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After the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris: A few words, a prayer, and a hymn.

April 16, 2019

Last night at Grace, we were blessed to host a performance of Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ.” Several hours prior to the concert, Pastor Michael Costello, Grace Cantor, wisely suggested that we find a way to make mention of the fire that was raging through Notre-Dame de Paris. Specifically, he suggested that I offer a few words and a prayer, after which we would sing Nikolai F.S. Grundtvig’s hymn, “Built on a Rock.” This morning we wake to pieces of good news. Much has been saved from the fire. Thanks be to God, and to those who fought the flames. Here are the words that I offered:

Suspended in this moment, that was meant to be the end of our program. I know you share my gratitude for the marvelous artistry of the Kontras Quartet and for the words of our narrators. The events of this day, however, seem to demand something more. This afternoon we, with people around the world, watched as Notre-Dame de Paris burned. Since the foundation was laid in the twelfth century, Notre-Dame has been an architectural marvel and a beacon of hope shining in Jesus’ name. I sat in my office near this steeple, in this cathedral of sorts, watching live as their steeple burned and toppled over into the rising flames.

Whatever remains, whatever is rebuilt, we grieve that what once was will never be again. Not in the same way. With the people of France; with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers; with those who have entered Notre-Dame over the centuries to be refreshed; with those who will now never have the chance, we grieve. Much was lost today. And of course there were other losses today. Other griefs. Other tragedies and disasters.

But today, on this Monday in Holy Week, we also proclaim that we worship the God of new life, who brings hope in the midst of despair, who creates new life after death. We remember that the true church is not built with human hands, no matter how glorious; it is built on the stone that was rejected, Jesus Christ, our foundation and cornerstone. In this Holy Week we remember that he, too, was once destroyed. And yet, he lives. So in him, we hope.

As they watched their cathedral burn, the people of Paris started to sing. Songs of hope, lifted against the smoke and flame. Songs of praise rising higher than any fire. Songs of life that God promises to hear. And so we, too, will sing, joining our voices to the great chorus of the church that is not a building, but is the very body of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. But first, we pray:

“God of hope, bring comfort to those who mourn the loss of Notre-Dame. Give courage to those who flight the flames, healing to those who have been hurt, and the resilience to build something new to your glory. Grant mercy and grace to those whose suffering today is not newsworthy, but is nevertheless real and known to you. Fill our churches with hope, and transform us into living stones who show forth the gospel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Please turn to hymn number 365 in the green Lutheran Book of Worship, as together we stand and sing:


Built on a rock the Church shall stand, even when steeples are falling;

Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land, bells still are chiming and calling-

Calling the young and old to rest, calling the souls of those distressed,

Longing for life everlasting.


If, in the wake of this fire, you feel called to help, I humbly suggest making a donation to help rebuild three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish that were destroyed by arson. You can find more information, including how to give, here.

From → Odds and Ends

  1. Glenda Poole permalink

    Dot, I receive messages from our former pastor at the church we attended at Pawley’s Island. This was so especially meaningful, I wanted to share it with you. Hope you find solace in the message.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Bill Shoup permalink

    Thanks you………..God bless!

  3. Resi Thomas permalink

    Truly an inspirational post,- thank you, Dave!

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