Some time ago we had a beautiful letter from Ann Johnson, a former member of the church we served and who now resides in Nacogdoches, Texas, but at the time this took place they lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the letter Ann told of seeing a beautiful Cathedral burning in the city. The sadness of the occasion rather matched her feelings of loneliness in a new country with all her friends back here in the states, and only her family that gave her any consolation, and even then, Tommy, her husband, was working much of the time. The next day after the fire, Ann went down to view the ruins of the great church. There in front of the ruins was a rugged cross, constructed from the charred timbers of the Church. A sign that hung from the Cross simply said, "HOPE RISES FROM THE ASHES". Ann reported that this tremendous message gave her new courage and confidence that led her to meet many new friends. After that occasion Ann's experience of new hope and faith led her to many varied experiences--one experience was representing Morningside Baptist Church (the church that burned) in an ecumenical meeting. She had to read a statement from the church and Kanina, her daughter. reported that everyone really paid attention when she started reading with her Texas drawl. So here was a Methodist, representing a Baptist Church in an ecumenical meeting. When Jesus is Lord, denominational lines are not nearly so important.
To me, the message of that Church, "Hope rises from the Ashes" is an expression of true Christian faith amidst difficult experiences of life. There are times when all of us seem to view life through the ashes of despair--but the Christian, with faith in Jesus Christ to guide--can see through the ashes a reconstructed life--a new dimension of hope. This is what Christianity is all about.
One of the members of that church, Emily McNicol, wrote the following poem:
"Hope rises from the Ashes" Gives me food for thought. Our Baptist Church none passes without looking, and thinking a lot. Although we're not sure what we shall do, We know our Saviour shall see us through, The fire itself has made our bond strong, And having faith has helped us along. Life has to go on, it is God's Will, Our church may be burnt, but we don't stand still, God will surely guide us in all our plans, And with that knowledge, we're in good hands. God is hope and peace – Amen. Never let us forget, Christ died for us and rose again, Praise God, through him we met.
The pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in summing up the situation had these words to say, "We are being thrown back on our faith, from which we can stride forward in hope. We cannot go back, life in the church can never be quite the same again. We stand on the threshold of what could be the most exciting period in the Church’s history. Pray for the vision to seize the opportunity and so create a Christian witness which will draw many to a living faith now and prepare the way for future generations."
"Look backward with gratitude Look onward with hope Look upward with confidence."
To see the witness of a church who stands together under the shadow of the Cross brings inspiration to our hearts. Across many miles, we have joined them in prayer. Across denominational lines we have joined them in love. May we let the witness of God's spirit speak to our hearts that we may join them in faith. Jesus Christ is God's answer in a needy world -- even through ashes -- God's light continues to shine.