The church I attend invites people to share “stories of transformation” (or what the tradition I grew up in called “testimonials”) during Lent to help prepare people’s hearts for Easter. This is the story of transformation I shared. I hope it blesses you.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
One of the hardest times until recently for me was when I left the evangelical denomination I was ordained by early in my career over ways I was being asked to mistreat queer people. I couldn’t do that, couldn’t believe God was a God of rejection, so I left that community at great cost. When I did, oh so many people who had promised to always stand by me, dropped out of my life – some quietly like leaves in the autumn, others with thunderous condemnations. I’ve only recently realized how for years this left me deeply wounded, struggling to trust when others say they will be there for me or accept me for who I am they would.
What a surprise it was to me this October on what is now the darkest day of my life to find that, almost immediately upon walking in to find the one woman most precious to me in all the world lying dead, I was not abandoned, nor alone. In minutes, my little apartment was packed, mainly with people from this church. You folks just would not leave me alone. And thank God for that. I fully expected to fall through the cracks Kat’s passing left in my life, forgotten.
I remember one day when two dear friends at this church took me into their home so I didn’t have to face this pain alone, I turned to them and said “I look and I cannot see God right now. I try to pray and words won’t come. But I look up and there you are. Your hands holding me up. Your voices telling me I can get through this. And that is enough. Enough of God for right now”. I could have pointed to many others of you here and said the same. It was your friendship, your support, your compassion that were God, peace, and prayer for me when I could not find those on my own.
This — God as known in community—is what I have found anew here at United Church, not just after my late wife died but even before, starting that first Sunday right after Kat began to speak clearly again after her first big stroke, when we strolled into this church and were so warmly welcomed that I remember Kat saying on the ride home to me, “We’ve found a home here”. You all were truly a home to her those last years of her life, when she was wracked in so much pain every day. You remained such a home to me after her passing.
A home where I could learn to trust again that if I reach out for help, I will find it. That Jesus’ promise God will never leave me nor forsake me is true for me in and through dear people like each of you who are God’s hands, feet, voices. For this I thank God and I thank each of you. Amen.