They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage.They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new. (Isa. 61: 1-3)"
Listen to: For King and Country “It’s Not Over Yet”
Six days before Easter, the historic 146-year-old sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood was engulfed in flames and burnt to the ground. Ruled an accident, the fire destroyed a sacred space that held 700, Tiffany windows and a 4,114 pipe organ, intricate architecture and craftsmanship of a bygone era, including a 50-foot-high ceiling that curved into steeple like domes.
Stunned and grieving congregants recalled a spiritual home with over a century of blessed memories: where hundreds have been married, baptized, confirmed, and eulogized. Yet in the midst of the shock and tears, calls of support and help have poured in from rabbis, imams, and other religious bodies, as well as civic entities and concerned citizens across the county. Couples who planned to be married have told the church to keep their deposits toward rebuilding.
On Easter Sunday, held at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, the Pastor, Rev. Richard Hong, held up a discolored chancel cross that firefighters found in the ashes of the ruined sanctuary. Pastor Hong proclaimed:
“Under some circumstances you would look at it and call it tarnished,” Under these circumstances we call it beautiful. And that’s what faith does. And we remember that through it all, no matter what life throws at us, the cross continues to stand and we continue to look to it for our strength.”
The minister added:
“Along this journey we will encounter God in fresh new ways, many new places along the way will acquire meaning they did not have for us before, and on this journey our hearts will fill with wonder — we will experience resurrection.....We know that our future is out there.”
Sometimes our lives are touched by the fires of life. Stress or conflicts can raze family relationships or friendships. Financial or employment troubles or a health crisis can level us to our foundation. We stand in the rubble and wonder where to begin. We question if we can begin over and experience resurrection in the process.
Like the ancient myth of the phoenix, the long-living bird that is reborn from the ashes, so we too can rise again, as Jesus did on the resurrection. No matter what life throws as us, the images of the cross and empty tomb remind us from death and destruction life finds a way to continue. Jesus is the anchor in our heart that assures us of a new life. To be sure, one that is different from the past, but a new life all the same. Jesus calls us to embrace the change, the challenge, the new hopes and visions that emerges from ashes. From burial wrappings. From dramatically altered circumstances. The Holy Spirit says to us: you are not over yet. I have plans for you that you can’t yet imagine. So even sitting in ashes we are called to trust that something greater is about to happen. Cry and lament all we need to. But then, when God calls, arise, and start anew.
Where do we need to start over? From what ashes is God calling us to arise?
Prayer: God who brings life from the ashes: stir among the cinders of my life and transform me into something brave and beautiful so that I will stand once more and give you glory, Amen.