After arriving in Kiev earlier this week I took a walk around the old town, mainly to seek out the golden roofed church I had seen from the window of my taxi. When I eventually found my way to this church I discovered that it was not a church but a monastery, and that the doors were open and I could go inside without any charge being levied.
St Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery is ornate on the inside as well as on the outside, and is awe inspiring just to look at. I later discovered that the Soviets had destroyed the original monastery during the 1930s and that the current complex is a reconstruction that was completed in 1999 just eight years after Ukraine became independent of the Soviet Union.
I wasn’t sure what I would feel entering this place. I noticed that locals made the sign of the cross when entering and leaving. Several were standing inside, apparently entranced. Some were lighting candles. There were four or five young monks standing around and some chanting that appeared to be coming from a PA system. After a few minutes I left and walked around the exterior deep in thought about why such extravagant decoration was necessary in a place of worship. Did those who built the original monastery do so to honour God? Has the monastery been a place of witness through the years? What purpose is it achieving now?
I cannot argue with the religious significance of St Michael’s, but I continue to question its purpose. This in turn makes me question the purpose of the church I belong to. Walking into St Michael’s I expected to feel the presence of God, to see Him in some way reflected in the worship rather than the statues, paintings and mosaics. But this also challenged me as to what I expect when I walk into my church. Do I expect to feel the presence of God there? Do I expect to see God reflected in the lives and faces of those who worship there? Is God reflected in my life and in my face?
The words of a song from the rock opera ‘Tommy’ come to mind: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.” Isn’t that just what God wants? For us to see Him, feel Him, reach out to touch Him and seek healing from Him? The lyrics might be secular but as is so often the case there is something to learn even from a rock song. Because if I am seeking to see God in my daily life, feeling His presence with me and reaching out to touch Him during my day then surely He will heal all that needs healing in me and truly be visible in my life.
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:1-4 NLT)