Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is burning.
By the time you read these words, today’s catastrophe will be scores of news cycles in the past. But today, as I write this article, Notre Dame is on fire.
I’m sure that in the weeks to come, French officials will determine what caused the spark that sent the wooden interior of the 850-year-old structure up into flames. But today, without knowing the cause, a collective sigh of dismay is emerging from huddled groups of Christians and non-Christians alike, from around the world.
What about today’s breaking news story is impacting us so deeply?
For some, Notre Dame is a breath-taking ‘treasure of the world’ that they have personally visited. For others, today’s fire signifies a catastrophic loss of world history. Yet for others, the slow-motion collapse of Notre Dame’s spire connects viscerally to a reality that they had been sensing for some time: the Age of the Church is coming to a close.
‘Church people’ have for years been feeling the loss of prominence of the church in society. Faithful Christians had already been sensing that the church was losing its lure. It has been many, many years since crowds flocked to cavernous cathedral spaces in response to pealing steeple bells. The church no longer occupies its once-held ‘place’ at the center of every community.
The Age of the Church is aflame. And it is not yet clear what will rise up from the ashes.
Mental health professionals insist that a necessary component of grief is letting go. Those who grieve well must admit their loss. They must allow themselves to feel the pain. But they must also determine to move forward, to make new connections, to be vulnerable, to risk, to love, and to have faith.
As Notre Dame burns, there is already a pledge coming from the lips of the French people: “We will rebuild.” Perhaps this is a cry that needs to be picked up by those who are the true Church – men and women, boys and girls, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends who follow Jesus in every age.
Perhaps ‘the Age of the Church’ is indeed coming to a close. Historians and theologians may debate that hypothesis for months and years to come. But the ‘Age of the Gospel’ is truly upon us. The invitation of Jesus is as vital today as it has ever been. The Kingdom of God is still breaking in upon us. It is at hand. Jesus invites us to not only bow before his altar but to join him in his life-giving mission.
As unrelenting change continues to unnerve 21st-Century Christians, we are invited to join the people of God, everywhere, in proclaiming the mighty acts of a mighty God. As post-Easter Christians, we joyfully repeat the central Story of Jesus: his humble birth, his unflinching sacrifice, his glorious resurrection, and his promised return.
It is our privilege to tell this Story. He is risen!
By Rev. Pete Mueller
Mission Strategist, Area C
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:16
Long before the construction of the first Christian cathedral or the creation of the first Christian ministry program, Jesus charged his disciples to preach the gospel to all the world. What reassurance do you find in this? What challenges does this present?
What is the Holy Spirit nudging you toward, as you join Jesus on his mission?