As I write to you today, I am at the foot of the Sangre De Cristo mountains in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a lovely Fall morning here, with clear skies. I’m lodging in downtown Santa Fe, and my balcony has a magnificent view of the town and the mountains beyond. I chose Santa Fe for some R & R for several reasons.
I wanted to find a place that I could comfortably drive to, as I continue to observe Covid-19 safety protocols. I wanted to visit someplace I had never been before. I wanted a place with a unique history and culture. I think I hit the jackpot in coming to Santa Fe. The weather is glorious, the culture is thick and unique in every place I look, and the history is amazing.
My favorite among all the saints in the Catholic Church is Saint Francis. I read about him when I was a young boy in elementary school. He fascinated me then because of his mythic ability to relate to animals. Its been said he could talk and relate to the animals in nature. He considered them his sisters and brothers, as he did everything in all of creation. Francis was probably the first ecologist!
Much to my surprise, Santa Fe is named after Saint Francis, and was in large part settled by Franciscan Friars who entered New Mexico in 1598 with some Spanish colonists from Mexico. The city was founded in 1610! Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States and the second oldest city.
I have a clear view of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis from my balcony, and I hear the bells as they toll in the evening. It is an amazingly calming and meditative experience. The original church was built of adobe in 1610. There were several succeeding churches built for various reasons, but the church that stands today was built in 1869. The interesting thing I found is, the current church building is built out of stone and was built around the then adobe church. When the current church was completed, the old church was torn down and carried out of the front doors of the church.
Reading the history of the town was interesting, reading the history of the church has been very thought provoking. What can we take away from this church history? The church has stood the test of time. One of its sanctuaries was destroyed in a Pueblo indigenous people revolt. For many reasons, the church has had to weather its fair share of adversity, and yet it remains. The church has stood on its same ground from its beginnings. When the church evolved and grew, it replaced its old self, with a new self. Not only replacing it, but carrying it out its front doors for all the world to see.
Somewhere in all of this is a word for us today. In the midst of the adversity we are facing, we must continue to be the church for our community. We must represent Jesus in all we say and do. When storms arose, Jesus remained calm and was able to provide an assuring presence to his disciples. We, as Christ followers, we are to strive to be a calming presence in our circles of influence. Assuring those around us, God is in control and we will stand through this time. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know in that future God will be with us. We don’t know what our worship life will be like, how our witness will need to adapt and change. We do know whatever changes we will need to go through, God will guide us and inform us. When we gather again in person, we may indeed be carrying the old church out of our front doors. We will be saying to our community, we are a new and battle-tested people who have a witness for all. We can say we have stood the test of time and adversity, and we are still here. I hope and pray that idea doesn’t distress or frighten any of you. We will be a stronger and more viable witness for Jesus Christ than we’ve ever been. We will be able to tell our story of how we came through a mighty difficult time, and how our God has continually been with us.
Those who built the Basilica here in Santa Fe did not change their beliefs when they built the current structure. They built on those beliefs, and then by carrying the old church out of the front doors, they were saying to the world, “Look, our faith is stronger. We want the world to know we are still here. We are new in many ways, but in the most important ways, we are an enduring presence.”
This is our word today. We are an enduring presence in our community, and when we gather again, we will proclaim our witness louder than ever before.
I love and miss all of you so very much. When at last we are able to meet again face to face, I know our tears of joy will flow freely. I know our hearts will be full of rejoicing. I know our witness will be stronger. Most of all, I know the world around us will know and understand that our love has been taken to new heights, but it remains a love without exception.
Walking The Way of Jesus with you,