It’s at the heart of who we are as human beings. “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” perhaps Charles Wesley’s most famous hymn, was sung yesterday by millions of Christians around the world. But this is this phrase of the hymn that got to me on Easter, “Made Like Him, Like Him We Rise.”
It was a week ago, the Monday of Holy Week, when we first heard the news that stopped us in our tracks. I was at the Iowa Conference Center when someone said, “Notre Dame Cathedral is on fire!” I wept when I saw the live footage of the fire online. “No, no! Not Notre Dame! Not during Holy Week! Please, God, protect the people, and spare the cathedral.”
Notre Dame “Our Lady” Cathedral is much more than a church. It is the heartbeat of Paris as well as of the Catholic Church and Christians worldwide. Just outside the cathedral is Point Zero, where a small plaque marks the exact geographic center of Paris. The construction of Notre Dame on a small island in the Seine River began in 1163 a.d. and was completed in 1345 a.d., almost two hundred years later. It is the epitome of Gothic architecture. 30,000 people visit Notre Dame Cathedral every single day, which adds up to 13 million visitors every year.
I have a deep spiritual connection with Notre Dame because I stayed in Paris for a week in November 2001 as part of a renewal leave. It was a tender time in my life and ministry, and because my hotel was very close to the cathedral, I was in the sanctuary every day praying. I also had the opportunity to attend a worship service and a Sunday afternoon recital on the magnificent organ, which has 8,000 pipes and, thanks be to God, was not destroyed and can be restored.
My heart joined the hearts of thousands of people who gathered around the cathedral to watch, wait, pray, and sing hymns. France is considered to be a secular society, yet the traditions of the church run deep in the hearts of French citizens. As I followed the progress of the fire and kept hearing people say, “We will rebuild,” I couldn’t help but sing to myself, “Made like him, like him we rise.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has inspired countless people through the centuries to practice resurrection in their own lives, including ensuring that Notre Dame will rise again. The pictures and stories have left indelible marks on all of us.
- Four hundred firefighters battled the blaze for nine hours, with no deaths and only one serious injury.
- Most of the cathedral is stone, which is imperviousness to fire, but the roof and spire that was added in the 19th century were made of wood and burned quickly.
- In the battle to save priceless relics, including the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus on the cross, members of the church and other volunteers formed a human chain. The person at the front of the line, who was most at risk, was Father Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.
- French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt in five years, and as of the time of this posting, over a billion dollars has been pledged toward the reconstruction. Despite backlash that the money raised might be better used to help the poor and homeless in France, there is also sentiment that the cathedral is a symbol of hope not only in France but around the world and should be rebuilt.
- The scene in Paris reminded me and I am sure, many others, of September 11, 2001. Last week, both One World Trade Center and the spire of the Empire State Building in New York City were lit up in blue, white, and red, in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in France.
Notre Dame Cathedral will rise again. Made like Him, like Him we rise. Out of sorrow will come hope, out of death resurrection.
But something else happened a week ago that brought the same words to my lips. On Sunday, April 14, Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament, one of four “major” golf tournaments during the course of the year. This was the fifth time Woods won the winner’s “green jacket” at the Masters, but it had been eleven years since he had last won a major.
In November 2009, Tiger Woods’ life imploded. After Tiger had been injured in a car accident near his Florida home, it was reported that he had been having serial affairs with many women. Woods eventually released a statement that he had not been true to his values and let his family down. He lost his sponsors, announced he was taking an “indefinite break” from golf, entered inpatient therapy, and was divorced from his wife. In 2017 Woods had his fourth back surgery and was also arrested for reckless driving and DUI. Toxicology reports showed five different drugs in his system.
After almost ten years of turmoil, Tiger’s determination not to give up on golf and work diligently on his personal and professional life culminated when he persevered in a tight battle and won the Masters. What a beautiful sight to see Tiger hugging his mother and his two children. When most people would have given up and retreated into obscurity, but Tiger kept working, practicing, and learning.
After Woods’ 2019 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, he said this about tying for 20th place, “It’s really hard to have mind, body, and soul come together at the same time.” It finally happened on April 14, when Tiger experienced resurrection. He never gave up or lost faith in himself, despite many dangers, toils, and snares. Made like Him, like Him we rise.
What does it take to rebuild a cathedral, a life, a reputation, a relationship, or a denomination? What does it take to rebuild trust, hope, or love? I am convinced that we human beings were created to rise: to rise from the ashes of disappointment, disillusionment, and despair. Our hope is in the One who loved us so much that he took upon himself the sins of the world, died on a cross, was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead.
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.