Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sitting on the Steps of St. Paul's

Today was a brilliantly sunny London day. It was lunch time, and for Londoners, apparently sunshine is a rare commodity. Everyone in the central business district, who could get out, got outside for the lunch hour.

And where do these hundreds flock on a sunny day like today? Given that the London Stock Exchange is one block north, and there are not many large parks in this part of
town, one of the few large open spaces in London turns out to be the steps of St. Paul's. A church.

These Londoners were having their lunch, enjoying small talk with friends, reading a book or magazine in solitude, or just watching the people go by, all on the steps of a church. On the steps, outside.

And likely, I thought, probably oblivious to the church behind them, the history of what lay inside, and maybe even of the God for whom this great church was, at least originally, built. Oh, that those hundreds might come inside, and behold the beauty! That the church might love them so, that they felt drawn inside.

But after all now, really, its just a church.

Perhaps this struck me, as I know that much of the time, I am oblivious too. I have no clue, no idea of what might be going on, even right behind me. But on this day, frankly, there was not much going on inside that church; just a bunch of us tourists taking in the historic sights. I must admit I feel a bit sad to know that a part of the church universal is best known as a form of history museum, as is St. Paul's. I longed to know more of what the people and pastors of this church were doing to love their great city in a real way for a very real Christ.

As I was inside St. Paul's, walking through the crypt's, viewing the graves of British history, I came upon a tour group viewing the statue of a gaunt man, posed in a shroud of sorts. This was John Donne, who lead a remarkable life, and was actually the Dean of St. Paul's from 1621 to 1631, the year of his death.

As I stood and listened, the tour guide repeated, from memory, these words of John Donne, now immortal in history:

" No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
As I stood and listened to these words, I thought of the hundreds sitting outside in the sun. I thought about myself, and my weak attempts to live out a gospel that is real. I am a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

I want to do better with my little piece of land. To till the earth and make it bloom, and to show that garden to others, that they might behold the Beauty of the Creator.

That we all, together, might not be so oblivious.
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