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Notre Dame Fire

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Like many of you I watched the spectacle of Notre Dame engulfed in flames on the rolling news on the tv the other evening. Astonishing and dreadful images as a devastating fire ripped through a historic building, gobbling up everything before it, regardless of its importance or cultural significance. It seemed the whole of Paris watched in horror and the whole of the world sent messages of condolence to a nation in mourning, for this was no mere building but an iconic structure that represented the heart of France.
I went to bed that evening with a heavy heart expecting that when I woke there would be no more Notre Dame.
However, the morning brought hope: although the roof & steeple were gone much of the structure had survived; artefacts had been recovered and the talk of rebuilding had already begun. There was though, one image that was astounding: in the early hours of the morning President Macron & his entourage had been allowed to enter the cathedral to view the damage and one of his aides had snapped a picture of the altar, now burnt to ashes, surrounded by rubble and swimming in water. However, above the altar, caught in the beam of the arc lights outside, hung a cross that shone defiantly in the midst of such devastation.
As a Christian minister I have seen much devastation, not burnt out buildings but broken lives: relationships gone wrong; lives taken through illness or accident; the affects of abuse or addiction; the loss that is an unavoidable part of our humanity. People ask me how I can still have a faith, and to be honest, at times I do wonder. But then I remember that my faith is not in quick answers or easy solutions; my faith is not in a God who waves a magic wand and makes everything better nor one who promises a fairy-tale ending to every disappointment. No, my faith is in a God who promises to be present — in the midst of pain and awfulness, sorrow and loss. 'I will be with you' is the simple promise that runs through the Bible. Perhaps this promise of an ever-present love, once shown on a cross on a hill 2000 years ago is also found in a cross shining in the midst of a burnt-out church. Perhaps this is a promise for us too — whoever we are and whatever we are dealing with. May we find hope & strength in the one who promises to be with us.

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