As a youngster, all I knew about church architecture was the austere interior of our little Plymouth Brethren assembly. But I sure learned a lot,
living in Europe for 20 years.During that time, my wife Heather and I explored majestic cathedrals, quiet monasteries and quaint chapels throughout France and beyond.I was struck by their beauty and ingenuity. We visited hundreds of such places of worship, from Paris’ Notre Dame to St. Peter’s in the Vatican, from the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
One of our favourite churches is the Sainte-Chapelle, on Île de la Cité in Paris. Built in the 13th century, it is a hidden gem in the heart of the city. Its 15 stained-glass windows, towering 15 metres high, depict over 1,000 Bible stories. The light floods into the chapel. Its ceiling towers above its very narrow nave. How, quite devoid of interior walls except for the stained glass, was the whole structure held up, especially with the weight of the leaded roof? The answer, of course, is the buttresses. Deep, yet simple. Built by design. Those powerful supports control, carry and constrain the downward force of gravity, allowing the light to pour in.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14, describing the ministry of reconciliation with which the Church has been entrusted, the Apostle Paul writes these words: “The love of Christ constrains us …” Translators have rendered the word ‘constrains’ (συνέχει) as carrying, supporting, compelling or urging. It literally means ‘to hold together’ or ‘to press upon’. In this passage, it means that the impelling force that supports and carries the Apostle is Christ’s love. His mission was both held up and held together, and he was urged forward, because of the agape love of Jesus for a broken world. (I love Mark Buchanan’s use of ‘unprovoked love’ for agape, described in his book Hidden in Plain Sight.)
Within our Canadian Baptist family, Rev. Roland Grimard was both embraced by and demonstrated such love. Roland was the head of the Union d’Églises Baptistes Francophones du Canada for many years. An astute businessman, counsellor, pastor and friend of many, Roland led with love, for his family, his church and his denomination. His warmth and smile were tireless, even as he bore the weight of the exhausting pressures of leadership. And as his body faded under the weight of a debilitating cancer, he never stopped embracing the love of Christ. It is what held his life and his mission together. (Roland went to be with the Lord on November 25, 2017.)
Over the past year, the pages of Mosaic have reminded us that our mission calls us to be both ‘embraced by’ and ‘to embrace’ faith and hope. This time around, we invite you to be embraced (let’s say constrained!) by love – Christ’s love. Jonathan Wilson, CBM’s newest Field Staff and one of Canada’s most noteworthy Christian thinkers, draws us into a deeper understanding of the intersection of love and mission. Kathleen Soucy describes how God’s love helped build latrines in El Salvador. Aaron Kenny shares how a partnership, borne out of a shared love for God and His people, drew CBM into a 40-year partnership with the Africa Brotherhood Church. You will enjoy and be challenged by each page. Because of the buttress of Christ’s love, the light pours in.
Let me conclude with a comment from Mother Theresa. Explaining the sacramental service of even the smallest gestures of compassion offered to the sick and dying in the streets of Kolkata, India, she said this: “We are not social workers… We do this (all) for the love of Jesus.” Or even more fittingly, these words of the Apostle Paul say it all: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal. 5:6)