Yesterday afternoon I stood behind the pulpit in the Temple in Ocean Park, Maine. I was asked to record a sermon for the Ocean Park Association's worship service on August 16.
I have worshipped in the Temple dozens and dozens of times. As I looked out from behind the pulpit, I was struck by how empty it was. Normally there are hundreds of chairs set neatly in rows. Yesterday, there were a handful sitting randomly here and there. Normally, the Temple is packed on Sunday morning as the faithful gather for worship. This year, the faithful worship virtually from the safety of their homes.
We all know that this is not a "normal" year.
Initially, as I looked at the room and all of the empty space, I thought, "How sad." I shot a photograph and posted it on Facebook with the caption, "Flying solo." But then when I got home and looked at the photograph, I noticed that there is a certain beauty captured there. Yes, there is melancholy ... a wistfulness for what we remember of years gone by.
In that second glance at the photo, I saw beauty. I saw the interplay between light and shadow, the symmetry of the building, the subtle glow of the light behind the cross. I did not look at what is missing. I saw what is there.
I recorded the sermon with my mother who was the worship leader. It is always a special opportunity to serve in ministry and worship together. Earlier in the day, a friend and colleague of mine recorded next week's service with her father in that same space. My guess is that she was feeling similar feelings to those I was experiencing.The empty space gave my mind the freedom to remember the two years that I led chapel services in the Temple for the Christian Youth Conference. Those memories filled that room.
There are two banners on the back wall of the Temple that read, "Celebrate" and "New Life." Celebrate new life! That is an important message for us today. It is an important message for us every day. God is not static. God is constantly creating and recreating. God is not distant. God is ever-present, with us and within us.
Sometimes we need to look at an empty room in order to realize what is there.
May God bless you all.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072