I've been thinking a lot about asking the right questions lately. Jeff - the pastor at my new church - preached a sermon a few weeks ago on Mark 6, the story of Jesus walking on water. We can get pretty tangled up, he said, in comparing and contrasting competing theories of how Jesus walked on water (shallow depths, freak ice floes, trick o' the eye). But the how is not the point of the story. In fact, Jesus was actually prepared to pass right by the disciples, but instead changed course to calm their fears. The how of water walking isn't the point. The point is that he saw his friends in trouble, and scared, and he had compassion on them. The real question isn't HOW Jesus walked on water, but WHY.
So, recently, I've been thinking more about the whys and less about the hows. A lot of my friends are pretty a-religious, either simply unconcerned with spirituality and religion or (unsurprisingly, if they have some church experience in their past) militantly opposed to it. Their question to me is always the same: "How can you continue to be a part of the Church? How can you persist in being associated with such a twisted, irrelevant, ineffective bunch of hypocrites?"
And, usually, I have no answer. I honestly don't know how. I mostly agree with my friends: the Church IS twisted, and irrelevant, and ineffective, and hurtful, and hypocritical. I've experienced all those things up close. I have no good answer to the question of how.
But when I started thinking about WHY I persist, a whole slew of reasons came immediately to mind. So, I tweeted them. And when Rachel Held Evans wrote this post, I commented them there, too.
I don't know how we can keep doing this thing, but I do know at least a few of the reasons WHY:
Because in the last 24 hours, I've had real conversations with toddlers, teenagers, young adults, middle aged and elderly.
Because worship reminds me which questions are worth asking.
Because church formed me and forms us into compassionate servants.
Because when there was nowhere else to go, church made a place for me.
Because of mason jar burial urns, love feast and footwashing, communal discernment, and the mystery of the holy spirit.
Because of Matthew 18, the Sermon on the Mount, Ecclesiastes and the Word becoming Flesh.
Because of Annie Dillard, Anna Mow, Mary Oliver, Ron Rash, Thomas Lynch and Flannery O'Connor.
Because of glimpses of something already and not quite here, inexplicable movement, ineffable relationship, and the possibility of transformation.
But mostly, I'm still here because I'm compelled to be here - not often convinced, but always compelled. Say what you will about that (I certainly criticize my own reasons often enough), but it's true.