A Shadow in NOLA
May 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, where a dear friend pastors in New Orleans (NOLA) – his church web site is listed among the other sites on this blog. It was a beautiful experience where people and neighborhoods and a city live in constant convergence and community.
It just so happens that I was there during Jazz Fest, a nine-day citywide celebration that spans two weekends and is literally spread throughout the entire city. Let me tell you, the music is amazing. And what made the weekend all the more special is that our daughters drove over from Pensacola, Florida, where they attend college, in order to hang out with the ‘old man’ (that would be me).
Needless to say, the experience of spending time with the Redeemer church community, its pastors, taking in the music, not to mention eating the out-of-this world NOLA cuisine, and then to be with our precious daughters, all made for an unforgettable experience.
On Friday evening, as we made our way through the French Quarter in order to see a particular jazz group, we came upon the St. Louis Cathedral, the ‘oldest continuously operating cathedral’ in the US. Amazingly, the first structure on the site was built in 1718, the year New Orleans was established by the French. It is a magnificent structure on the NOLA skyline, set before the great Mississippi River and standing as a presence at the entry of the famous Quarter.
The picture before you is taken from the back of the Cathedral, a small gated courtyard and a non-descript structure on what could easily be considered a sometimes-dangerous city backstreet that connects relatively unlit alleys.
What stands out is the obvious – the statue of Jesus. But it isn’t only Jesus – It is the shadow His image casts in the face of a spotlight that is fixed on the building behind the sculpture.
It is striking to say the least, and when we first came upon it, I was struck, not only by its splendor, but also by its symbolism – because here in a city known for its beauty and culture, along with its recent history of destruction and violence, is a lovely piece of art that stands as a stark illustration of the Psalmist’s words, ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty’ (Psalm 91:1).
As I’ve reflected on this image, as a Christ follower, as a husband, a dad, a friend and pastor, and certainly as one that is deeply unfinished, I was reminded that we, like historic cities, with all their beauty, pain, mess and dark places, are never alone. We live in the shadow – of Jesus.
And as we navigate the seasons of our lives –the good – the bad – joyous and the sorrowful – He is always there. Only we don’t have to travel a darkened, sometimes-dangerous and often isolated backstreet to see Him.
But He is there when we do.
And this, friends, is good news.