November 24, 2014

The Homily

jordan4Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9, NIV)

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love (Revelation 2:4, NKJV).

I hope you will allow me some leeway in today’s homily. I want to invite you to journey with me, a journey that started forty years ago today. It is my journey, yes, but we may find it intersects in ways with your journey as well.

It was August 25, 1973, a Saturday, and I was trying to find a way to get out of a commitment to my friend Steve to go to an outdoor concert at his church. I had three lawns to cut that day, but amazingly I got them all done before Steve came to pick me up, so I was stuck. I had to go.

It was a beautiful afternoon. A stage was set up in the parking lot of Centerville First Baptist Church, and various local “Jesus music” groups were singing and sharing testimonies. I don’t remember anything that was said or sung that day, but I do remember the other teens my age. They were laughing and smiling—genuinely happy without having to drink or smoke anything to make them that way. By the end of the afternoon I said to myself, “These guys have something real, and I will give up anything in my life to have what they have.” That “something real” was Jesus. That day I met him face-to-face with his grace and mercy and forgiveness.

I threw myself into that church. Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night services. Saturday night youth coffee house. This was in the height of the Jesus People and charismatic movements. This small Ohio Baptist church was bursting at the seams with those hungry for Jesus and eager to learn from Scripture how to follow Jesus in their daily lives.

When it was time to head to college, I chose Oral Roberts University, a charismatic university in the far-flung reaches of Oklahoma. (It was 1976, not 1876, yet my friends still thought that most people in Tulsa would be riding horses, and some of them were—really—concerned about Indians.) There I studied broadcasting while continuing to seek the Lord with all my heart. I was startled to meet others who, though they professed to be Christians, did not have the same zeal as I. They didn’t have daily devotions, they didn’t go to Sunday night vespers. Many were not even “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” I began to judge these as lesser Christians. After all, they didn’t believe the way I believe, the way I had been taught, so they must not be as good of a Christian if even Christian at all. But it was ok, because those who came to preach in our chapel told us just how much God wanted to bless us and do all sorts of good things to us if we would only give more and dream big dreams. By the end of my four years, I had found myself (if I were to be honest) somewhat lazy in my faith as well.

Graduation gave way to marriage, then children. We found ourselves moving several times between Ohio and Oklahoma, with a one-year exile to Orlando. Each move brought a new church home, always staying in evangelicalism. (Including six years in a Methodist church—but it was a charismatic Methodist church …) And with each stop I felt farther and farther from the God whom I loved.

I was no longer experiencing discipleship. I was being pampered and coddled. Instead of being shown how to love one another, even when it is hard to do so, I was told just how special I was to God. Instead of communion being the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, it was about how partaking would bring me healing and strength and blessing. I was told that if I believed the right beliefs (which seemed to be a moving target), Jesus would come into my heart and be my personal savior, with the emphasis on personal. Leaders of these churches planned and worked to meet my “felt needs.” Evangelical books I was given to read were just self-help platitudes with scriptures dropped in here and there. Worship songs talked about how good it feels to be loved by God rather than the rich theology of those dusty old hymns. There was very little theology, as a matter of fact, very little need to train my mind to think of God. After all, God thinks good thoughts of me all day, and that is all that matters.

On top  of this, I spent many years working in Christian media, both broadcasting and publishing. While no one actually spoke these words, we knew that in order to increase our business we must manipulate people into buying our books or listening to our music using faith as the tool. We did it again by dealing with “felt needs.” I came to a place where I felt dirty and cheap, using Jesus to sell things no one needed.

In Douglas Adams’ humorous sci-fi novel The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, he introduces us to the ultimate torture chamber, the Total Perspective Vortex. Victims put into this box see the entirety of the universe and themselves in perspective as a tiny dot on a tiny dot. It is designed to drive men (and other various creatures in the universe) mad. Zaphod Beeblebrox, sometime president of the galaxy, is placed in the Vortex by a ghost named Pizpot Gargravarr.

The door of the Vortex swung open. From his disembodied mind Gargravarr watched dejectedly. He had rather liked Zaphod Beeblebrox in a strange sort of way. He was clearly a man of many qualities, even if they were mostly bad ones. He waited for him to flop forward out of the box, as they all did.

Instead, he stepped out.

“Hi,” he said.

“Beeblebrox …” gasped Gargravarr’s mind in amazement.

“Could I have a drink please?” said Zaphod.

“You … you … have been in the Vortex?” stammered Gargravarr.

“You saw me, kid.”

“And it was working?”

“Sure was.”

“And you saw the whole infinity of creation?”

“Sure. Really neat place, you know that?”

Gargravarr’s mind was reeling in astonishment. Had his body been with him, it would have sat down heavily with its mouth hanging open.

“And you saw yourself,” said Gargravarr, “in relation to it all?”

“Oh, yeah, yeah.”

“But, what did you experience?”

Zaphod shrugged smugly. “It just told me what I knew all the time. I’m a really terrific and great guy. Didn’t I tell you, baby? I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox!”

Zaphod survived the Vortex because he was not a tiny dot on a tiny dot in relation to all of creation. As far as he was concerned, the universe did not exist without him. He was the center of everything that existed.

That was what I had become: the center of my universe. And what a small, crowded universe it was. There was no room for fear and awe of God—God, no doubt, was in awe of me. After all, that is what I was being taught at every turn. And I was sick of it. With no sacraments to serve as anchors, my ship was adrift on the endless sea of me Me ME.

My first love had turned into a plodding existence, saying and doing all the right things so as to fit in with all of the others who passed through the Total Perspective Vortex and came out smiling smugly that they were they center of all things. I had become Mary and Joseph, walking three days back to their hometown before they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them. He was about his Father’s business, while I was about my own.

I longed for, yearned for, a return to my first love. I sought programs and activities and services to get me there. I got up earlier and prayed more and read more and did more. I fasted and confessed and … and then I just gave up. That is when God met me. About six years ago the Lord began emptying me of myself. He began to strip away the nice Christian wallpaper I had put over my real self. He helped me to see that I really am just a tiny dot on a tiny dot in the vastness of things, and that was freeing to me. For with myself so small, I could once again begin to see just how big and wonderful and awe-full God truly is. Now I find silence to be louder and sweeter than Christian noise, and I find it much more peaceful to have simple dreams than big dreams.

