This week came the shocking news: the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris burned.
We don’t have a television, so it was even more surreal for me to happen upon a public TV and sees shots of the iconic cathedral wreathed in flames.
While now it seems only the roof and spire were destroyed, it’s something that can’t be undone. 850 years of history and more, gone. Some suggest that France does not even have large enough trees to repair the damage.
The whole thing was even more poignant to me since I just watched a video essay about The Hunchback of Notre Dame and how Disney’s version (and the other film adaptations) differed from Victor Hugo’s original vision…which was basically to focus on the cathedral itself, how architecture was used to convey values, and how the written word was rendering that practice obsolete (video link here – language cautions).
Why bother talking about this? Well, it got me thinking – as many things do…
If you’ve read the books of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll recall that the Temple of God that Solomon built in Jerusalem kept needing to be repaired (and the kings Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah all raised money for that purpose). (See 2 Chron. 24; 2 Kings 17-20; 2 Chron. 29-30; 2 Kings 22-23; and 2 Chron. 34.)
Part of this need for repair came from Judah and her kings constantly turning away from the true God and fouling His temple with a bunch of idols. (Obvious parallel with the way Notre Dame has been more of a tourist attraction than a place of worship recently, and you could easily imagine becoming a mosque in its future. Also consider the way the French Revolution rededicated it to the “Cult of Reason“…because reason was exactly what they needed while they were beheading each other left and right.)
However, the other reason for the temple in Jerusalem to need repairs was…decay. We might think of cathedrals as frozen in time…great stone edifices, untouched by the concerns of the fleshly mortals that pad through their halls. (That seems to have been Victor Hugo’s point.)
But this is not true. Cathedrals, just like everything else in this universe, tend toward destruction thanks to mankind’s sin (you’re welcome, universe…).
That was before fire claimed the roof and the famous spire.
Bring It Down to Our Level…
My own house is almost two hundred years old, with the oldest part having been built in the 1850s…a long way off from 1163 when builders broke ground for Notre Dame Cathedral.
And yet, I go about my daily life as though this house will last forever. My neighbors’ house was consumed by fire within the past six months (and the remaining structure was demolished), but it couldn’t possibly touch me.
Ha. I write post-apocalyptic fiction. I should know better.
Our property went from mud-patch pig farm to tangled forest…in forty years.
When society collapses and our neighborhood goes the way of Notre Dame? The trees will take over.
One City Will Last
Where can we go to be safe? When even the great cathedral Notre Dame de Paris – which survived both World War I and World War II – can fall in an instant – and be “fifteen minutes from destruction” – then what can last?
It’s like the White House burning to the ground, or your mother dying in a car accident. All in an instant…a pillar of reality, gone.
Where can we be safe? What can we depend on?
This Is Supposed to Be Rhetorical…
There is a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). This is the city with streets of gold (Rev. 21:18) whose twelve gates are each made of a single pearl (Rev. 21:21).
There is no sun or moon there, because the Lord Himself is our light (Rev. 21:23). This is the Kingdom of Heaven…which is like a treasure, a merchant, and a dragnet (Matt. 14:44, 45, and 47).
In short, it is the Church. It cannot burn down. No moth can come and nibble it…no snake will sneak into it.
So remember, when you see your foundation here shaken, that what we see and touch here on earth is a shadow (Heb. 8:5)…there is a Tabernacle, eternal in the heavens, where those who place their trust in God will be forever in community with Him.
Everyone who rejects Him, however…this fire is just a foretaste.
When you watch the world unraveling before your very eyes, don’t let it discourage you. Remember: God has placed our home in heaven, and His kingdom can never be shaken.
And secondly…RESCUE THE PERISHING. Our pastor says this is just “beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.”
Jesus is the Bread. He is the sacrifice in the Heavenly Temple. He is the cathedral that will never be destroyed…and even better yet, there will never be a GoFundMe to raise money for repairs!
Our Work Doesn’t Last
Solomon’s great, impressive, gold-lined temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. King Herod’s temple (the one Jesus walked through) was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
God’s temple in the heavens? No one’s touching that. And if you claim Him as your king and high priest, you get to be a pillar and worshiper in that temple!
God’s Work Will Endure
It’s still shocking and sad when we lose something great and important. But don’t stay there in the sadness. Let that feeling drive you forward, to something else…to something better.
Notre Dame – “Our Lady” of Paris – has fallen. But Notre Pere – “Our Father” in the heavens – can never be shaken (Matt. 6:9-10).
Especially as we look ahead to Easter Sunday, remember: Jesus conquered death. He died, and is alive from now until forever.
So…we puny humans are way more lasting than some crumbling old cathedral.
Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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