Posted By Thomas Murphy on June 01, 2014
Why do you go to church?I can’t answer this question for you. It could be a lot of reasons. It could be as simple as something you have done since childhood, no different than not allowing the ketchup bottle on the dining room table. It could be an experience of force more massive and loving than you can explain: a connection to the eternal. Perhaps one night on a grassy bald deep in the Smoky Mountains, you lay on your back marveling at a resplendent starry sky, a breeze pebbling your skin, and you just knew that some force in the universe had conspired to bring you into existence. Maybe you go to church for all of these reasons because it is a place to question what it all means. I invite you, as we enter the long liturgical season of Pentecost, to spend a little time pondering the question, “Why am I here?” According to my parent’s stories, I exist based on a short-cut. Their senior year of college, my parents had broken up. After graduation my dad was planning to go to Boston for medical school; my mom was busy focusing on finishing her journalism degree. But on that day, my mom had overslept and was rushing to a class she would never make. My father had spent most of the night finishing a chemistry project, eyes blinking in the bright sun as he wended his way back to his room. On a whim he cut through the arboretum to enjoy a few minutes of sunshine before climbing into his neatly made bed for the frivolous demand his body needed: sleep. On a path that winds through the garden they ran into each other. I would like to imagine my dad blushed shyly, a sudden lump in his throat. I can almost hear my mom wishing she had worn a cuter blouse. So they talked and he told her about his plans and she told him about publishing an article. And the sun moved, and the shadows lengthened, and they went for coffee, and a few years later my twin sister and I were brought into this world. A million things had to line up that day just for me to be here. Now multiply that by the billions upon trillions of circumstances that led to your existence. Think about all the happenstance that resulted in your sitting in a pew at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, North Carolina. It is no understatement to say that mathematically it is a miracle that people go to this church. As I sat down to write this article, I heard a noise outside the glass sliding door in my office. I watched as a small, finely boned mother bird gracefully plunged her beak into the dirt, unearthing a noticeably succulent, wriggling worm. The bird plucked it up quick as a wink and flew almost vertically to an overhanging tree branch. There she deftly dropped it into the tiny gaping maw of one of her squawking chicks. I was so grateful to witness that tiny moment and suddenly felt as if I was, in fact, created to witness this tiny play of life and death. I wonder what would change if I could view every moment from the perspective that I was created to observe it? If I kept my mind fixed on the miracle of every moment as the culmination of mathematically miraculous events coming together or falling apart? What if this is the creator’s perspective on creation, everything happening impossibly as it’s meant to happen? Our lives unfolding in the mysterious plan in which we were created to witness. So, I already told you, I don’t know why you come to church. But I do know that against all the odds you show up most Sundays with your own perspectives to testify to the mystery that surrounds mortality. In coming together as a community of believers, we proclaim that we will strive to live as if we were created to be here. In a world of “changes and chances,” this affirmation is nothing short of the very substance of the universe itself affirming that, indeed, creation itself is good and wonder is our greatest reward. We are meant to be here.