What does it take to build a cathedral?


It was one of those weeks. I’d been working hard on a thousand things that week — except my sermon. And then it was crunch time. Lots of things had gotten done, but my sermon for that particular Sunday wasn’t one of them, and the well seemed more than a little dry. So I was pretty relieved when my sermon came in the mail on Saturday.

I’m kidding. Well, I’m kidding at least a little.

Getting my sermon that week wasn’t quite that simple. I often wish it was. In this age of marvelous technology, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing, should your preacher get in a bit of a sermonizing tight spot on Friday, if he could just plug in his computer modem, dial up 9-1-1 or some higher emergency code for some divine extension, and the phone line would sizzle and the computer would whiz and whir, and there, downloaded from on high right to his sermon file would be a made-to-order-message sent straight from heaven?!

(If anybody didn’t like that sermon, they’d better be quiet about it!)

But, in a bind, snail mail is OK, too. And that’s how my sermon came on that particular Saturday.

I went to the post office, pulled the mail out of the box, and there was a church bulletin from Little Rock, Ark., complete with the column their preacher, John Gipson, had written that week, and it was just the sermon seed I needed.
John wrote about a man named Heinrich Heine.

Heine was standing with a friend in front of Amiens, the great cathedral in northern France. Absolutely stunned by its magnificence, the friend asked Heine, basically, “Why can’t people build such magnificent works to the glory of God today?”

Heinrich replied, “Cher ami, it’s really very simple. In those days people had convictions; we moderns have opinions, and it takes more than opinion to build a Gothic cathedral.”

Do you hear what he’s saying?

No one ever built a cathedral because he thought it might be sort of a nice thing to do if he ever got the time, and it didn’t rain, and he didn’t have to work too hard, and it didn’t cost too much.

No one ever built a strong and free nation just because he thought freedom was a nice concept as long as nobody had to pay much of a price for it.

Nobody ever built a strong church just because he thought it might be nice to show up on Easter and Christmas and occasionally thump the collection plate when it passed by.

Nobody ever built a beautiful life just because he thought it’d probably be nice to slide by with just a minimum amount of character and a pinch or two of integrity and stay out of jail.

No one ever built a cathedral with opinion. Building a cathedral takes conviction. So does building anything else of genuine beauty and value.

Curtis Shelburne is minister at 16th and Ave. D Church of Christ in Muleshoe. He can be contacted at: