New and Next, or Old and Grounding
There were shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. – Luke 2:8 (NIV)
After the smoke cleared on April 16, 2019, and nothing of the roof and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral were left, the debate began immediately. Should the cathedral be restored back to the state of its 1859 renovation, or should something new and different go up? Should the church and state conspire to give a new picture of a new earth and opportunize the fire architecturally and spiritually?
Do strange accidents change us and make us more watchful, or do we just go back to our normal haze? Does a pandemic convince us to work and live differently, or do we pace anxiously until the previous state of things is restored?
Do the big dreams keep us focused on incremental possibilities? Or just distract us from everyday care of everyday wear?
Do these questions matter to people, tending the flocks we have, the obligations already made, the debts already accrued, the children already born, the spires we already have? Why bother with big thoughts when there are so many sheep in so many fields that need watching?
Why not just repeat the sounding joy as a vocation – and forget about the big unifying cultural and political questions? Why bother with art? Or ecology? Or saving the environment from the next big fires that are surely on the horizon?
Large and small are always false binaries. While we watch in the field by night, we can also stare at the stars.
Give us a little picture of a large hope, O God, and do it nightly or at least every other night. Build a new cathedral within us and in our fields and in our cities. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.