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The Cathedral and the Church

I get it.

Notre Dame’s tragic fire gutted more than an iconic edifice.  For 850 years, the ornate lady, with her steeples and spire, her transept portals, her flying buttresses and embellished sculptures, stood elegantly along the Seine.  Upwards of twelve million visitors descended upon its revered island, and billions of pictures recorded its elaborate architecture.

I get that the Roman Catholic Church looked to the Notre Dame cathedral as epicenter of religious tradition in France.  I get that even secular-minded historians and connoisseurs of medieval culture regarded the structure as a priceless treasure.

I get that Parisians whose lives were intimately involved with the church were devastated by the loss, and thousands of adherents around the world felt violated when the flames engulfed the historic building. 

In twelve short hours, centuries of history were reduced to ashes.  I get that.

What I don’t get is the sense of infinite sadness.

The heaviness of heart that prevailed among the mourners was palpable.  Grief-stricken parishioners trudged slowly through the streets or stood holding lighted candles and singing funereal hymns.  It appeared as if their faith had suffered a mortal wound, and they were spiraling downward to eternal perdition. 

What I’m about to say is not to disdain the glory of the past.  I bear no disrespect or disregard to the vaunted character of the beloved Notre Dame Cathedral. 

Having said that, can somebody please rise up and proclaim that no fire can damage the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Can we all be reminded that Christ’s church occupies a place untouched by fire or flood?

Yes, wood burns.  Buildings collapse.  Disaster destroys old and new structures alike.  Beautiful pieces of artwork fall prey to the savage elements.  But, the church is not a building!  Jesus did not say, “Upon this rock I will rebuild my church.”  Notre Dame cathedral—in all its grandeur, with all its pomp and ceremony, with all its storied tradition—was never the church. 

The true church is the people.  What many call a church is not a church at all.  It is only the building where the church meets to worship God.  Unfortunately, far too many people have confused brick and mortar, wooden rafters and metal spires, carpeted aisles and padded pews with the body of Christ.    

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (KJV)

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