So I have come to the 40 year mark of my journey of faith with barely any faith left. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they finally assembled before Joshua at the edge of the Jordan, ready to enter the land promised to them. I’m sure it took those last several years to get everyone fed up enough and tired enough and hungry enough to leave the familiar wilderness for the unknown. And once they crossed over, things were not easy for them. There was much building and fighting and learning and praying and believing to be done. The last several years of my life have been years of upheaval and tumult and pain and hunger and a longing for Jesus as he knows himself to be, not as I think he is in my own Total Perspective Vortex. I will not be the center of things when I cross the river. And I am now prepared to cross over.

I am at the river’s edge. But for me, the river is not marked Jordan.

It is the Tiber.

Let us pray.

Comments

  1. Good for you, Jeff! You have truly followed your heart and sought Jesus’ guidance and struggled through the wilderness. I hope you find in the Catholic Church the challenge and meaning and joy you have been seeking — many people have, indeed. (And think how glad our Martha will be!) :-)

    • Glad, humbled, terrified, chastened, encouraged, and in fear and trembling ;-)

      We as a church are not perfect. We as Catholics are and can be every bit as self-satisfied, self-righteous, and distracted by running after fads and fancies as any other Christian or any in the secular sphere – and that applies equally to progressive and orthodox factions.

      So I’m reading what Jeff says with trepidation and hope. May the will of God be done, whatever it be!

    • As an evangelical, I will second H. Lee’s comments. I hope it will be a rich blessing.

  2. Jeff, outstanding as usual! Thank you!

  3. I don’t know about Internet Monk anymore. The past few years it has felt more like a Lutheran blog than … … … huh? Ok, scratch that…

    I pray that you find blessings in your journey across the Tiber. How much does the new Pope figure into this decision for you?

    • He is making it easier, that’s for sure …

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Just keep your head down among Evangelicals. You will find out how many of them (on and off-line) are still fighting the Reformation Wars, i.e. “NO POPERY!”

        • Yeah, this evangelical was shocked when the first time he attended a RCC service he heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. It was not what I was expecting…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Let’s see; the Liturgy of the Word (the first half of every Mass) includes a reading from the OT, a responsorial psalm from Psalms, a reading from the NT (Acts or one of the Epistles), then as the capper a reading from one of the Gospels. This is common to every Liturgical Church.

            And after the readings comes the homily (short sermon). The homily is supposed to relate to the day’s readings — including the Gospel — but how well it does varies from priest to priest and homily to homily.

            The only way you could NOT expect the Gospel would be if you were operating on some REAL inaccurate information (near-universal among the “NO POPERY!” crowd).

          • herewegokids says:

            Same here. I came into the Church 3 years ago…and I still weep at almost every mass b/c I never knew the Gospel was preached. Clearly. It’s actually much more Christocentric than the IFB upbringing I had, where there was a strong tendency to follow a preacher’s charisma.

      • flatrocker says:

        Jeff,
        Just a polite nudge – good popes come and good popes go. You’re swimming for another reason.
        Blessings and welcome.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Well, we’ve had a pretty good run of popes recently — JP2, Benny 16, and now Francis.

    • Maybe the people that were drawn to IMonk – the wanderers in the evangelical wilderness – are being led out of that wilderness and into places of comfort and rest, be it Lutheran, Orthodox or Catholic. I am happy for every person that finds their way out of that wilderness and into the arms of the Church. Praise be to God! My resting place after many years in the evangelical wilderness was the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      Blessings, Jeff. May this be a place of deep comfort and joy.

  4. I hope you find Jesus Christ at the center on the other side of the Tiber; I know that many have. Godspeed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, will you talk about your family’s response to your decision?

  6. You will be well-received, and find rest for your soul.

    Just be Catholic. Don’t worry about how good a Catholic or whether the Church is living up to your expectations. She won’t. You won’t.

    But Jesus is there in the Holy Sacrament in a way he isn’t and never will be anywhere else.

    [Mule crosses himself when he passes a Catholic church. Just in case.]

    • PS You have more faith than you give yourself credit for. Anyway, like my old Russian priest-friend said “The Chorch, she haff enuff fayff for us all.”

    • I second Mule’s beautiful comment.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi MULE,

      when I was a girl in Catholic school, the nuns taught us that, if we got hit by a bus outside of the Greek Orthodox Church down the street, the priest there could come out and give us the last rites . . . that was always kind of comforting :) I grew up thinking that Church was a lot ‘like ours’ in the important ways, and that when the chips were down, if I got hit by a bus on their doorstep, I would be in really good hands . . .

      you never forget stuff like that as a kid . . . in our world, when the nuns said it, we knew it was the truth

      • The similarities between the East and Rome are apparent but superficial. The differences are profound, but hidden.

        That said, I believe I can confess to a Roman priest in an emergency.

        • I would tend to agree with that…. or maybe we’re both looking at the same from different directions…

  7. Bless you, Jeff. May you find rest for your soul.

  8. “I am at the river’s edge. But for me, the river is not marked Jordan.

    It is the Tiber.”

    Oh my goodness, Jeff! I ditto what Martha said. There is much that I love and respect about the Catholic Church, but as you know, things I would like to see changed as well. Some of the things that kept Michael Spencer away from the Catholic Church are my concerns as well. And hey, you don’t even have to leave the “charismatic” part of you behind when you “join.” That was one thing that let me come back to the Catholic Church when I had wandered away. I had been a part of a charismatic independent church and did not realize until later that the Catholic Church had groups that encouraged speaking in tongues, prophesizing, etc. Now, I don’t SPEAK in tongues, but I believe I kind of pray in tongues as my prayer just becomes something that moves along without words attached to it somehow. It is like an energy that moves along and helps somehow to clear out the cobwebs that have settled in my brain and heart. I know those are all metaphorical, but that’s the way it is.

    I wish for you great joy and peace, Jeff! As Jesus often said, “Be not afraid.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “I am at the river’s edge. But for me, the river is not marked Jordan.

      It is the Tiber.”

      As one aggressive Third Order Dominican I used to know put it: “We’re gonna getcha.” (I think she drove off more potential Catholics than she bagged.)

      Or as per the Order of St Borg: “Prepare to be Assimilated”.

  9. Sounds in many ways like my journey. I converted to Catholicism 1yr and 1/2 ago and it is grounding for me and anchors my heart.

  10. May you find great joy. It has been six years since my river swim and it has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Blessings on your continuing journey.

  11. James the Mad says:

    Oh wow, what a punch-line!

