April 16, 2019
Hope Within the Ruins
The headline that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire had to be read and re-read before it could be believed. Even the pictures showing the flames coming through the roof could only be experienced through the lens of shock and sorrow.
I’ve long thought that the heart has a language that goes beyond the abilities of the mind to express. That is, there are some things that are simply indescribable. Standing within Notre Dame for the first time was one of those moments for me. The beauty and immense grandeur of the place, overlaid by the fact that it was designed and constructed with 12th-century methods and knowledge, overlaid by all of the histories the cathedral has witnessed – the consecration of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor; the beatification of Joan of Arc; the crowning in 1431 of Henry VI, King of England, as King of France; celebrations of the conclusions of world wars – all combined to create an emotional, intellectual and sensory experience that I could not describe. Still can’t. To see it damaged to this extent is distressing.
Faith is not restrained by the walls of the structure.
Earlier in February, the Mooreville United Methodist Church building was likewise destroyed by fire. The cause is unknown. The beautifully simple 108-year-old white framed building sitting on a hilltop was a place of pride for the Mooreville community, located in Central Texas, just south of Waco. As with Notre Dame, this church also hosted important moments in history, though on a more personal scale – baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, the moments that weave together the fabric of our lives and our communities. Our own Robert Hoppe, vice president of loans, is visiting with the Mooreville congregation to find the best path forward for rebuilding.
And let us not forget the black congregations in south Louisiana who recently lost their church homes to fire. This time, sorrowfully, arson was involved. Again, the history of those sacred spaces, having hosted life-changing moments in the lives of those congregants and their community, makes these tragedies all the more mournful.
There are common ingredients within these continuing stories that go far beyond houses of worship being lost to fire. One ingredient is resilience, the immediate response in each case that to repair or rebuild is the proper course.
Another is the reminder that our faith is not restrained by the walls of the structure. The people of Paris standing on the sidewalks singing hymns as Notre Dame was being destroyed was an emotional metaphor for the life-giving vitality of our faith outside the walls of the church.
And another is the reminder that amid the rubble and ruin can always be found hope. The shining cross within the shambles of Notre Dame powerfully reminds us of this, as if we needed a reminder during this Holy Week when celebration turned to death and despair, which quickly turned to live forevermore.
The stewardship of our potential requires us to always look for the hope within whatever the situation, to help others see that hope, and to do our part in loving others and removing social injustice. It calls us to marshal together our best resources so that hope and the world that God imagines can become reality.