A More Light Congregation

Bethany Presbyterian Church

I Traded In My Paper Cup

Jordan Decker

11 November 2018

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:38-44

Good Morning!  What a beautiful day to be with you all! Thank you to Pastor Kathryn and staff for inviting me to come and share with you this morning.

Lets talk a minute about this story of “beware of the scribes." First, who were the scribes? The Greek word grammateus translated, means scribe or writer. The scribes were the ones who drew up legal documents. They also copied the Old Testament Scripture. They also devoted themselves to the study of the law, and the determination of its applications on daily life. They also studied the Scripture with respect to doctrinal and historical matters. Noted scribes had their own disciples. Many of the scribes were members of the Jewish council.

So, here In Mark 12, Jesus is talking about the beware the scribes, the people in power, even the clergy. At this time in history, there was great disparity between rich and poor... hmmm, sound familiar?

It was a violent culture, of power over culture. Not so different from today.

When Jesus talks about the poor woman, who out of poverty gave all she had, he says "she gave from nothing and you all give out of abundance."  He lifted her up.  First problem: she was a woman.  Second: she was poor, and he elevated her above all the others. This caused discourse among them.

The point Jesus is making is the people who were “other”, "less than" in their culture, were the ones who were more devoted to God by giving from their poverty, they gave from nothing and the others gave out of abundance. Another example is the story of the ten lepers. Of the ten healed, only one, the Samaritan, came back to give thanks. The one with the least was the most grateful.

The point of these stories is to show the God of love and justice. The story keeps coaxing us to be who we are. To listen to that still small voice inside of each of us and to "know thyself".

How does this translate today?

So there are a lot of hard bits to my story. I'm sure there's probably one or two of you out there that can say the same thing about your own story.

I’m going to insert the sad part of my story but for all of you who are empaths out there, I want you to know that today... I am good! I'm so good! I am so better than good it's amazing! and here's how I got good... I began to "know thy self"!

When I was a kid at 2, I cut myself trying to shave, not putting on mom's eye make up like my sister.

At 4, I came walking out the closet with dad's boots on, not mom high heels .

At six, things begin to shift for me. Growing up in the South, in the Evangelical church, I was taught to kneel at the side of my bed every night, say my prayers and then go sleep. I was getting frustrated because every night I would pray “God let me wake up the boy. If I'm not boy I don't want to wake up.”

I had prayed this prayer many times by now. But something had shifted in me at 6. I became aware differently.

When I asked my mom “how do you know when God answers your prayers?” She said “well honey,” (remember, I’m from the south) "you get what you're asking for."

My next question was why does God not answer my prayers? “What are you asking God for, honey?" I pray that God makes me a boy or I don't wake up at all. And with raised voice in harsh tone my mother says to me, "that is the devil, you'll go to hell for saying that prayer", turns on a dime and walks away!

... Remember, I was 6!

Shortly after this, I moved in with my dad. What I remember about this is, I was putting a sock in my pants at the time. I thought God forgot to give me “dangly bits”. My dad gave me rules, he was scared for me out in the world and said to me “you can have your sock at home, but when we go out in public, you have to leave it at home."

But the fear of hell was so great, I eventually just shut that part of me down.  So for 31 years I stuffed all of those emotions away. I packed them nicely into 80 pounds of overweight, depression, drug use, and then angry guy manifested.

Fast forward to my prayer at age 36. We were living in Truckee. In a great neighborhood. We were the boy luck house. We brought the neighbors together when we moved to town. It was common to yell across the fence or stand in the road chatting.

One day, I was filling up my lawnmower and I pulled a lighter out of my pocket. Gas can in one hand, lighter in the other, eyes raised towards the sky, I said "if I light myself on fire, will you believe this is who I am and not make me burn eternally in hell.”

Then from across the fence I hear “hey neighbor!" and the thought passed...

At 38, I had a handful of pills, a glass of water and some divine intervention.

My prayers that night were “I don't understand this body that I'm in. I feel like I'm trapped inside of hell and if you can explain this hell to me, then I'm coming to meet you.”

