Luke 21 v 5 – 19
I watched a programme on television two or three weeks ago now, but it was on BBC 4 so I have been able to watch again twice on iPlayer. The programme is about the Cathedral at Notre Dame, which just over a year ago suffered devastating damage by fire. With the aid of computer generated images the programme explained the original design and construction of the building, the damage inflicted by the fire, and the work being carried to stabilise the structure before any remedial works can even begin.
The size of the building, which is over 850 years old, is impossible to imagine, even with the benefit of incredible computer images. It is 90m high, accommodates 9,000 worshippers, has 500 tons of timber (Oak) in the roof construction, and has two 68m high bell towers housing 8 bronze bells each weighing in at 4 tons.
The design of the cathedral is incredibly sophisticated; the vaulted roof pushes outwards onto the external walls which in turn are reinforced by buttress columns in order to resist the lateral forces. The building can then achieve equilibrium as long as both the walls and roof are intact, but the roof was completely destroyed so in theory the structure should have collapsed, it did not but it could at any time, even now.
The greatest loss was the 90m high timber with lead cladded spire that fell into the already hungry inferno that burnt the timber and melted the lead.
Some years ago I visited York Minster which has also been damaged by fire in the recent past. When I visited the remedial works had been completed but there was an exhibition containing photographs showing the damage after the fire, and as in Notre Dame, considerable damage was done to the roof which put the entire building in jeopardy.
Obviously God’s hand has been evident in the saving of these buildings.
I had another example while on holiday some years ago on the island of Malta. We visited the Basilica at Mosta which had an incredible story to tell.
On April 9th 1942, two German bombs were dropped onto the Basilica at Mosta at the time when 250 worshippers were attending a service. One bomb clipped the tower and ricochet off into the surrounding area. The second crashed through the roof and landed on the Marble floor spinning around the worshippers. Neither bomb exploded, and they were successfully defused by British military. The roof was repaired and now a replica of the bomb is on display to remind worshippers of God’s miracle at Mosta.
In William Golding’s controversially disturbing novel ‘The Spire’ the story revolves around the building of a medieval Cathedral Spire bigger and higher than any other ever built, and the effect the project has on the lives and emotions of those people involved. The spire was to be a landmark to which people would be drawn in fact at one stage of the construction the main character Dean Jocelin, realises that villagers were changing the traditional paths leading to the village to new paths leading towards the spire.
I can imagine how the disciples would have been awestruck by the size and opulence of the Temple in Jerusalem as they walked through it with Jesus. After all they were Galilean’s more familiar with rural scenes rather than with this gigantic structure with its gold decorations and marble pillars.
It was truly a landmark for the Jewish nation
Jesus was realistic and prophesised that all this splendour would be destroyed and not a stone left standing, an event that came to pass in AD 70.
The landmark was about to change from the physical landmark represented by the temple to the spiritual landmark which is Jesus himself.
The medieval spire guided the traveller on their physical journey but it is Jesus who guides us on our spiritual journey through life, no matter how our journey meanders, how steep the path becomes, and how uncertain our future may be over the horizon, Jesus is there walking with us taking our hand to guide us.
The believers in the early church did not have a temple or a church building, they met in their homes or outside in the open. Their spire was the Holy Spirit and their landmark was Jesus Christ.
I thought of all the Cathedrals that I have visited, Mosta, York, Lincoln, Southwell, Coventry, Derby, St., Pauls and others. All have survived fires, social and religious unrest, Civil War, World wars, several plagues, and will survive Coronavirus. What we must do is concentrate on the landmark that towers over all others, the Spire above all Spires; – Jesus Christ.