    And while I can hear some of the howls already, somehow I’m neither surprised nor disappointed. I know Michael was never able to take this last step, but he understood and respected those who did. Given the almost complete bankruptcy of evangelicalism, and the richness of the other traditions (which we blithely refuse to acknowledge), moves such as yours are inevitable.

    I look forward to hearing about your continuing journey.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Zaphod survived the Vortex because he was not a tiny dot on a tiny dot in relation to all of creation. As far as he was concerned, the universe did not exist without him. He was the center of everything that existed.

    That was what I had become:

    You became Zaphod Beeblebrox.

    If I remember my HItchiker’s Guide (now where’s my towel?), didn’t Zaphod have two heads and three arms? Now THAT would have been an interesting conversion experience/testimony…

  13. David Cornwell says:

    Jeff, thanks so much for sharing with all of us your story, which in reality in many ways is the metadrama within the drama, your story within the overarching narrative of creation, sin, and redemption.

    God has given you a great creative gift in your ability to write and communicate. Thanks for your honesty of your testimony, and thanks be to God

  14. “Now I find silence to be louder and sweeter than Christian noise, and I find it much more peaceful to have simple dreams than big dreams.”

    I can relate.

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing, Jeff.

  15. Praying for you, dear brother! Welcome!!!

  16. Welcome Jeff,

    I know the journey well, because I crossed at about the same age, and for a similar reason. I was spiritually starving to death.

    May your family notice the same thing that my stepmother, and others have. My stepmother never knew I became Catholic, but our last Christmas together, she noticed that I had changed. I was more at peace with myself and with others. More at home in my own skin.

    One image that I use about the differences in becoming Baptist vs becoming Catholic is going through a dark entrance into a sunny garden. For Baptists, the entrance is short, but for some the garden isn’t very big, and hasn’t the variety of plants and designs that our souls need. For Catholics, the entrance is longer and harder, but the garden at the end seems bigger with far more varieties of plants, designs.

    And who knows, in a few years, you may be helping others come into the Church as well.

    • I’m a long-time reader, but haven’t been a regular commenter in quite some time.

      It’s comments like these that have turned me off. I’m a younger evangelical who has been navigating the wilderness in my own unique way.

      In respecting one another’s spiritual journey, why do we have to slander entire groups in doing so? Why not say “for me” instead of “for Baptists?” (For the record, I’m not Baptist)

      See, in going from Catholicism to evangelicalism, I learned a great deal from the Internet Monk community not to label entire groups of people. Michael Spencer played a significant role in knocking me off of my pedestal of theological snobbery. I learned to understand my journey as its own distinct story, which helped me release lots of the anger and stereotypes I had harbored concerning my Catholic upbringing.

      All that to say, I hope this space remains a safe and helpful one for evangelicals. Yes, it is now the season to call out the authoritarianism, abuse, manipulation, and celebrity-driven culture. It is time to advocate for those who have been hurt and forgotten. This must be done.

      But as an evangelical who has taken up that role in day to day life (and not just so I can write trendy blog pieces and find a new team to join — that’s another discussion), I’m having a hard time finding a safe space where I can celebrate the best aspects of living out an evangelical faith, where I can also find stimulation and challenge.

      I’ve finished seminary and will hopefully soon find a church to begin to develop as a pastor.

      I’ve wrestled through many things progressive, postmodern, liturgical, radical, catholic, mystical, process, liberation, reformed, liberal, and mainline.

      I come back to the person of Jesus and what he wants to accomplish in the lives of those whom he dearly loves, through the Spirit-empowered church. So I maintain my evangelical orientation, with the required self-awareness and ownership of privilege and quickness to admit where and how we have failed (much of which is apologizing for my predecessors).

      So, is this still a place for me?

      • (In re-reading my post I must point out that my comment about “trendy blog pieces” is in no way directed at Jeff or this post. I’m referencing the trend of blogs that expose the garbage that exists in evangelicalism. Some have been truly prophetic and safe, healing places: see stephanie drury or the wartburg watch. Others have been mere bandwagon jumpers that want to be included in the trend)

      • I hope you’ll find that this is still a place for you, Sean. I’ve enjoyed your comments and insights, and I know you’ll have more once you begin pastoring. Please keep coming — all the different people here keep me from thinking I know what the whole elephant looks like!

      • David Cornwell says:

        I’ve noticed that the spiritual journeys are in both directions. Many of those heading toward Rome seem to have a higher profile. It would be helpful to hear the stories of those have left Rome, with good reason, as well as those leaving Protestantism.

        I personally know several people who have been lifelong Catholics, from families that have been forever Catholic, who have left. Some are not terribly articulate as to their reasons, but others can tell a very reasoned story.

        “So, is this still a place for me?”

        I hope it remains so for all of us, and believe it will.

        • I left Rome 20 years ago because, having internalized the teaching of the Church, and taking seriously what the official church teaching was, I decided, based on my experience and my efforts to be a faithful son of the church, that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make a good confession, hence I couldn’t receive the Sacrament, and so I could only exist on the periphery of the church, neither inside or outside. It was an excruciatingly untenable situation, so I left and was received into the Episcopal Church.

          My family, nominal Catholics who nevertheless would never think of leaving the church, could not understand why I couldn’t just stay on my own terms. But I was in conversation and disagreement with what the Church had to say from its teaching authority, from its historic soul, and I could not in good conscience participate in the life of the RCChurch on my own terms because I could not distinguish between doing that and faithlessness.

          I often say nowadays that I’m an ex-Catholic, but the truth is that I carry the marks of the Roman Catholic church indelibly in my soul as I live my current life among the Episcopalians and Lutherans; I have deep love for the mystical tradition of the RC Church, and much of its moral and social teachings (not all).

          I can still remember the smell of votive candles burning and the feel of the worn pages of the missal at Sunday mass; I can see the glint of the paten as the priest prepared to celebrate the Eucharist and I can feel the dreadful awe arising in me each time as I approached the altar to receive the Body of Christ.

          But I do not believe that the Pope, or the Church, are ever infallible; and I do not believe that forgiveness of my sins is only effected by what transpires in the Rite of Reconciliation as it is understood in the RC Church. I carry the influence of Catholicism, but I am a Protestant, and I will remain one.

          • Micha Elyi says:

            But I do not believe that the Pope, or the Church, are ever infallible;
            –Robert F.

