Saturday, April 20, 2019


When I first saw the alarming scenes of smoke rising from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing.

A few minutes later, and the place was ablaze. It was a startling visual.

I'm not Catholic, and I've never been to France, but I found myself deeply affected by the raging conflagration. More than 800 years of human endeavor, dating back to stone cutters working with hammers and chisels and laborers grunting with ropes and pulleys, was going up in smoke.

Not to mention the art. Or the culture. Or the architecture. Or the history.

I was saddened.

A few days later and I learned that donations for rebuilding the uninsured church (hopefully within five years, so sayeth the French government) were pouring in prodigiously from around the world. By the end of the week, it was estimated, more than 1 billion Euros (or a billion-plus dollars on the exchange rate) were pledged for the reconstruction of the building.

That's when the wheels and gears in my brain started lumbering into motion. A billion dollars? To rebuild a church? Wait a minute. Old Sunday School lessons started to kick in almost immediately. You know. The ones about feeding the poor and clothing the naked. A billion dollars sure would go a long way to staunch the suffering there, wouldn't it? Think Puerto Rico. Think droughts in Africa. Think floods in Indonesia. Think earthquakes on the Pacific rim.

Think a billion dollars. To ease the pain.

If you happen to wear one of those colorful plastic bracelets to occasionally jog your memory when your memory needs jogging, What Would Jesus Do? What would God do?

What if the shell of Notre Dame Cathedral remains as it is, I thought, and stands as a reminder of man's smallness and fragility (even when we think we're big and strong)? Wouldn't that be the better Gospel lesson? I don't know.

I'm not a particularly religious person, which might be a little odd for the son of a Moravian minister to reveal. I mean, I am moved to my Moravian roots with every Christmas love feast I attend, and tomorrow we plan to take in the Easter sunrise service at God's Acre in Old Salem. Both services are where I get my booster shot of Christian humility. I'm sure I need it.

Sometimes I think we don't need a church building to salve the soul. We have the world. For me, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon can be my cathedral; a silent mountain overlook can be my chapel, the surf repeatedly kissing the beach is often my sanctuary. If need be, I can talk to God in those places, and for me, it can be as intensely personal as I want it to be. Or as God wants it to be.

I don't mean to be judgmental about this, just contemplative.

Happy Easter...

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