Yesterday was Ascension Day, and it was also the day that I was received into the Episcopal Church after participating in a program called “Pilgrims In Christ” for eight months.
Part of the program involved sharing our “Faith Stories.” I won’t share everything here now, though I may one day.
But I want you to know about St. John’s Church and why I do what I do here with these comic strips (some funny, some serious). If it wasn’t for the people of St. John’s, you wouldn’t be reading any of these comic strips.
Back when the “Pilgrims In Christ” program started last October, I began writing posts here at WordPress, and that led to creating comic strips because it just seemed like the thing to do. There is a great community here at WordPress that has helped and encouraged me, just like the people at St. John’s. In January, I moved all of the graphics over to this website, got more ideas, and have done a few posts in this series called “Voices From The Last Pew.” That’s because when I went to St. John’s for the first time last August, I was honestly set in my mind that it really would be the last church pew ever. So I sat in the back by the door.
You see, they had these amazing words on their website and even on their printed order of worship, words that really seemed too good to be true. A huge part of me wanted to believe that it was just a trick, just a phony promise. Then I could say, “I did it. I’m done. There really isn’t a place for me. They don’t want me and I don’t want them.” It wasn’t that I was planning to give up on Jesus, just church.
Here is the first part of those words. I can’t even read them silently without getting choked up. No lie.
Believe this simple truth: God loves you, no matter who you are. No matter how you have lived your life. No matter your age. No strings attached. At St. John’s, we believe in God’s transforming love…
In my “Faith Story,” I told how I have had a bumpy ride throughout my Christian life. Most of it has been because of a message I carried inside, “God hates you. You’re going to kill yourself. You are going to die and go to hell where you belong.”
As a Christian, I’ve wrecked and crashed and burned more times than I can count. I’ve been way too rigid and rules oriented, and then can’t live up to it. I’ve thrown Bibles against walls and into the trash. I’ve tried to escape from everything in a lot of different ways including alcohol and suicide attempts. I’ve cursed God and Jesus and tried my best to commit the unpardonable sin, whatever that might be. But Jesus never gave up on me.
That “God hates you” message can get planted in a person’s mind and heart in a lot of different ways. When I told my “Faith Story,” I explained how that had happened with me. But here is the thing. It doesn’t matter how it got there. Getting rid of that message is the important thing.
That’s done, I believe, primarily through God’s Transforming Love.
The active component to God’s Transforming Love is the Holy Spirit, and the best delivery method is Christian Community.
If you have sat there on “The Last Pew,” please know that there are a lot of people just like you. I know how difficult it is to say, “I’m going to give this one more try.” But there is a place out there where you can find God’s Transforming Love and the Holy Spirit, just like how I found them at St. John’s Church.
It will be a place where people really do care about you. They don’t want you to just quietly go away. They don’t want you to die and go to hell. They want to pour out God’s Transforming Love on you and receive it back from each other because that’s how God designed Christian Community to work.
Until you find that place, maybe you’ll only have someone at work or a neighbor who truly believes in God’s Transforming Love. But that is a start. Maybe you’ll only have a few people within your current church who truly believe in God’s Transforming Love, but that is a start too. And you have me who truly has experienced God’s Transforming Love.
In the meantime, if you don’t have that place of Christian Community, I really want to renew my commitment to you readers to do all that I can to share God’s Transforming Love to you through these graphics and words.
Thank you, both Readers and People Of St. John’s Church, for sharing God’s Transforming Love with me.