By: Paul Harper
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NRSV
I grew up as a pastor’s kid and was expected to attend church every Sunday. As a young adult, I didn’t attend church and didn’t see the need for a faith community. As a middle aged adult I went through a divorce and found myself searching for meaning in life. A wise friend suggested I attend Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio.
The pastors there were John Flowers and Karen Vannoy. I was struck by how they and that congregation welcomed me without judgement. One of the things I love about that church is how they live out their mission statement: Unconditional love and justice in action.
I got invited to a Sunday School class the day I joined the church, that led to some great friendships and to new way of thinking about Christianity for me. I learned the difference between orthodoxy, or correct belief, and orthopraxy, or correct action. This had a big impact on the formation of my faith. I found it liberating to value orthopraxy over orthodoxy. I also grew to cherish my church family.
I got involved in the ministry with the homeless and marginalized while I was at Travis Park UMC. I can’t tell you how many miracles I witnessed there. The transformation that happens to a person who has gone from living addicted on the streets, to being clean, sober and self-supporting is truly miraculous. Of course, not all of them stayed clean, but the road to recovery is not always straight.
Psalm 51:10 reminds me that no matter where we are on our faith journey, God’s love is steadfast and eternal.