            Do you disbelieve Jesus when He said the Gates of Hades would not overcome His Church? (Matthew 16:18) Jesus was using an idiomatic expression of the place and time that meant His Church would not die. But if the man who held Peter’s office (the Bishop of Rome, also known as Pope) or the Church (all the Bishops in union with Peter’s successor) were to teach outright error, Christ’s Church would be dead wouldn’t it? And there are other assurances in Scripture that God is protecting His Bride the Church (though not the “living stones” from which His Church is built, for we are fallen and sinners) – I leave finding them as an exercise for truth-seekers.

            Jesus, I trust in You.

            and I do not believe that forgiveness of my sins is only effected by what transpires in the Rite of Reconciliation as it is understood in the RC Church.

            With that last bit, Robert F., you find yourself in agreement with the whole Catholic Church – Greek Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Coptic Catholics, and all the other Churches that are in union with the Bishop of Rome, Peter’s Vicar on Earth, included.

            What made you suppose God is limited by His own sacraments? But absent some special personal revelation to you by God Himself, you have no assurance “that forgiveness of (your) sins is… effected” until you have made a good confession, received absolution, and done penance as “transpires in the Rite of Reconciliation” as it is prescribed by His Church. Otherwise, you’ll still be going through life unsure that you really have been forgiven, unsure that you have truly repented, and on and on. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is God’s gift to us for forgiveness and for the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise of “My peace I leave with you.”

            Jesus, I trust in you.

          • Who told you that it was impossible for you to make a “good” confession, just at the time when you (apparently) most needed grace and assistance?

            Who made you certain that this was a permanent situation that would never get any better no matter how hard you tried?

            I feel for you, and I really mean the “who” part…I suspect there is a being behind it, who does not need to be named…

          • enness,

            I kind of resent the fact that you’re implying that my becoming Protestant was the work of the Devil (or work of devils); it’s insulting and condescending.

            Repeated attempts to confess in a way commensurate with the requirements of the RCChurch told me that I could not do the work involved; and now that I’ve married a divorced woman, there would be no way for me to meet the requirements, aside from repudiating my marriage, which is out of the question, or getting my wife to seek an annulment from her first husband, which would be far too emotionally traumatic an undertaking for her and something I would never ask.

            Micha Elyi,
            I don’t believe that the words you cite from Matthew refer to either the infallibility of the Pope or church.

      • Sean,

        I apologize if my comment has caused problems for you. I know that it is a lot easier for someone to join a Baptist Church than it is to become Catholic. A walk down the aisle, perhaps a short membership class is generally all it takes; for incoming Catholics, it takes at least from September to Easter. Sometimes the process is even longer, if there is a divorce and remarriage involved.

        I am sorry that you were hurt in your upbringing, I’m glad that you have found a relationship with Jesus the Christ. I just wish that my cousins who were hurt in their teens, by religious folk, would find Him.

        May your journey be pleasant and fruitful

      • Props for honesty, Sean. Don,t try to make Jeff,s story (or mine) yours. God has you on your journey, this is not a competition. Hope you stick around, but know that if you walk humbly and do justly with your Lord, you sparkle, WHEREVER that may be. Rise up and be you.

      • I learned a great deal from the Internet Monk community not to label entire groups of people. Michael Spencer played a significant role in knocking me off of my pedestal of theological snobbery.

        Don’t be so quick to forget that some of us need to be constantly reminded of this. Frustration and bitterness wreak havoc in the soul, and for some of us, this has been a therapeutic place to work through some of that. I’ve always enjoyed your thoughts, so whether or not you feel safe sharing them, some of us are better off for it.

        • Thanks all for letting me vent.

          As one who knows he doesn’t necessarily “fit” anywhere, yet has had to make an informed choice about where make my home (so to speak) despite the limitations and excesses…… well, let’s just say I’m sick of the game. I guess that’s half the battle, though.

          • Sean, you may not see this, since I am rather late to the game. But my experience might be helpful as you try to find your theological home.

            I have been an evangelical pastor for almost 20 years. And sometimes I still don’t feel like I fit in. I see all the criticism of the “evangelical circus” on this sight, and I, sigh, agree that most of it is valid. But I can’t swim the Tiber or the Thames (or whatever river is represented by Lutheranism) for the simple reason that I simply flat out believe evangelical theology.

            And so I stay. And I try to do my best to learn from the other traditions, and to see the faults of my tradition through their eyes. In this way, I can at try to shepherd the flock entrusted to me in a better way than I could otherwise. That is why I still read imonk, though I too share your growing sense of marginalization. And almost every commenter is irenic and helpful about disagreements.

            Some people fit exactly the religious tradition and subculture they serve. Some, like myself, do not. It is more frustrating, perhaps, to be in the second camp. But perhaps those of us in this camp have a needed and unique role too.

            So don’t let the fact that you may not “fit” anywhere exactly discourage you too much. There is a kingdom reason God made you the way He did. Find the best fit you can (especially doctrinally if you are a pastor), lean on Christ, and love His people. And you will be more than fine.

      • Sean,

        This place works because there are many different voices here for us all to learn from. I was drawn here initially because the folk here are incredibly articulate and I can learn from that. How boring this place would be if this was an all high liturgy site.

        In fact – I’d love to see a revival of the liturgical gangsters which brought opinions from high and low church…

        I am surprised to see how many Catholics actually follow this site (based on the posts here today).

        And… if all the evangelicals went away… then we’d be left with Mule articulating how we Romans took a wrong turn (good natured poke at you Mule – by the way I remember a Mule character in Asimov’s Second Foundation… throwing a monkey wrench in their predictions of the futiure – Harry Seldon)……

  17. It’s basically the same stuff. One has a Pope and vestments and candles…the other does not (although they do have a paper pope).

    So it should be an easy transition. Sounds perfect for you, Jeff. You should be quite happy there.

    • Kent Haley says:

      Steve,
      Do you ever have anything encouraging to say? Or is believing so strongly in Lutheranism really that uplifting for you?

      • Yes. But the truth must be spoken, also.

        Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism are, as Luther said, “two wolves tied at the tail”.

        It IS the same religious/ascendancy project stuff.

        But many do not fall for it. I find that encouraging.

    • Steve, that’s harsh.

      In this case, even if you feel you have a well-grounded theological disagreement with Jeff’s decision, it would be more gracious to hold your peace than offer sarcastic criticism. It’s the decent thing to do.

      I understand your Lutheran objections to putting Christian behavior under the Law, but I’d think that would also include not making a virtue out your own imperfection.

      • +1 (for Robert F’s comment)

        from a lifelong Lutheran (who spent too long in the evangelical/charismatic wilderness).

