Rev Gareth Burke: Having a close relationship with Christ steadies our hearts in every tragedy
This has been a sad week for Belfast. 'The Bank Buildings', one of our most iconic buildings, was engulfed in a huge fire on Tuesday morning. While we are thankful that no one was injured or perished in the fire, our thoughts are very much with the staff and management of Primark who have been so desperately affected by this tragedy.
Many of us can remember the Bank Buildings as being one of those Belfast landmarks that has always been there from the days of our childhood. I can remember as a child being taken into town by my mother.
She had a circuit of shops that she liked to visit, most of them no longer existing - Anderson and McAuleys, Arnotts, Robinson and Cleaver and the Bank Buildings.
As a young boy, I confess, I was bored by all of them though one of them had a rather stylish staircase which was fun to run up and down and which provided a little relief from the monotony of shopping.
As a non-shopper I was surprised by the very real sense of loss I felt on witnessing the footage of the Bank Buildings blaze. I guess part of that grief was bound up with those childhood memories but also with the sobering realisation that peoples livelihood and jobs would be directly and adversely affected by what had occurred. It is a sobering thought that you would get up in the morning to go to your work - a normal day lying ahead - only to come home from work early because your place of employment was utterly destroyed.
It's a solemn reminder to us of the uncertainty of life.
In the Bible James reminds us of this when he says: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
"'What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.'" (James 4: 13-14).
It's vital, in the light of life's fragility, that we have a personal relationship with God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Then we will be ready to face the unexpected tragedies which cross our paths and then, ultimately, we will be ready to face God Himself.