In today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells us: "What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10)
I remember being more freaked out than comforted as a little girl when my religion teacher paraphrased the whole God knowing how many hairs are on my head thing. First thought as a cynical second grader: Really? Doesn't God have more important things to be worrying about? Second thought: what if I pull a hair out right now? I guess my spirituality has always been on the questioning/mischevious type.
The other day on Fresh Air on NPR I heard an interview with a film maker who happens to be an atheist, raised atheist in fact. He said something to the effect that he explores themes of faith and religion in films because he is a little bit jealous of people who believe that the creator of the universe cares about them. He told a story about going to a Catholic wedding and understanding for the first time that these two people truly believed that God cared about them and was present in the church. He found that odd, but it helped him understand religious people better.
From my perspective now, with a faith that is still questioning but also grounded in my own deep experiences of God's presence and love in my life, there is more to it. Yes, God is present in the church. But God is present always. In some ways, when we seek God in sacred spaces we recognize that. We know God is always present, but we need to invite ourselves into that presence. Open ourselves to the presence and love of God. Share that experience with others. Ritualize and name the experience as Church, Temple, Mosque so that we can try to grasp the ungraspable. Faith is not so much about blind belief as about showing up. Maybe it was because God knew that about us that Jesus came ... "showing up" as it were to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. What did he do but share, name, ritualize and embody God's love?
When we show up at church, it is as something small and finite in the midst of something so enormous it too cannot be known or understood. I read in the paper today that scientists estimate that regular matter, such as people and planets, make up 4% of the universe. They think dark matter makes up another 25% and are burying a dark matter detector in South Dakota to try to learn more. The article did not mention what they think makes up the remaining 71%. Most likely because we have no idea.
Yet we try to grasp, measure, understand. Scientists do that with experiments. Similarly, people of faith do that through prayer.
Back to the film maker. I also remember him being amused that people think this God cares more about people than rocks or birds or trees. Again, I think it is more than that. We have a tendency to personalize everything, even our experience of the universe or God. I suspect God cares about all of it, all of creation, something created from nothing ... it is all good. As far as we know, people are the only ones able to respond to the love that created everything. Of course we can also mess it up and have the power to destroy the world many times over.
Perhaps it is a good thing we don't understsnd it all. But again, I suspect God does. Even perhaps the dark matter, anti matter and whatever else is out there!
Those are my deep thoughts for this Saturday morning!