The Burning Question of Notre Dame

We couldn’t believe our eyes as we watched the grand lady of Paris engulfed and teetering in flames yesterday. Many of us probably remembered when we walked beneath her intricately carved roof and walls admiring craftsmanship over so many years. I was a hungry and penniless student in 1975 when I climbed her iconic towers and shared a magnificent view of Paris with those rather grotesque gargoyles.

View-from-Notre-Dame-Towers.jpg 2

And now, in the blink of an eye, and the spark of a flame, destruction explodes. All reports today commend the bravery of firefighters for risking their lives to save as much as possible of the historic cathedral. And it appears they’ve done a magnificent job and there is much to rebuild upon. Someone said that the twelve disciples around the fallen spire were removed last month for restoration and other priceless objects along with them because of the projects underway.

The flames of Notre Dame were a sudden and unexpected crisis. Life happens, accidents abound, and tragedy is woven into the fabric of our shared history. But consider the contrasts of two world leaders in responding to such a crisis. The Prime Minister of France, Emmanuel Macron, travelled immediately to the site, cancelled a political broadcast, and spoke about ‘how we all suffer as a part of ourselves is burning.” Later he would broadcast that France has endured many hardships over the centuries and vowed that “we will come together to rebuild”. He praised those who fought the fire with courage and in a manner that saved the walls and much that could be salvaged and used in the reconstruction, “that will be more beautiful than ever,” Macron declared.

Macron at N D

President Trump tweeted that action should be swift, no time to waste, send in the water bombers. Later a response was given that the use of such bombers could have been effective to extinguish the fire more swiftly and efficiently, but the impact would probably have reduced the building to rubble.

I don’t want to beat up on President Trump. But it’s an illustration of how the most obvious solution to a situation or crisis is not always the best. There are usually a variety of considerations to take into account.  At times our ‘swift action’ might destroy more than the offending fire could burn. Imagine standing in front of the rubble of Notre Dame proudly bragging of how quickly the fire was extinguished… but leaving nothing to rebuild.


We need one another, consultation, a variety of expertise and experience, easy and open communication, humility, and of course decisive and courageous action and implementation. Which is a long-winded way of encouraging us to listen and learn together. To be slower to have obvious answers for those around us, to reflect on the impact over the long term, and to invite the insights of others who have greater experience than we do. As the Farmers’ Insurance advert says, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”


And what tragic timing. The week leading into Easter; when God’s Son, Jesus, was engulfed in the flames of judgement on a Cross for us. The sins of the world ignited with greater intensity than those ancient beams of Notre Dame. The canopy of evil separating God and humanity was destroyed and the spire reaching to the sky declaring satan as all powerful came crashing down. Ironically through the events of Good Friday it appeared as if evil had triumphed. “But Sunday’s a-coming!”


No human hand, army, fire, or power can destroy what God has made. This Easter we have this tragic reminder of the frailty of earth and what we create. Yet at the same time we have a declaration of hope, resurrection, and passion to rebuild, renew, and restore to an even greater glory.

If we can do that with Notre Dame, how much more can God accomplish with us! Be hope filled. Sometimes our situation looks bad and we’re asking God to send the bombers. Instead we have a few measly hoses and we shake our head with unbelief and a wrong conclusion that He’s overlooked us and doesn’t care. His ways are not our ways and the outcome He desires for His beloved (you and me) often determines how He responds. Trusting in His response demands faith, patience, belief, and confidence that “Sunday’s a-coming” for me and my situation as well. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is our cornerstone, foundation, and historic evidence of His faithfulness.

If you who are evil know how to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, how much more…..” 🙂 (Matthew 7:11)

Christ is Risen


Need someone to talk to, listen, be encouraged to navigate your present and your future? Go to Little Mountain Counselling to find out more. Not a hopeless end, but endless hope.


John Cox

Christian Author

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