The Church by the Bridge - 100 Years of Good News
22nd February 2024
During half-term I had the privilege of visiting Rome. We walked for miles, 95,646 steps to be precise, in the three days we were there, and yet amazingly every step revealed another unexpected corner of Rome which as a city turns out to be incredibly multi-layered. Multi-layered in terms of ancient and new co-existing next to each other. The 2,000-year old Pantheon right next door to a church dedicated to St Ignatius of Loyola right next to a residential property and shop selling shirts and bags. It is also multilayered in terms of visiting and living people. Every nation, race and colour seems to be represented, mingling peacefully with and around each other.
Rome is not only horizontally multi-layered, but also vertically so. A 2000-year plus temple built on top of a Roman villa complete with fountain above which a fourth century church is built whose pillars complete with frescos (pictures set in plaster), support an 11th century church which is built above that one. Impressive!
Amongst the many churches visited, we encountered forms of worship that are alien to our tradition. The presentation of this relic or that, the placing of long-dead pope in a glass coffin for everyone to view and the graphic display of martyr witnesses, is not something we practise, but it is probably not bad to be reminded of the sacrificial faith so many saints (small ‘s’) practised in the effort to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ – and continue to do so to this day the world over.
What comes across though, is that underlying much of these expressions of worship is the sincere faith of all the saints, past and present, who put Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords at the centre of everything and want to give glory to Him in all they do. The Apostle Peter who might be buried 9 metres below the great dome of St Peter, made it in his letter to the scattered churches of his time very clear on whom the church is to be built and our roles within it. He wrote this in 1 Peter 2:4-6:
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
There is much in Rome which appears odd, debatable or simply heathen. Yet, Rome is also a city where many devout followers of Christ, saints of old and present, want the world to see an alternative to current Zeitgeist narrative. An alternative that is built on Jesus Christ who gives eternal hope.
We can pray that all these people that flock to Rome from all over the world to see these edifices built to the glory of God actually meet the living God there.
We may not be living ourselves in Rome, however we certainly can allow ourselves to be built into spiritual houses distributing the inviting aroma of Jesus all around us.
Have a blessed week.