Back when we all had screen names, mine was “Churchlady.” In fact, I still use “Churchlady” as my laptop password. I took the name mostly as a light-hearted reference to that old Dana Carvey character on Saturday Night Live. Dana, himself, had been a member of our former Lutheran church in San Mateo as a boy, so our congregation had a lot of fun with the character. With her buttoned up manner and her single strand of pearls, we were pretty sure she was Old School Lutheran. And we loved her.
But the term “Church Lady” has another, fonder meaning for me. Not the character of comedy, but the real women and men throughout my life who, in one way or another, helped grow me into who I am. I visited one of my Church Ladies about six weeks ago while back in my hometown – her name happens to be Ruth, as well. She is now 96 years old, legally blind, and living in an assisted living facility, but she knew me immediately. She had been my Junior High and Senior High School Sunday School teacher – so you know already that there is a special place in heaven for her. As far back as I can remember, she could make me feel special with just her smile. Even after I graduated, she followed and prayed for my life. She invited my boyfriend and me to her home. She helped serve the sliced ham and macaroni salad at our church basement wedding reception. Even after all these years, I am still “one of her own.”
The best part of my visit with her last month was having the opportunity to tell my Church Lady how much I love her. What a difference her faith and honesty and unconditional love have made in my life. I told her about the importance of the church in my life, and I told her about my “churchlady” password. God was in the room as we laughed together.
I tell you this, partly as a testament to the power of a spiritual mentor in the life of a kid – because it IS so significant – but mostly to admit that I’ve never outgrown my need for one. I want to tell you that God continues to touch me in the most precious ways through my interactions with YOU, my church men, ladies, and children. When Dave was trying to outrun a cancer that seemed to run always just a little faster, God said “Don’t worry; I got this,” … and God’s voice sounded at lot like yours. When my grandchildren snuggle and wiggle, and sing hymns as best they can, and say “the bread of life” and ”the cup of blessing” to each other during worship, God smiles … and God’s face looks a lot like yours. When I face difficult conversations with loved ones, as I’ve done recently, God’s hand steadies me … and God’s touch feels a lot like yours.
We are as God to one another. I guess a person could do life without the support of church people, but I’m glad I’ve never had to. I praise God today for God’s presence in my life through you. May you wear your “churchlady” and “churchman” labels with pride. Amen.