  18. Knitting Jenny says:

    Thank you, Jeff. I’ll be praying for you. I’m on a similar journey. The peace of the Lord be with you.

  19. Happy Birthday!

  20. I don’t know. At this point (age 65), I would not even contemplate the swim across that river. I know that, so far, I am the dissenting voice, but I just don’t see it. If you do and feel led, then God bless you.

    • Pastor M,
      I crossed the Tiber some 20 years ago in the direction of the Reformation and I have no intention of ever going back; for me, it would be like going back to live with an overbearing, controlling mother after having tasted the liberty of life as an adult.

      But I support Jeff in his decision because I know that many have truly found Christ in the midst of the Roman Catholic Church; his experience has not been the same as mine, and I hope that he is able to return to his first love in the very place where I was unable to find it.

      And if I felt that my only choice was between an Evangelical-Lite Worship church (there’s one near where I live called The Worship Center, a name that guarantees that my shadow will never darken their door and my eyes never gaze upon their “stage”) and the RCC, I would return to the church of my baptism.

      • As a cradle catholic, now anglican, what Robert f. Said: and the lord multiply your tribe for your charity, sometimes in short supply when this kind of discussion pops up. I,m not going back to RCC, but I definitely “get it”, and in Jeff,s case, applaud it.

        The lord keep you JEFF

      • Dear Robert,

        ‘Mom’ wishes it to be known that she always loves you…even if her manner of showing it sometimes rubs you the wrong way.

    • I wouldn’t take that swim either. At any age.

      Been liberated from all that self-focused religious ascendancy stuff. The Baptists and Catholics are welcomed to it. Whatever floats their boat.

      • Somewhere I read about a guy who thanked God he wasn’t like this other guy, who was standing afar off, looking down, and praying for mercy.

  21. Jeff – I’m glad you feel like you’re at this point, making the right step for yourself.

    As Martha and others have said, the RCC has its own problems (some of them quite serious), but it makes sense to me that you would feel like it’s the place for you.

    (written by a revert to ELCA-ish Lutheranism)

  22. As a former Roman Catholic, I have a question for any and all converts (or returnees) to Roman Catholicism who have commented on this blog today and are willing to answer: do you observe and obey all the cannon law of the Roman Catholic church (for instance, the laws concerning church attendance, confession, only receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace,etc.) to the degree that you know and understand it , or do you pick and choose, based on the deliberations of your own conscience, those practices that you deem necessary and legitimate but omit to follow those practices you feel unnecessary or somehow illegitimate?

    My own experience has been that most Catholics, whether lifelong or converts, exist within the RC Church as virtual Protestants, putting a higher priority on individual conscience and judgement than on much of the moral teaching of the church. I believe that this is more true now than ever before, but I believe that it was also true through the history of the Church from the beginning; in fact, in a sense, this is what made the Reformation and subsequent denominationalism not only possible but inevitable.

    • Robert F.,

      Tiber-swimmer here, and in answer to your question, yes, I do understand and follow all of the teachings of the Church. When I stood up at the Easter Vigil to join the RCC, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I intend to remain faithful to it.

    • Totally agree Robert.

      I know myself well enough to know that when push comes to shove I’ll always revert to my Campbellite protestationisms. ;o)

      • David Cornwell says:

        “I’ll always revert to my Campbellite protestationisms.”

        Maybe toward the Cain Ridge campgrounds?

    • Yes, Robert F, I think the majority of Catholics pick and choose what they follow and are very much like Protestants in many ways. I surely do pick and choose. I hardly ever even go to Mass, though that is not fully my choice. That is for keeping the peace with my husband. But when I do get to go, I am happy to be there. I have a number of areas where I definitely am not “in synch” with the Catholic teachings. So, probably lots of folks would say I am not really a Catholic. They may be correct, but as long as they keep letting me show up at Mass when I can, I will keep going.

      • JoanieD – and a lot of people *would* say that you’re Catholic (other Catholics, I mean).

        That’s one of the beauties of the liturgical churches – even though there might be a party line, there’s a *lot* of room for differing views.

    • Good question, Robert F. I can’t say I understand, like, or do everything the Catholic church requires. But I’m moving toward more understanding, appreciation, and obedience — my goal is not to pick and choose, but I need a lot of training in new habits. I also find that many things that are associated with Catholic practice are recommended but not required. I prefer the Jesus prayer to the Rosary, for example; I don’t have to pray the Rosary if I don’t find it helps me draw closer to God.

      There are other elements of essential Catholic doctrine that I held to on my own accounts for decades before joining — no artificial birth control or abortion among others.

    • Robert

      I obey the canon law as much as my knowledge allows me to.

      I probably shock some pastors of mine because I do formally ask for dispensation for missing Mass, if I am going to be traveling and not necessarily able to make it to Mass. Such as vacationing with a Baptist friend.

      But I don’t beat myself up, if I miss Mass (and have a good reason) Like the website not mentioning the earlier time, and arriving very late.

      I do pick and choose about devotions, etc. and even which parish I go to.

    • I believe it was Terry Mattingly of getreligion.org who said something to the effect of: There are three types of Catholics: nominal catholics who never go to mass, irregular mass attenders, and those who go to weekly confession and sweat the details. Don’t know how true this is, but if I were Catholic, I’d probably be somewhere in-between those last two. Would that private confession were more common in Lutheranism.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Then there are “Twice-a-year Catholics” — you only see them at Christmas and Easter Masses.

    • Phil Steinacker says:

      I am a revert to the RCC after 31 years of being the pope of doing whatever I felt was right. That was 10 years ago. I was a bit stunned to find that many Catholics misquote Vatican II by invoking the “supremacy of the individual conscience” shibboleth which they use as a “hall pass” to justify doing whatever they wish.

      I came back to the Church as an act of humble submission to the authority bestowed upon Her by Jesus. I do not need to join a church merely to rationalize away any problems inherent in my pursuit of my own desires. In those 31 years I became quite the expert on justifying myself without struggling to navigate the canons of the Church.

      If you want to be free to follow your own will, the simplest route of all is to quit church entirely, and this is doable while maintaining a general belief in God. Of course, that won’t give you much or survive close scrutiny, but why scrutinize when you are in charge, exactly as you desire?

