We all have the iconic images etched into our minds eye of Notre-Dame de Paris in flames. A catastrophe on such a scale afflicting such a world-famous site evokes deep mourning in us for the loss of important heritage. However, the world will rally, and is indeed as I write already rallying to the cause of rebuilding Our Lady of Paris.
Perhaps less familiar to us is the picture appearing opposite my words. This is the church of St Mary Baptist, Port Barre, LA which was burned in an act of arson on March 26
. Since then two other historically Black churches have also burned and these events evoke the deepest shame recalling the reign of terror of the Jim Crow decades.
We may want to contribute to the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, but remember charity begins at home, and with a much smaller target in terms of fundraising we can at the same time signal our commitment to -never again - in reference to the dark national history of racism.
In Holy Week we trace Jesus’s journey from the judgement hall to the cross. We have a tendency to want to keep this as a private and internal journey – a spiritual journey made in our hearts and imaginations. But the events of Holy Week culminating on Good Friday, were very public events with a huge political implication. God’s purpose for Jesus is worked out painful step after painful step not in the privacy of the spiritual imagination but in the public glare of politics as the political forces of Roman oppression find invidious alliance with the religious oppression of the Temple Authorities. Both represent in our own day the collusion between the politics of oppression and exclusion and a religious system that seeks through the exercise of naked power to impose its own grotesque version of the gospel on the conscience of the nation. You see, centuries may pass but unless we are vigilant - systems remain the same.
In Holy Week, we witness something all too familiar to us in our own time- the intersection of the story lines of political and religious oppression, clashing with a popular longing for liberation at whatever cost. It is into this volatile mix that a third story line comes into play -the story of God’s love for the world expressed through the events of Good Friday and Easter Day. Which story line has most influence over you?
for background on the Louisiana church burnings and
for the link to the go-fund-me site where you can contribute to the Louisiana churches rebuilding.
Keep an eye out for E-blast messages on times and descriptions of services coming up over the Great Three Days of Easter at St Martin’s. Hope to see you there!