As most of you would know, we have been in Europe this past month, catching up with some family and friends and seeing some spectacular scenery. One of the highlights of the trip was being able to see the history of Europe, which included some of the early architecture, the narrow streets that are sprinkled with little shops and of course the Cathedrals.
Of all the Cathedrals seen, perhaps the Milan Cathedral was the most spectacular of all, at least from the outside. It took six centuries to complete. It's hard to imagine that people worked on that structure all their lives and many after doing so never saw it completed. Of course, many of these workers saw this as a service to God and hence were willing to commit their whole lives to these projects.
History has recorded that the indulgences demanded by the early Roman Church paid for these structures. Today, many of these Cathedrals have their doors open to the public, but most of them charge a price, from about five through to twenty euro or pounds for entry, depending on where you were. Much of those funds are used today to cover the expenses associated with maintaining these buildings.
One sad thing was to see that many of these churches, along with their lavish artefacts and beautiful paintings, still had crucifixes depicting a ‘dead’ Jesus on the cross. Some had little shopping (souvenir) areas inside the building where people could buy all sorts of memorabilia associated with the particular Cathedral. Perhaps one of the most disturbing things was to see the public invited to purchase a small candle for three euro, light it, say a prayer, and be given an assurance that their prayer would be heard for it would be carried on the wings of the saints.
There was only one church where we didn't see a crucifix and that was at St Peters in Geneva. Yet even there we were charged five euros to go up the tower for a view of the city. And then not to be out done, we were charged quite a bit more to see the Reformation Museum around the corner. This museum was very dated and had very little or no modern content at all. In some ways, it denied the reformational concept of an ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’ (a church always reforming).
However, we did have the opportunity to attend an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cambridge. We just loved being part of a fellowship where we could understand and hear faithful preaching, great singing and enjoy Christian fellowship (sometimes we forget how blessed we are to be able to enjoy this every week). This particular Sunday, they had a guest preacher for their previous minister (Iain Hamilton) had retired. When speaking to one of the elders afterwards, he remarked how difficult it was to find ministers who were willing to move to a new congregation and finding willing and gifted men for the eldership. Nothing new under the sun!
Anyhow, one thing became apparent and that is the need to pray for renewal and revival and may the Holy Spirit begin with us. We need to pray for a ‘new’ reformation where people will bow the knee before King Jesus and Him alone. We need to pray that people everywhere may understand that God is not concerned in the first place about bricks and mortar or gold-plated icons, but a heart that loves Him and desires wholeheartedly to worship Him for Who He is and all He has done, not least in sending His Son for our eternal salvation. To that end, may we always be seeking renewal and 'reforming' to reach the lost for Christ, to the glory of our Father in heaven. JZ