Terror attacks on worshipers are not a new phenomenon. Through the centuries plenty of churches, mosques and temples have been burned and destroyed, but what are we to make of this glut of killing, burning, destruction and even accidents that are pervading the global worship landscape right now?
What does a burning cathedral last week have to do with a vicious mass slaying in a mosque in Christchurch last month? And, on the same day the Notre Dame inferno began, another sacred space dedicated to worship caught fire – Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Yes, it was a different faith and the fire wasn’t severe and quickly extinguished but at least one reported was quick to call it ‘an eerie coincidence.’
And then. last night, Easter Sunday worshipers in Sri Lanka were killed in large numbers as churches (and hotels) became a place of slaughter and destruction.
One thing is clear – behind whoever and whatever is physically responsible for all of these incidents, some force has risen to a new place of power and prominence—an arch-demon who detests worship of any form or faith, one that cannot stand places of worship or worshipers of any kind or creed.
It is instinctive to recoil when we hear of one place after another experiencing such tragedy and trauma. And the only thing that speaks hope into the growing dread is the progressive rule and reign of Christ.
What we are looking at, is a changing of the guard within the kingdom of darkness. One enemy falls and another rises. When an evil throne’s previous occupant is subdued, placed under the feet of Jesus, another will always rise, bringing their own distinctive stench to the role. And yet, each will eventually find their terrible wills subverted, their heads and knees bowed low, and their tyranny cut short. One by one, every form of evil will be removed from the board like pawns expended in a cosmic contest for dominion on the earth.
It’s time to pause in thankfulness and worship.
The beauty of Notre Dame lies in a smoking ruin and the death toll rises around the globe, and while the people of the world rise to condemn the atrocities, adjust gun laws and pledge to rebuild, the worshiping people of God must take a more nuanced response. An unseen evil entity has set his face against worship. Its reach is global, and the label on the door of the mosque or church or temple in his sights is of little concern to him. This spirit is determined to shut down the aroma of worship in the world, regardless of its flavor. This is a spirit repulsed by worship; to him, worship is toxic - and therein lies our clue!
Worship will be his downfall!
God is calling us to rise as worshippers unbowed by any threat, to extend the concept of sacred space to every surface of the earth, to touch heaven’s heights in ways that are beyond the reach of evil. There's a way to overcome this enemy and it's by taking our worship into the open, by dancing before the Lord on windswept hillsides, by lifting up praise to Him amongst the business of city squares or council parks, by falling on our face before him late at night between the dining table and a lounge chair, between the dishwasher that is yet to be loaded and the bookwork that is a month overdue.
The most effective response we can have right now is to bring our worship with its sweet savor to God, past all the distractions and obstacles of the here and now, into a place of worship made without human hands. And as we do, yet another principality or power will be subverted; his dominion will be short-lived, his demise will come and we move ever closer to the day when every wrong will be set right.