      Today I not only embrace orthodoxy (even when it conflicts with my preferences and desires) but I also work at living out orthopraxis. And I agree with you that this tendency to have our own way is strong in humanity, even going back to the earliest days of the Church and actually, to OT times. During my formation as a young Catholic the stiff-necked people who were the Israelites were always held up as a mirror to our faces to remind us that we Catholics (and all Christians) are no different (and therefore no better) than the Israelites. We can be just as stiff-necked as they.The only difference is that we have the Resurrected Jesus and the Gift of His Church.

      However, that doesn’t change our nature which is to reject authority with every rational we can muster, including the many considered to be good reasons. The brighter and more educated we are the more susceptible we are to loving the sound of our own voices and to worshipping the beauty of our ideas.

    • Christiane says:

      ROBERT F.

      THAT is a great question.

      That ‘conscience’ thing? It can be a problem if someone is being unrealistic about their situation.
      Also, a problem if someone refuses to consult what the Church teaches on an issue.

      I once asked a priest about a certain matter, how to sort it out, and he told me that I should do three things: I should consider the reality of my situation, what the Church taught, and my own conscience. And then he told me to pray about it. So, he did not decide for me what to do, but he gave me some good guidelines to follow that helped me in a lot of situations where difficult decisions with ethical and moral considerations had to be made.

      Here is some direct teachings in our Catechism about ‘moral conscience':
      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm

      the GOOD thing about the Church is that through the moral and ethical training in our Christian formation, our abilities to count on the right action of our informed consciences is made stronger, and our consciences are honored guides to do what is right and to avoid evil . . . and always, always, the Law of Love (the Royal Law of Christ) is to be honored, and no evil must be done so that good may come of it

      hope this helps a bit . . . there are many, many other quality references and plenty of Catholics around to help you get a better understanding than I have provided here . . . I loved your question.

    • David Meyer says:

      “…do you observe and obey all the cannon law of the Roman Catholic church (for instance, the laws concerning church attendance, confession, only receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace,etc.) to the degree that you know and understand it?”
      Yes. With God’s grace I do. And that is all he asks. Jesus pours forth a torrent of mercy from his wounded side on the cross which envelopes the whole world…

      Catholicism is not a religion of rules but of mercy… If we live in the mercy of Jesus, we will not fret about law and rules… we will simply find his mercy working through us in such a way that we are in accordance with his will. Easy to say! ;-) But seriously, I had problems following Christ as a Calvinist, and I have them as a Catholic. I still have them, but I believe it is now far easier for me to follow because I am not tempted to decide for myself what divine revelation means so as to “wiggle” out of certain problem sins. As a true shepherd, the Church decides what is in accordance with Gods will. And that has made my Christian journey much less about me and more about who I am following. That is my experience anyway.

      Peace.

  23. Sorry… I somehow missed where Jeff says he’s becoming a Catholic. Was it the Tiber river reference? If so, what is that referring to?

    • The city of Rome is built on the eastern bank of the Tiber River, which is its major watercourse. “To cross the Tiber” is a phrase used to indicate becoming Roman Catholic.

  24. Jeff, as Numo suggested, the Thames is probably my river of choice. But, I get your decision and offer my sincere congratulations. I’ve been blessed by more than a few RC writers and it’s no loss on my part to move your name to that side of the roster.

    Tom

  25. Jeff,
    May God bless you in your continuing journey with Him.

  26. Dana Ames says:

    So many among us have swum Thames, Tiber or Bosporus. It’s interesting to find that as you come up for air, it seems that somehow you can truly breathe… May Jesus bless you always, Jeff.

    Dana

  27. There are still some of us who don’t feel the need to have to ‘swim’ anywhere.

    We are carried in the current of God’s love and forgiveness and in the waters of our Baptism, all throughout life. With NO add-on’s required…such as Popes, or decisions for Christ, or inerrant texts, or our seriousness, or good works…or anything else but the finished work of Christ on the Cross for the ungodly.

    • Steve, do you ever stop haranguing people?

      It would be nice if you would respect Jeff’s decision and just let this drop, imo.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Like I said above, someone else is getting the same vibe off this guy as I do. Sort of a Humble smugness and Humble arrogance of My One True Way. Kind of like Uriah Heep for IMonks.

        That said, “Steve Martin” is such a common name that he’s the third I’ve run across:
        * The first is the famous comedian.
        * The second was a somewhat-abrasive Furry artist locally nicknamed “S&M”; if you saw the stuff he draws, you wouldn’t need to ask why.
        * The third is the guy on this board.

    • flatrocker says:

      Steve,
      On behalf of all the imonk community, we would like to extend a special imonk blue ribbon to you for your acute and perpetual tone deafness.

      We get it.

      • Has the “steqadfast” and “imovable”, part down….as to the “abounding in the work of the LORD”, well….

    • Vega Magnus says:

      That’s all cool and so forth, but that doesn’t mean that you should be condescending and smug towards others who believe something a bit different.

    • Riddle me this, ladies and germs…why is ok for some others on this very thread to mention why they would not swim the Mississippi…but yet I cannot?

      And I do think Jeff will be perfectly suited for Rome. And I also said to those who like ‘a lot of God and a bit of me (them)’…have at it!

      My, what thin skins we have on a site that discusses theological DIFFERENCES so much of the time.

      • Andrew O'Brien says:

        Well, you kind of have a reputation of being a bit of a jerk. Your presence on Jason Stellman’s blog is how I’m familiar with you and you never seemed to listen to anyone else. You just parrot the same comments again, and again. Your comments seem to originate more from a hatred of Catholicism than a love for the people converting.

        You had a bad experience as a Catholic. I’m sorry about that. I haven’t had the same experience you had. Smply comparing conversion stories isn’t going to do us any good. If we are going to reach communion, you’re going to have to put your bad experiences aside, and I’m going to have to put my good ones aside and we are going to have to discuss the objective realities we are examining.

        You don’t seem willing to do that.

      • Nothing wrong with discussing theological differences…..however, if you find that your forum etiquette rubs people the wrong way, then you can probably expect to be called out on it. And if that bothers you, then perhaps you could use a few (more) calluses….

      • Final Anonymous says:

        “Riddle me this, ladies and germs…why is ok for some others on this very thread to mention why they would not swim the Mississippi…but yet I cannot?”

        1. Tone. 2. Manners.

        Biblical reference: someplace in Ecclesiastes discussing a time for everything. This is not the time.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Steve.

        When I left RC, the answer to the assurance question was probably the most important to me of all the questions I had along the way. That lasted me for 15-20 years. Then other, different questions and concerns came up. What drove me into the wilderness is that I found no one place in Protestantism that had a holistic theology that could adequately deal with all my concerns. I also found I could not revert to RC for theological reasons. I ended up on the same path as Bella, Tokah and Mule. One thing I love about EO is that it affirms the good that God is doing wherever it is to be seen.

