Depressing Thoughts in Old Churches

Why Doing What Doesn’t Matter Matters

Evensong in Westminster Abbey in London
Where “daily prayer has been offered for over a thousand years”
Brings an unwelcome feeling of insignificance

The choir sings: “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season.”

A millennium’s worth of kings, commoners, poets, and priests —
Of people, waiting for that due season

Sitting where I now sit
Praying where I now pray
Wondering what I wonder

Will I be remembered?
A millennium from now will anything I do matter?

A millenniums worth of statues stare at us, taunting
Only a fortunate few can be remembered
Only a fortunate few matter

Tennyson, Burns, Longfellow, and Watts have endured.
Their faces preserved in stone
Their words preserved on paper
— for now

With the passing of time will they become as
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence?
What great deeds earned him a place in this Abbey?

I don’t know
I don’t care
He means nothing to me, to most
The entire 14th century means nothing to me, to most

The choir sings: “He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, He hath put down the mighty from their seat.”

Others soon will follow Lionel’s march to insignificance
For now, their statue stands, remembered
Arm outstretched, pointing, leading entire nations to battle
But soon enough they’ll stand, forgotten
Arm outstretched, pointing, leading tourists to the loo

We’re marching on the same path towards obscurity
And it won’t take centuries

But that doesn’t stop us from trying
One well worded tweet, one perfectly framed photo, one viral video
Connects us with audiences larger than the armies these men commanded
But here is the paradox
We can be seen by hundreds of thousands
And forgotten in hundredths of seconds

Jesus speaks: “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

We tell ourselves
Do something meaningful so we won’t be someone meaningless
Jesus says
Do something meaningless for someone who is meaningful

And we won’t be forgotten
By the one who “was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be”

All rise and we recite the Apostles’ Creed together
We barely fill an ounce of the cathedral
We are the little ones, His disciples
Who bind ourselves to many other little ones
Echoing the same words for “over a thousand years”
We barely fill a breath of a millennium

But I’m not meant to dwell too much on Father Time
He is cruel, impersonal, paralyzing
I’m meant to focus on a different Father, “who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name”

I’m meant to focus on the cup of cold water given in that name
Because it just might be the answer to the prayer
We pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

“The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord,
and you give them their food in due season.” — Psalm 145:16

4th Grade Math & Literacy Teacher: NYC Public Schools | Curious about how faith, social justice, education, and the arts all combine.

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