I, along with so many others have been deeply stirred by the images coming from the Notre Dame fire. I watched as the church burned and it was like the heart of France was on fire. As thousands of devoted French people expressed deep sorrow at what they saw, I realized that the smoke pouring out from it’s roof was signaling a deep spiritual truth.
I was among the many that tuned in to watch and wait to hear reports of this tragedy happening in the heart of Paris. I sadly realized that I will never be able to visit it as it was. Pictures will remain but something new will have to happen in order for visitors to enter her again. It is the beginning of a new era for Notre Dame, Paris and the world.
When events like this happen my prophetic lens starts to sharpen my focus. It makes me ask an important question; “God, what do you have to say about this?” I have seen so many times something that happens in the physical world reflect or symbolize something that ends up happening in the Spiritual realm that this event begged to hear God’s point of view.
The Bible is full of these sort of examples. For instance, as we just read and reflected on the Lord’s crucifixion last weekend, we heard of earthquakes and darkness physically happening upon His death. It was as if the physical world was revealing it’s spiritual connection to it’s Creator with physical signs including a curtain torn in two and graves being torn open.
Another one of the many biblical examples I am reminded of is in the book of Hosea when God asks the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. There the physical marriage was used as a sign that, spiritually, God was united with a very unfaithful people. (Hosea 1: 2) Later after Gomer had left him to run after other men, God directs Hosea to take her back and love her again as yet another spiritual symbol of God’s faithful love even in our unfaithfulness. (2 Timothy 2:13)
Now, please don’t think I am in any way saying that God set Notre Dame on fire. That would be much to presumptuous. I do know, however, that He knew it would happen because He is the God of Knowledge. So I ask the question; could it be that God can use this tragedy as a symbol of something He is doing for us? The Bible does say that God can take what is evil and turn it into something good, the saving of lives, as in the story of Joseph in Genesis.
As I hear the news describe Notre Dame as the symbol of Christianity I get a distinct feeling that there is more to see in this event than just the burning of a treasured building in France. Can we look at these images and hear the heart of God saying “Pay Attention”?
I did. So here are my thoughts; thoughts I laid before Jesus over the past few days with a listening ear to what He could be saying. *(see note)
First, I want to make it clear that scripture defines the church as the people who choose to follow Jesus as their Savior and Lord and meet together to be mutually encouraged, taught and share in helping with each other’s burdens. Acts 2:42-47, not the building.
The problem is that over the generations the church building is all we think of when people mention “church”. Those who have developed this philosophy feel they can walk into their favorite denomination (or non denomination) of choice on Sunday, check it off their “religious requirements” list and live the rest of the week with very few actions that reflect the God they heard and sung about there or His mission for their life.
This philosophy has also led many to work hard and spend lots of money just to make the building look really good. While I do believe that the atmosphere and ascetics of where we meet matters to God (check out the description of the temple in 2 Chronicles 3.; the detail and beauty is amazing). I think that we have shifted our priorities and so the real mission of the church in the world is often over looked and under funded.
With that being said, and for many other reasons, too many to go into here, I think the church (and I don’t mean the building) is in serious need of renovation. I loudly resound with the song we sing at our services by Rend Collective called “Build Your Kingdom Here” where it boldly declares to God to “set Your church on fire”. We need something that will, like fire, be the purifying agent necessary to get things back to where God desires us to be. Sort of like the way the forest agencies do controlled burns as a way to clear away the excess weeds and brush. And Jesus Christ is described as one who will do this work in His church.
I just have to say it, this does not mean that we need to actually burn any church buildings. Nothing good will come of that. It does mean that the current institution we call the church and the people involved in it’s leadership need some weeds and brush cleared out by Jesus. Since one of the names of God is “Consuming Fire” I believe He is in the process of doing a controlled spiritual burn to purify and renew the passion of those He calls His own. And it may mean that the ways we currently function will be taken down to ashes so that the true beauty of what God created can be restored.
So here is my final thought for this Thursday. I think it is important that we remind ourselves that we are the church. We are the church every minute of our lives. That building is a place we meet to fill ourselves with the fuel necessary to be the church the other days of the week. It is you and I who need to have the fire of Jesus burn deeply in our hearts for a lost and dying world. We need as Dallas Willard says “A renovation of the heart” If we chose to daily set ourselves on fire with renewed passion for Jesus and His love and passion for the people outside the four walls of our church building we would see the world drawn into the place of healing and wholeness; the heart of their Savior.
I hear that many of the wealthy in our society are pledging millions to see Notre Dame restored so I have no doubt the work on that building will begin. You will watch the news as they update us on Notre Dame’s progress. When you do, I ask that you look for something deeper, something perhaps stirring in your own heart. Is there something God is saying about His plan for His church, for you and I as the body of followers of Jesus Christ? Is there a work starting with you and He is pledging all His power and resources so that it will turn our current burned out church into the Bride of Christ He will return for? Ephesians 5:25-27
Note* Remember what I write here I make no claim to be absolute revelation from God. This is not scripture nor do I want to indicate that they are even close to the weight of God’s Word. I only hope to share what I believe is some wisdom given me from above as I leaned into hear the heart of God. Please use your God- given discernment just like we should with anything written outside of scripture.