        You are where you are for good reasons. Others make the journey, also for good reasons, and end up where they end up; wherever that is, they are always under the care of the God who is good and loves mankind. Jeff is still following Jesus and has found some peace. That is reason to rejoice.

        Dana

    • Steve, reread your first sentence. No problems there. Reread the rest of your comment: lots of snobbery. It,s not the disagreement, it,s the attitude of “hey, if you want to persist in being horribly, horribly,wrong, then go ahead…”

      • Sometimes you just can’t sing kumbaya when there’s a lot riding on it.

        People need to hear the truth. The truth is that Rome’s theology and Baptist theology are very similar. They are both semi-Pelagian. A little bit of what I do added to what God does. it’s the same stuff and people are deluded when they think otherwise.

        The Scripture point us to faith alone. That’s where our assurance lies and that’s where our Christian freedom lies. And that’s why I just don’t say, “wonderful! Have a nice trip.”

        • “They are both semi-Pelagian”

          Steve, if you truly believe that you are the chosen “truth-bearer” here, don’t you think you’re going to have to do a little more than just say “A little bit of what I do added to what God does. it’s the same stuff and people are deluded when they think otherwise.” I’m sorry, but that seems incredibly lazy to me. There is no way I will ever be persuaded by anything you say if that is the gist of your (strawman) argument.

          Besides, your argument is an old one and I’ve seen it refuted (at least from an Arminian perspective).

          http://www.worldcat.org/title/arminian-theology-myths-and-realities/oclc/70251128

          • Many don’t buy it. That’s ok. But is the truth. Both camps are engaged in a religious self-ascendancy project.

            If people want that, that’s fine. But they should hear the truth about it.

        • I’ve got no problem with semi-Pelagian. It’s just that the distinction you Westerners draw doesn’t make any sense to me any more.

          It’s not my little bit with God’s big bit. It’s all God, and all me, all the time, and even then, I’m just doing the bare minimum. If it isn’t all me, then I need to repent and confess, but I’ll still be getting it right when the legendary bird has whittled the legendary mountain down to nothing by sharpening it beak every one thousand years. I don’t have to get all the tumblers aligned before my dirt nap.

          There’s a reason why synergy is a New Testament word, and monergy isn’t, and there’s a reason why the Reformation stopped at the Vistula.

          • “there’s a reason why the Reformation stopped at the Vistula.”

            How much of that was because Islam had conquered the east? Were the eastern churches in dhimmitude at this point?

        • I won’t fault Steve for calling us Baptists semi-Pelagian because I think he’s onto something there. In some Baptist churches the fundamentalism is more works-oriented than what we imagine the Catholics to practice.

          But Steve, it really is the smugness. You could turn it down a notch.

    • Steve,

      Do Lutherans not expect you to have faith? You keep talking about your baptism as if baptism alone can bring salvation apart from faith. What do Lutherans teach about those who were baptised as infants and then turned from the faith as adults? Are they still considered safe in the arms of Christ. And for adults who come to faith in the Lutheran church, do they not have to decide to be baptized, so there is a decision to be made? It seems to me that throughout the New Testament an offer is made were a decision must be made as well. When the Philippian jailer ask Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer wasn’t, “Get baptized.” It was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” And he had a choice to make; believe or don’t believe.The idea that I’m right with God simply because I’ve been baptized is no different than the Jews thinking they were right with God simply because they were circumcised.

      • God’s promises are always good and valid in Baptism. God acts for us in Baptism.

        We don’t leave it alone, though, We preach and teach about it. When faith comes, then Baptism is complete.

      • And for adults who come to faith in the Lutheran church, do they not have to decide to be baptized, so there is a decision to be made? It seems to me that throughout the New Testament an offer is made were a decision must be made as well.

        Yeah, sounds like the bibles I have as well. Good luck with this, Jon A.; others have tried…… FWIW: any theology that does not take this decision making into account (concurrent with God’s sovereignty) makes absolutely zero sense to me….. but I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed , either.

        • Yes. But their decision isn’t the important one.

          It’s God’s decision, in the Baptizing (He does the Baptizing) that matters.

        • Grace before faith. Then the whole biblical narrative makes sense. The other way around and it gets all mucked up with ‘self’.

          • flatrocker says:

            Steve,
            Oh, those pesky Catholics – some of them might actually have the audacity to believe grace precedes faith just as good works follow faith. That it makes the journey complete – with him and with each other.

            Assuming you’re not in a “death-bed” conversion experience, it would be interesting to hear your perspective on what happens next after a faith conversion in this life.

            How is faith manifested in our lives – here and now? Is faith a unique personal experience only? Or does it also call us to each other?

          • Well…God is the One who gives us faith. So that should settle the question (but it won’t) of how it starts.

            What happens after we come to faith?

            All sorts of things. We worship. We live. We sin. We laugh and cry and love and hate.

            And we even profess the gospel once in a while. Some of us.

          • flatrocker says:

            Stewe,
            You have described a nice, orderly and cohesive vertical relationship rooted in faith through grace.
            What I am interested is the messy, difficult horizontal relationship that faith challenges us through good works for each other.

            The cross can only be a cross when it contains both the vertical and the horizontal.

          • We are very mixed bags, FR.

            We do ‘em (tainted motives, more than likely)…and then we do not do them.

            But we aren’t the point, are we?

            It’s Christ Jesus’ love and forgiveness for us, the ungodly.

            Methinks.

          • ‘Grace before faith’

            Steve, do you think baptists disagree with this? Now I’ll grant you that as many baptists as there are in the world that you can find some who do, but you shouldn’t lump us all together because you can find some who do. I’m sure I can find some lutherans who would say things you wouldn’t want to be lumped in with.

            As far as grace before faith, I agree completely. Though your idea of how that grace comes might be different. If God in his grace doesn’t draw us by the Holy Spirit not one of us will ever come. I get no credit whatsoever for my salvation. I do have to confess and believe, but even the confession and belief are possible only because of the grace of God. So I have nothing to boast about.

          • Yes, Jon A., IO do think Baptists disagree with it. For them, it is your decision for Christ that matters.

            One’s faith comes first.

            That’s why they refuse to baptize infants. The infant is not capable of making a decision for Jesus. Cannot have faith. Or so they believe.