The next thought that went through my head, when you're already in hell there's no place to go. As soon as that thought came out, my phone was ringing. It was my sister, who never calls me. At that point, I hadn’t talked to my sister at about 8 months. She has a bunch of kids and I really didn't feel very good about myself so I stayed away from family. It’s hard to be around people that think they know you better than you know yourself.

Think about that for a minute. Can any one know you, better than you?  My journey is between me and my Creator.

Its hard to be around people that constantly invalidate, and think they know better because I have challenged their comfort zone!

Back to the night of Divine intervention...

When I saw it was my sister, Picked up the phone, and answered, “it is everything okay sis?” She said yes, I just felt the need to talk to you.

So we talked for a while and that night I took the survival kit of religion that my parents gave me and I wiped the slate clean and began to have my own conversations with God.

I went back to my Bible stories to try and make sense of life.

"To thine own self be true".

"Know thyself".

"Listen to your still small voice".

But the place I started, is revealed in the verses just before the ones we read today. Earlier in Mark 12, Jesus talks about the greatest commandment. The greatest commandment it Is to love God with all your heart and soul. The second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself.

I began to look at all of the “neighbors” I didn’t like. Come to find out I didn't like myself very well either.

My self love was all tied up in feelings like: I was to be seen and not heard.  I was to put other peoples needs before my own. I was to make myself small.  To not have any pride,  And that I was going to hell for being Me.

I began, with gratitude to God, that old adage that when you have one finger pointing out, you've got three pointing back. Every time I was pointing fingers at somebody, I looked at that inside myself. That's some real work! It took me into my inner Castle, and I began to open door after door of fear.

Each door held a new fear and a new freedom! I decided to transition and began the medical processes needed.

Here's where the story gets hard. I have been fired from a job for transitioning.  Thankfully,  I didn't lose my shelter or go hungry. I lost family and friends over the next few years. My inner Castle work ultimately led me to ask for divorce. Another thing I was afraid of going to hell for!

Since I began my transition, I've slept in my truck, I've gone without eating, and one day I picked up the cup and begged for some change. That's a humbling experience!

While rattling that “cup of change” all kinds of thoughts went through my head. The one that changed the course of my life was remembering Galatians 5:13. It says "for you were called to freedom brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another."

So I traded in my paper cup, for a nice shirt and some shiny shoes, and opened one more door of fear. The fear of being killed for speaking my truth. When the bathroom bills started, I became more scared of peeing in public than the very surgery that would bring me freedom.

In that moment, I decided instead of rattling a cup of change from myself, I stand before you and others and ask for “other”. I ask for you, to give out of your abundance to those of us who live in poverty for just trying to be authentic to whom God made us to be.  And today, in asking for help for others, I, too, am cared for.

On November 20 last year, with the help Janie Spahr and so many others, 15 people gathered with me in a room to talk about safe affordable post-op housing for people having gender confirmation surgery.

When someone has lower surgery, the doctors require you to stay for three weeks. one week in the hospital laying on your back for five days. Then they get you up on day six, walking from the bed to the bathroom. And then they kick you out of the hospital, and require you to have a caregiver for two weeks.

As many of you know, the trans population are some of the most impoverished and our country. Less than 10 years ago, in order to transition, you had to present as the opposite gender with no support: no hormones, no surgeries, nothing.

For me, stuffing 40 double D’s inside a shirt much like this made it a little bit easier. However, I cannot imagine being a woman in a dress with heels and a 5 o'clock shadow. The system was not set up for our success!

In today’s time, much like that of our history we have a great disparity between the rich and the poor. And two weeks ago, our government took great leaps, trying to erase the transgender population. So today, I'm here to ask for your help.

I have a house, almost ready to host people being authentic to whom God made them to be, and we need some help. Trans HeartLine at its core is just people helping people one beautiful soul at a time.

Thank you friends for receiving... Thank vets today...

Guest Sermon

On November 11, 2018, we welcomed Jordan Decker of Trans Heartline to our pulpit, to discuss his work with the Transgender community.  Jordan was kind enough to share his message for publication here.