin Dave you really didn't like his new girlfriend?
“Huh. There's now over 600 million raised. Wow. Lots of that funding could probably be used elsewhere – like in 3rd world countries.”
"Not many people seem to care about the 3 black churches that just burned down to arson in Louisiana."
“A good portion of my friends have a lot of hate for the church. Yet, they lament the burning down of Notre Dame?”
“The church is not a building. It's the people.”
And I am thankful that I have a great influence in my life who really puts things into perspective. “Sure Lyle, people hate the church... but they really have no clue what they even hate. Let them be sad.”
Now, it's not my intent to be callous. I'm Grumpy Pastor, not callous and mean pastor. I just like to go around pointing to what I see as the bigger truth. And sometimes that truth is a real pain in the crepes.
You've heard the cliché, “Life Imitates Art”? Well sometimes it goes far beyond that and life actually imitates life. See, the church has been burning down for a lot longer than just Notre Dame on Monday. In the United States it's been burning down for at least 70 years – as butts sitting in the pews, membership in congregations, and dollars flowing into offering plates have been on a constant slide for at least that long. In Europe, with a super small fraction of the population (lower single digits) actually going to worship on a Sunday, it's been burning down since before World War II.
And the church has done a great job of finding ways to keep the self-imploding fire going.
The church has poured lots of gas on itself and given the nearest bystander the match.
I know this. It's absolutely sad that an 850 year old church building, a beacon of history that survived numerous occupations and wars, a symbol for an entire city has burned to the ground. I'm sad about it – I've seen numerous amazing Cathedrals before similar to Notre Dame and they're breathtaking examples of divine gifts expressed through human ingenuity. As a metaphor? Well, the church has been burning to the ground for a long time. And to be frank, it's not done burning, and it needs to burn a whole bunch more.
The message of the Gospel, or the Good News of Jesus Christ, is that out of death, life happens. Resurrection happens all over the place whether it be our own literal deaths, the thousands of figurative deaths we face in our lifetimes, the deaths of communities and practices, or even the deaths of stars and galaxies, God always wins. As one of my mentors has said to me, "God is always on the side of life." Death is conquered. The burning of Notre Dame, or the metaphorical burning down of the modern church... something better is on its way. It'll come out of the ashes. That's resurrection.
And it will burn more. In rich, white, North America and Europe, while the church is still smoldering, their fires will eventually burn out. And something is happening elsewhere in the world. In the 3rd world, in the Southern Hemisphere, where churches are bursting at the seems. God is doing something new. And chances are pretty good, if you're reading this blog, God's plans for something new probably don't include you.
Smell ya later,