Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Holy Sites Aflame

I have to admit that I was shaken when I heard about Notre Dame burning in Paris.  My earth quaked even more when I heard about the Al Aqsa Mosque catching blaze in Jerusalem, on the same night.  Now, I'm not the type of person to read signs and find omens in everything, but I have to admit that I was a bit unsettled that one of the most recognizable churches in the world caught fire the same night as the third holiest Muslim site.  No, I don't believe God made it happen, and I don't think the sky is falling.  But it did give me pause, and remind me of a few sayings of Jesus.

Image of Notre Dame Cathedral, Royalty-Free

The first is the Lord's reminder that good as well as bad things happen to everybody.  In Matthew 5:45 (MSG), Jesus says:

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

Some religious people on "their" side might call us nasty, and label themselves nice.  Alternately, some might want to think that burning buildings are tragic for "our" side, but are God's judgment for "their" side.  But Jesus is clear that "stuff happens" to everybody.

I also think of the words of Jesus, when a Samaritan woman asked him which was the best place to worship.  John 4:19-26 (MSG) says:

“Oh,so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?” 
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. 
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.” 
 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Image result for al-Aqsa mosque royalty free
Image of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Royalty Free
While it's tragic that these fires destroyed or damaged holy real estate, perhaps we would do well to remember that God is bigger than brick, higher than the spire of Notre Dame, and more encompassing than the lead-colored dome of Al Aqsa.  God isn't concerned with where you worship, but how you worship.  Jesus invites worshipers to seek God in spirit and in truth.  

Wherever you are, and whatever religion you belong to, I hope you'll pray for worshipers with ties to both holy sites.  And I hope you'll be less concerned with outward forms and locations of worship than you are with inward expressions of spirit.  

Peace be with you.

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