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Resurrection Through Symbols: From Notre Dame to Louisiana

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Shocked residents looked on in horror as flames and smoked billowed from the roof of the 800-year-old structure of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The iconic Paris landscape was forever changed as the beautiful spire collapsed inside the cathedral on Monday evening.

As night fell, crowds started gathering in the streets of Paris singing hymns to comfort their grief and offer hope for the future.

Within hours of the tragedy, France’s President Emmanuel Macron was already making statements about reconstruction.

In addition, the Catholic Church, French businesses and citizens pledged their support.

As the embers glowed in the night sky, plans were already underway: Parisians would rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

After great loss, reconstructing symbols is important. Suffering the loss of significant symbols has always been a devastating moment for people.

The British rebuilt London after suffering the bombings of the German Blitz during World War II.

Americans were determined to rebuild in New York after the World Trade Center twin towers were destroyed by terrorists.

Italians rallied to reconstruct basilicas when an earthquake devastated them in 2016.

When people lose significant symbols that have deep meaning, they naturally desire to resurrect them.

This is the gospel of life.

When death calls, humans mourn their loss but quickly redirect focus by clinging to new life.

As Holy Week enters the holiest days, the world is reminded that with death comes new life.

The Apostle Peter declared, “Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. By his wounds, we are healed. By his death, we have life.

The cross was meant to be a symbol of death and power by the Romans, but Jesus recast it as an instrument to bring life and hope.

This is resurrection.

When something is destroyed, we rebuild it.

When someone is devalued, we build them up.

When a situation is derailed, we work to get it back on track.

When the sacred is desecrated, we wash and renew through baptism.

As the world watched and mourned the loss of Notre Dame Cathedral this week, my mind began to think about other churches that were burned recently.

An arsonist destroyed three churches affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. All three churches had predominantly African-American membership, leaving authorities to believe the arsons were hate crimes.

These black churches do not have the same financial resources that Notre Dame possesses, but these congregations have something more valuable than money: the spirit of resurrection.

Rev. Harry J. Richard, pastor of the Greater Union Baptist Church, told the New York Times, “They burned down a building. They did not burn down our spirit.”

Symbols are important to us all. They were certainly important to Jesus and the first-century Christians – so much so that they recast Rome’s destructive symbols into symbols of hope and new life.

All the symbols of Holy Week bring us to resurrection: the donkey, the basin of water, the bread, the pitcher of wine, the whip, the crown of thorns, the cross, the nails and the empty tomb.

All were important and needed.

During Holy Week, let’s come together as a Christian community and practice resurrection. As both Parisians and black Baptists continue to mourn the loss of their precious symbols, let us join with them to help rebuild.

A Go Fund Me campaign was set up here by the Seventh District Baptist Association to receive donations to help the three congregations rebuild.

Donations to support Notre Dame Cathedral can be made here to the Friends of Notre Dame De Paris, an organization established in 2016 by the archbishop of Paris, in concert with the Diocese of Paris.

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is executive director of EthicsDaily.com.