This week, the world watched as one of the most iconic cathedrals in the Western world was consumed by fire. As time passed, images surfaced of Notre-Dame de Paris engulfed in smoke and flames; and many wondered if the thousand year-old building would survive.
It seems a bit haunting to consider the devastation of this symbolic cathedral as we approach the tragic ending of Holy Week. For many, Notre-Dame was and is not just a site on a bucket list of tourist traps in Paris but a church, a holy sanctuary, a pilgrimage destination, sacred ground. If you are lucky enough to have strolled across her threshold, stood in her transept, awed over the rose windows, or gazed upon the altar, you might know first-hand the sense of wonder that this place conveys.
As a college student (and French major), I spent four months studying in Paris. Although I lived with a family in Versailles, I made a weekly pilgrimage to the Latin Quarter where I could grab a crêpe, check email at an internet café, and sit in the nave of Notre-Dame. Even though it looked nothing like the Baptist sanctuaries I knew from home, it provided for me a sense of sacred familiarity.
All these years later and 4029 miles away, seeing my temporary “French church home” engulfed in flames, feels hauntingly appropriate as I read scripture and contemplate the last week of Jesus’ life. Even more, I wonder how many among us are dealing with different and yet eerily similar tragedies and uncontainable fires in their own lives? Things that may not make the front page of the New York Times, but burdens that bury us alive in pain, in grief, in unspeakable loss.
In the immediate reality of the fire, there are no voices singing alleluia as we watch and wonder when the flames will subside. There is no guarantee that the towers will not crumble and fall like the spire adding to the rubble building up on the sanctuary floor. This week, and as we prepare for Maundy Thursday, there is no good news. …yet.
As 21st century Christians living in the United States, it is easy to call ourselves, “Easter people”. We boast in the resurrection of the crucified God and we claim victory without making ourselves acknowledge and reckon with pain. Sure, joy feels better than grief. Victory fills more seats than loss. And a happy ending is what most people are looking for when they come to church. But this week, because Sunday isn’t here yet, we sit in the pain and the rubble.
On Thursday evening we will gather in the Fellowship Hall for a service of scripture, song, and communion. Together we will remember Jesus’ life and ministry. We will read John’s account of his betrayal and crucifixion; and we will walk together from the Fellowship Hall to the Columbarium where we will extinguish the Christ candle as we remember those early followers of Jesus who buried Jesus’ body in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and wondered if all hope was lost.
In solidarity with the earliest disciples, we grieve with those for whom Christ lived and died: those who are down trodden, outcast, marginalized, without resources, and without hope. As we wait to see if resurrection will come, we draw near to one another, and we wait in the rubble.
All are welcome to join us around the table.
Thursday, April 18th, 6:30pm (6:00p for supper)