there had been too much rain
and the roof
long cracked after years of stress
gave way from water seeping in.
what fell from the heavens
had nothing to do with it,
that the earth had shifted
and the church walls
had pushed out toward the city market
so that the massive mosaic of the Almighty Father
had fallen in and left a hole,
a silhouette of the icon
that used to command the whole church
from high above the nave.”
This image is introduced at the beginning of The Church under Reconstruction by Thomas Troeger. What would happen if our church had a massive mosaic of Christ on the roof and one day it fell apart and broken into pieces. Would we blame each other being the cause of this incident? Probably the members of the trustee committee would start to worry about how to pay for the glass. How much it costs and how long it will take. Where we will worship meanwhile. Would we not be anxious to fill the massive hole in our church?
Coming to think of the hole, I think that we also live with a hole in our heart. When a person hears from his or her employee, that he or she does not have to care to take off his or her coat in the morning in his or her office, and starts worrying about how to pay rent, feed his/her family, and pay for utilities, there is a massive hole in the heart of the person. When a husband sees his wife does not recognize him anymore suffering from Alzheimer after 40 years of marriage, there is a massive hole in the heart of the person. When parents had to bury their child who committed suicide, there is a massive hole in their heart. It almost feels like that a piece of our body falls off so that our whole body feels the pain and suffers.
So people go to church. We pray for Jesus to heal our sickness. We pray that God protects our family and children. We hope that church would educate our children to grow as moral and responsible person. Somehow, we wish that church were be better place than our society, receiving comfort and peace in our hearts. But you know and I know that church is not the most perfect place in the world as we wish it to be. Rather, we could hurt more when we see something totally unexpected actually takes place: dissension, monetary corruption, sexual scandal. Like the people who were frustrated in front of the missing mosaic in the sanctuary, we may feel that there is a massive hole in our church.
I imagine that Jesus’ disciples also had a giant hole in their heart. Was Jesus, the Son of God, not going to save them in the end? Was he not going to bring peace to Israel and liberate them from the hands of the Roman Empire? Was he not the Messiah that the prophets proclaimed? Did they not witness his powers, turning the water into the wine, feeding the five thousand, walking on the water, even raising the dead? But he was gone just like that, hanging on the cross along with other two thieves. It is all over. They already abandoned all their families and properties in order to follow Jesus. What are they supposed to do now? Going back to their hometowns? Who can guarantee that their fates would be much different from that of Jesus, ending up with death on the cross? Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God has already begun with his ministry. But Jesus was killed by the betrayal of his own disciple, one of his most beloved ones. In the hearts of the disciples, the massive mosaic of Jesus fell off. Their expectation and hope are gone just like that. There was a hole in their hearts that could not be filled.
So the disciples gathered in one house and locked all the door for fear of those who would capture them, says the scripture. A miracle happened. The Risen Christ came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. They may have sung “The Lord is risen” like we celebrated last week on the Easter... I don’t know about you but I often feel like I have to step back first. It is because I feel myself being more like Thomas than the disciples who witnessed Jesus risen from death. I feel that we are more like Thomas than Mary Magdalene who went to the empty tomb and met the risen Christ in the garden. I feel that we are more like Thomas than the two disciples of Christ on the road to Emmaus who did not recognize Christ first, but recognized him upon his breaking the bread. I feel that we are more like Thomas than these people who locked all the doors but witnessed the risen Christ among them. Thomas was not there. We were not there either. We may have first heard about Christ’s resurrection from church, school, or the Bible. We gather to celebrate the Easter but how many of us actually ask the same question, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” In our celebrating the Easter last year, this year, and next year, does the news of Christ’s resurrection really bring good news to us, other than reuniting with our parents and children, siblings? If you have been living with a hole however big it is in your heart, does Christ’s resurrection fill the hole?
To our surprise, Jesus came to Thomas still with the wounds in his hands. He was resurrected from death. He could miraculously pass through the lock doors. But he was still bearing the wounds in his hands. Jesus then said, “Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” When Thomas looked at the holes, what he saw through the holes in Jesus hands and side was not emptiness, not failure, not vanity. But it was the sign of his love. His love through which Jesus offered himself on the cross so we may be saved from our sin. His love for Thomas through which Jesus offered himself again so Thomas may believe that the one standing before him is Jesus himself who died and was resurrected. Thomas did not have to put his fingers into the holes of Jesus’ hands and his side. His confession was nothing but, “My Lord and my God!” “My Lord and my God!”
While discussing what to do with the hole in the sanctuary, the people found out something that they never expected through the whole. They could see the cloud moving through the hole. They could see the birds flying. They could see the starts and moon through the hole. They saw the Spirit of God moving freely through the hole. Somehow they were not worried about how to fill out the hole anymore. They realized that the hole was a mark of something bigger than they could explain. Once the mosaic is gone, people could freely imagine Christ who breaths them with wind.
Are we living with a massive hole in our heart? Do we feel that there is a massive hole that cannot be filled with our effort? I do not know certainly what kinds of holes you may have. All your hope, all your expectation, all your future... What if they are all gone one day? I am not saying that God creates the hole. We often create our own hole. It may also be possible that God creates it. But there is one thing that I know. That we see the presence of Jesus through the hole who always walks with us, keeps us, and loves us.
Some of us may feel that we have a hole upon the news of Larry’s new appointment. He has been in this church more than ten years. I guess that many of youth were little babies the first time Larry came here. For some of you, Larry may have been the one who gently greeted you upon your first visit to this church. For some of you when you were sick and were in the hospital, you would remember Larry holding your hands and praying for you. I felt that there was a hole in my heart when I heard that Larry was moving. But I do not think that it is my job to fill the hole. Rather, how big the hole we feel may be how much Larry has influenced on me and you as the congregation of Belmont. Leave the hole unfilled. But let us look through the hole how much God loves and cares for this church by having sent Larry to this church.
Office hours at 421 Common Street in Belmont (phone: 617-489-0730) are:
Monday through Friday
9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Office hours at 80 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown (phone: 617-926-2931):are
Tuesday and Thursday
4:00 - 6:30 PM
The United Methodist Church