By Matthew Heesing

Humbolt Broncos - Bill Marsh Photo

Bill Marsh Photo

Like many of you,
the tragedy of Humboldt is on my mind.

I’ve also been wondering what to say in response.

Every week, as a Christian minister,
I stand up in the midst of the assembly
and attempt to articulate
how the sacred intersects with our individual stories:
how the holy is present in our present time;
how the divine desires us to live each day.
And every week, I remind the congregation—
in the words of our United Church of Canada New Creed
that “God is with us. We are not alone.”

God is always with us.
We are not alone.

But for many individuals this week,
such a sentiment might be hard to accept.
Where is God, when two large vehicles collide?
Where is God when life is lost?
Where is God when countless communities suffer trauma?
Is God really with us?
Are we really not alone?

It certainly feels that way, I’m sure—
even—perhaps especially—in this Season of Easter,
when churches proclaim the reality of life after death,
the triumph of resurrection, the possibilities of love.
In the middle of this celebration,
our loss and questions can be harder to bear.

But there’s a story of Easter I want to briefly share:
the moment when the risen Christ appears to his disciples,
and shows “doubting” Thomas his wounded hands and feet:
hands with holes,
feet with holes,
even as a result of resurrection.

Even after the empty tomb,
the hope in the room
still has holes.

The hope in the room still has holes.

Because we all experience holes that never heal.

A colleague of mine once lost a son to an accident.
Thirty years ago, she said, my grief was like a heavy black overcoat.
A decade after, it became a cardigan.
Then it was a shawl.
Now it is a scarf.
Smaller, lighter, less obtrusive,
but the loss is never lost, she says.
It will always be with me,
for as long as I live.

This story is true,
in many senses.

We all have holes
that never fully heal.

But what I love about the story of Thomas and the risen Christ,
the risen Christ and all of his disciples, for that matter,
because Thomas must have been the only one
to actually voice the doubts that life could come
from loss,
that resurrection could happen
after the cross,
how could he not?

But the risen Christ comes into the room—
with holes
still in his hands and feet,
because that’s our own experience of hope,
isn’t it?

We experience new life,
we find a new beginning,
we somehow move on,
and live our lives,
and from our reeling,
our dealing with what happens,
we somehow find healing
with time and talking
and walking together,
but still,
there is a hole.

The kind of hole that will never be filled.
A hole in our hands, our feet,
our hearts.

A hole in our hearts for
children lost.
A hole in our hearts
for adults lost.
A hole in our hearts
for teammates and coaches
announcers
and siblings,
family members, close and extended,
even unknown individuals
to some of us,
and yet, still
precious, beloved children of God,
and beautiful to behold.

This week,
the immense-sized hole in our hearts
also includes
all sorts of first responders
and hospital staff
and counselors,
and entire communities,
near and far,
and a hole in our hearts
for a semi driver too,
for all of those affected by
this tragedy,
and wondering
how to face tomorrow.

Today, and the next,
and the next,
and the next day to come,
we have a hole in our hearts,
forever, one might say.
And
that’s
okay.

But the message of Easter
says the holes
are not the end of the story.
And even though we
might carry these holes
for the rest of our lives—
some more intimate than others,
some more noticeable than others,
some more hidden than others,
or deeper
or heavier,
or harder than others—
our holes
will not stand in the way of hope,
for our hope has a space for holes.

For those that are Christians,
our hope has holes:
the holes in the hands and feet of Christ,
who emerges from the tomb,
who stands in our room
of fear and pain and heartbreaking loss,
and says
“Peace be with you,”
who proclaims,
new life is possible,
who brings
a new beginning,
who from the beginning,
has been making all things new,
our own lives too,
who offers a hope
than can be ours, as well,
who reminds us all,
I am with you,
always.
You are not alone.

So as time goes on,
may we all remember
a hope with holes
is always possible.
A hope with holes
is already present.
A hope with holes
is a holy hope,
for it’s the only kind of hope
we have:
a hope that recognizes
that even though our woundedness
will never really go away,
that even though our grief,
like a small black scarf,
will stay,
as we continue on the way
we will experience new life.
“For in life,
in death,
in life beyond death,
For God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.”

Matthew Heesing serves Diamond Valley Pastoral Charge in Turner Valley, AB as student minister and is studying at Atlantic School of Theology.