Comment from Ken:
For several months, I have wanted to talk about the church in Lebanon, New Hampshire that had been destroyed by an arsonist. Yet it seemed such a sad happening that I have hesitated to speak about it. We are week by week during Lent moving to the crucifixion of our Lord – perhaps that is the correct time to think about what is happening to His Church on earth.
So happy you are here waiting to walk with me. It is cloudy, but still it is somewhat warm today. It is a better day to walk than tomorrow because it is supposed to turn much colder again. Wasn’t yesterday, the first day of spring, a beautiful day – a sign of the days to come.
Just over the New Hampshire border in Vermont is located the King Arthur Flour Store. That is one of Dale’s favorite places to visit. Now I am certainly not going to complain about that for after visiting there, we come home to bake chocolate donuts, pumpkin pancakes (which Dale enjoys more than I do) and perhaps a cake mix or some other baking product that Dale wishes to try. Needless to say, my weight is a problem. Is that any wonder being married to an excellent baker? We visited there in the middle of January.
After we had made our purchases and headed back home, we went through Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire. Dale went to nursing school for a time at the Mary Hitchcock Hospital so that place always brings back memories to her, especially how she enjoyed walking for miles as a student when she had spare time.
As we drove along, we came across a devastating sight. It was a burned out church, the Baptist Church of Lebanon.
I had read about that fire and how it had been purposely set, and how the people were so saddened that their church had been destroyed. Now I understand there are plans to rebuild their church, but the church that had witnessed so many family happenings, the physical church was gone. All that was left was the framework of the building and some of the façade.
It was a beautiful clear day when we were in Lebanon, and there was a bright blue sky; you could see that sky through a huge windowless space. There was a framework where there had once been a stained glass window; I assume that it was a stained glass window. The top of the steeple was missing, and below where the steeple had been was a double door untouched by the fire. One door was open; the other one closed. Hung from the closed door was a Christmas wreath. There was no back to the church; it had all been burned away. We passed the church with saddened hearts and went to lunch. After lunch, we drove past the ruined church again, and I asked Dale to take a picture. Then with that image in our minds, we drove home to Hopkinton.
Over the weeks that we have been walking together, I have been going to talk about that church in Lebanon, for there is much to think about when you see a vacant burned out church. Here are some of my thoughts.
Even though their sacred place had burned down,the faithful immediately planned to rebuild their place of worship.
Looking upon the skeleton of that church and seeing the blue sky and the sunlight gave brought a reminder that the church is not just a physical building, it is a spiritual building as well. The people form the church of Jesus Christ – “a building not made with hands.”
I do not know if one of the doors was left open on purpose, but it certainly symbolized the fact that all are welcome in the Christian church, and the wreath on the other door spoke words about the birth of our Savior.
Another thought was that the church today is struggling. What will our society be like without the influence of the Christian faith? That burned church made this pastor look at how that physical church had been destroyed, and what happens if the church is not a part of our lives. I do not like to think about that for already there are strong signs of the church dying among the generations. More and more we are living in a self-centered society. The day of the “selfies”, of letting the world go around you promoted in advertisements, of isolating yourself from face to face relationships with others by texting rather than speaking on a telephone are so much a part of society.. Now this is not a judgment upon technology; it is a condemnation of isolation and self-interest.
So many times I have said to couples that are going to be married that church should be a part of their lives. Perhaps one does not need to attend every Sunday – do not quote me – but one should go often enough to let the life of Jesus become a part of their lives. When you hear of such a kind and wonderful man, “a prince of peace, a wonderful counselor, an everlasting father” when you hear of his life, how can you be thinking of yourself? Here was this wonderful God given Son, and people turned against him. We are in the time of Lent, and as we come closer to Easter, we have to face again Jesus’ crucifixion; a perfect child of God – an innocent person – so cruelly executed. Witnessing the life of our Lord makes us forget self and remember we are here to love our God and our neighbors as ourselves.
A church, a Chapel, needs to be a part of our lives. We need to support our church as so many promised when they became members of the church – “To uphold the church by our attendance, our prayers, our gifts and our service.” We must not look upon that burned church in Lebanon and see that as a symbol of a dying church in our lives. Rather, we must see it as a challenge to keep our Savior’s teachings and life ever before us that generation after generation we may work to build God’s Kingdom upon this earth, a kingdom of love and peace.
Good and Wonderful God, our Father, we ask for Your power and help that we might rebuild the church of Your Son Jesus Christ. We live in a society where one thinks first of oneself and not of others. Our beloved church communities have kept alive the commandments that bring happiness to society, the sense of sacrifice for the good of all, the belief in love of neighbors, and those beliefs must not die. As much as it pains us, may we look upon the cross of Jesus and see His love and a compassion for even those who crucified Him, and may we seek to follow His teachings with courage and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Until our next walk – “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”