- Parish House
According to family lore, I ended up in church because I ask questions. LOTS of questions.
It started in preschool. Supposedly, these were questions about death and heaven and Other Big Topics That Are Particularly Difficult for Grownups to Discuss. My parents wisely knew they needed to call in reinforcements, so our family joined an Episcopal church.
My parents got a little break, but my Sunday School teachers were in for a test of fortitude. I think my teachers used words like “precocious” and “persistent.” I’m sure they used much stronger words when I was out of earshot.
I remember one year where I was, shall we say, especially “focused” on apparent grammatical errors in the prayer book. I was insufferable.
The exasperated teacher ended up taking my questions to the priest, who joined our class to lead a lecture on the history of the Book of Common Prayer that the entire 8th grade Sunday School class found excruciating.
When I was in college, I landed on a more substantial line of questioning, one that has endured these last several years.
The question was, “What would it look like to live as if I really believed the Gospel – how would that impact my choices? And a related question, “How do I live a deeply Christian life, where church isn’t just a place I go on Sundays but a way of moving through the world?”
Here at Christ Church, I have found a community willing to ask those questions with me. Or at least you refrain from rolling your eyes when I ask them, which is very polite of you. And in this stewardship season, I want to share two powerful symbols that are related to these questions.
The first symbol is the prayer book. If you’re lucky enough to be in a pew with an older prayer book, you’ll notice that the pages about a third of the way through the book are worn and yellowed. These are the pages for the Eucharist. Even though we often use printed leaflets, I try to thumb through the book each week and leave my grubby fingerprints somewhere. You know, for posterity.
These smudges remind me of our similarities and our differences. Every week, we sit in these pews to hear stories, sing, pray, daydream, and just breathe. Sometimes, the hands that leave these fingerprints are trembling with fear. Sometimes they’re sweaty or distracted or joyful. The worn pages remind me that we’re all here, showing up each week, doing the best we can. And that’s comforting.
The second symbol is a sound. It’s a holy sound, one that pretty much sums up God’s Kingdom, I think. It’s the sound of squealing brakes. Specifically, the squealing brakes of the city buses that circle this block.
When those brakes are the background music for a meeting or sermon, or interrupt a moment of silence, it reminds me that our faith is not something that stays inside these walls. The brakes are like God saying, “Remember that — all of this stuff — is fuel to serve my people. We’re out there. And we need you.” Those squealing brakes remind me that God is often breaking into our carefully compartmentalized lives. God is always giving us someone to love. God is always dropping strangers off at our stop, inviting us to welcome them.
So why do I give? I give because there may be a little girl upstairs peppering her Sunday School teacher with endless questions.
And I want her to know that it’s good and right and important to ask questions. I want her to be comforted by running her fingers along the edges of a communal prayer book. And I want her to discover where God’s kingdom may be breaking in around her, whether through the squeal of brakes or an exquisite anthem or the smile of a new friend. That’s why I give.