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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!


Finding Hope in Notre Dame

Crying for a building? This is ridiculous, I thought, as I watched the dreadful sight of Notre Dame’s spire, blackened by the engulfing flames. But the whole world seemed to be grieving too.

I had fresh empathy for the Israelites who wept over a building. Like Paris’ cathedral, Solomon’s temple appeared indestructible throughout generations: the unmissable stop on a visit to the capital; the emblem of their country and identity; a place to marvel at the beauty and meet with God.

It would always be there – until it wasn’t.

Some people draw hope from other restored cathedrals – Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand, after the earthquake, and Coventry Cathedral after the blitz, for example.

When these buildings are rebuilt it’s bittersweet. Zerubbabel cheers at the foundations of the second temple, but the older community weeps, perhaps because they knew the glory of the original (Ezra 3:12).

Before his death, Jesus compared his body to a destroyed temple, promising to restore it in three days. His hearers protested – how could something that took as long to build as a temple be restored in three days? Looking at Notre Dame today, we feel the outrageousness of the claim.

Then, when Jesus was crucified and the temple of his body destroyed, his disciples were horrified and fled. The impossible had happened.

This time there was no hope of restoration, for death of a person is greater than the death of a building.

And yet, there is hope. That first Easter Sunday, everything changed – Jesus had not been resuscitated but resurrected, better than before. It was the first time a temple had been destroyed and truly returned with more glory.

In this world, impossible horrors happen daily: centuries of careful preservation are undone in a day; beautiful and seemingly permanent things like buildings, marriages, or health disappear overnight. We are right to lament them.

Jesus’ resurrection reverses the trend: the replacement is more glorious than the former. In heaven, there’ll be no more sickness, carelessness, faithlessness, sorrow. Rather, we anticipate God’s unending, brilliant presence in a city built of jewels: more secure and more beautiful than any we’ve known before.

Though we may grieve Notre Dame and all it represents, we look to Jesus, a temple destroyed but – impossibly – resurrected, renewed, restored with greater glory for all eternity. This is where hope lies.


Tanya Marlow
Tanya is the author of Those Who Wait – Finding God in disappointment, doubt and delay. Follow her writing and get a free book at TanyaMarlow.com

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  1. This is a bit nit- picking, but Christchurch NZ has not been restored yet.
    There has been uncomfortable discussions for years as to how to replace or retire the building. Many are sad that it is to be restored not transformed.
    I have not missed the real heart of your message though!

    By Helen Taylor  -  19 Apr 2019
  2. Extremely perceptive and apposite to remind us of Jesus’ metaphor for the temple / his body.

    ..and what a glorious realization and reminder of the power of the resurrection.

    Thank you!

    By Justin  -  19 Apr 2019
  3. Beautiful, Tanya. Brought tears to my eyes on this Good Friday, as the fire at Notre Dame was very painful to me. Thank you.

    By Cynthia Tews  -  19 Apr 2019
  4. I had the same reaction as you, a largely secular country, mourning over a building.
    I think we spend way too much time and money honoring our idols with statues and memorials,
    and building extravagant buildings that are little more than tourist attractions.

    By Frank Osborne  -  19 Apr 2019
  5. Thank you, Tanya, for this timely writing that takes the tragedy of Notre Dame as its starting point yet finishes with a temple that will never be ruined; a reminder of the glorious perfect restoration of Jesus’ body through His resurrection – no blemish, no mark – but renewed for eternity.

    By Fraser  -  21 Apr 2019
  6. Helen, if the building is owned by a diocese or Synod (I’m in the US and don’t know the affiliation of Christchurch NZ) it is the decision of the presiders as to how to go about restoring or closing a church.

    As a certified professional transitional minister (aka a trained interim)- now retired- I can tell you it’s no easy decision to close a church. I can name 4- there were 5 but one collapsed- empty boarded up buildings in one rural town 60 km north of here that no decision was ever made on, and so they sit, crumbling, as the people move on.

    There’s a saying in the States: ”We’ve never done it that way before”.
    Known as “The 7 deadly words” they can paralyze a congregation into doing nothing until it’s too late. And, as far as ancestral history is concerned; it may never change.

    By Rev Andrea Stoeckel  -  21 Apr 2019

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