          • The reason they refuse to baptize infants is because they do not find it in the Scripture. The ‘household’ references are an argument from silence. The consistent practice is that people come to faith and then they are baptized. It is an act of grace on God’s part that they come to faith, so it is still grace before faith. How do you explain it when adults to come to faith in the lutheran church. Do they not really have faith until the baptism? Do they not really decide to get baptized? Or do they believe, confess, and then get baptized. And if they believe before they are baptized does that mean God’s grace was not in it? Not practicing infant baptism does not equal a denial of grace before faith.

        • greg – if someone joins and Lutheran church (my synod, anyway) and has already been baptized in another church/denomination, that baptism is accepted. If an adult joins who has never been baptized, then they go through baptism.

          It’s simpler than Steve’s making it out to be.

          • I make no assumptions that what Steve types is necessarily Lutheran (any more than what I type is necessarily Anglican…. but I’m a toddler yet); I’m pretty sure that Steve represents Steve; I have a younger sister who went RC to Lutheran, and worships @ both (husband remains RC). I think she has two great worship homes (or more, if you count places she visits….) thanks, Numo.

          • gregr – I figured as much. ;)

            I was raised Lutheran (ELCA) and am a revert, after several decades in the evangelical/charismatic wilderness. Though there are things I disagree with, and in some ways, my affinities are more Anglican than Lutheran. But I also spent a lot of time with Catholics (charismatics) when I was young, and am grateful for many of the things I learned while among them. (I do not think I could ever become a Catholic, though, but the religious I knew all encouraged me to stay Lutheran anyway!)

          • I do believe I have an excellent grasp of Lutheranism.

            What’s the question?

          • @Steve: no , I think I’m caught up, any more questions along this thread would not be helpful to you OR me. the LORD walk with us , bless us, and reveal more of HIMSELF to us.

    • Steve,

      But if God inspired the books of the Bible to be written, doesn’t it follow that they are inerrant? Do you believe God inspired the Scriptures to be written, such that what was written down was what God intended should be written?

      God bless,
      Devin

      • God’s Word is infallible. The text does not have to be inerrant anymore than a preacher needs to be perfect.

        Even our Lord was fully man…an yet fully God.

        The finite contains the infinite.

        • Steve,

          Infallible refers to a process or an agent. Inerrant refers to the result of an infallible process.

          So God inspired one of the authors of sacred Scripture to write a book–infallibly so–such that the result of that process is inerrant. God protected the work from error.

          So 1) how do you believe that God’s Word is infallible but not inerrant?
          2) If it potentially has errors, how would you know which parts are true and which are false?

          Yes Jesus was fully man and God, just as Scripture is fully inspired by God but written by man.

          • The message, Devin. It’s conveys God’s perfect will for sinners.

            Every jot and tittle does not have to be inerrant for God to be able to work. That is how Muslims believe about the Quran.

            Our God uses “earthen vessels” for His infallible will.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Ever notice everything this guy posts sounds like a sermon? Or Christianese platitudes?

        • HUG,

          Who gets to determine what’s Christianese? The other day there was a post about types of prayer using language that I was completely unfamiliar with, and I’m sure that unchurched people would have been as well. Was that Christianese? You may not agree with his view of Scripture, but that doesn’t make his statement a Christianese platitude

  28. Following Jesus was called the Way long before it became Christianity, and that implies a journey. Godspeed!

  29. Adam Palmer says:

    So I guess that was YOU the two-year-old was honoring this morning when she asked for the maple syrup but got her plosives mixed up and accidentally called it “papal syrup.”

    • That’s hilarious. Now I badly want Papal Syrup to be an actual thing…like something they put on their pastries and have with espresso.

  30. Jeff, I am so glad to hear you are finding a home in the wilderness. I’ve found the story of your journey to be very moving and it warms my heart to think that you’ve found some respite.

    If I can confess some judgementalism here, my first off-the-cuff reaction I had, if only for a split second, was “what on earth does Rome have to offer that Lutheranism doesn’t?” But it didn’t last long: I can really answer that question for myself. Having been in the LCMS for two years now, I have found that the Evangelical circus is alive and strong in our circles. For the wearied seeking shelter, if you had decided to join us, the chances are too high that you may have found yourself, like me, with one foot in the historic traditions of the church and the other in the circus of Evangelical subculture. I’ve had my moments of feeling a lure to Rome myself, especially since they remain remarkably consistent far more so than any Protestant tradition. I imagine a thinker of your depth has confronted and dealt with issues that have prevented people like me from joining Rome, especially the doctrine of Justification. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on that if you ever feel like writing them. JP II’s thoughts on synergism in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” remain a haunting threat to the dogmatic system I am convinced of. More specifically, I’d like to hear your thoughts on reconciling Roman dogma with Capon-ian writing on grace.

    I’m sure you got no blinders on, and are fully expecting to find a new variety of circus acts in your new home. To a certain extent, we never leave the wilderness until we’ve reached our final home. The Jordan River is, ultimately, a metaphor of death. I’ve completely lost hope that the cross I’m called to bear will ever not be largely comprised of the institutional church. But in the meantime, there is rest for the weary which can be found in the fountain filled with blood. Whatever challenges you may have ahead of you, I believe your decision will yield adequate boon to support. The Sacraments are real. Christ himself will be truly present with you to comfort you and nourish you with his grace through means that can not fail. I pray and hope you will find an abundance of Pastoral care that has been tragically absent in your Evangelical sojourn. I pray Christ will become more real and comforting to us both in our trials , and that just maybe, perhaps we can, through the Kingdom come on earth, get a foretaste, even if only a glimpse, of the promised land.

    • I’d like to hear your thoughts on reconciling Roman dogma with Capon-ian writing on grace.

      I don’t think that will be as much an issue as you may think. Here’s a quote from a well known Trapist monk which sounds very much like Capon;

      “If I make anything out of the fact that I am Thomas Merton, I am dead. And if you make anything out of the fact that you are in charge of the pig barn, you are dead. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.”11

      • If he didn’t name himself, you could have told me that was Capon and I’d probably have bought it.

      • Christiane says:

        I just requoted your Thomas Merton quote over on SBCvoices blog . . . I wonder if they will delete it or allow it to get through ‘accommodation’ . . . it will be interesting to see what happens . . . it just might make it, hopefully

        it’s a great quote!

        a lot of evangelical people get put off of Merton because of some his contemplative writings and they miss reading the good stuff that might be meaningful to them . . . so when I find a quote that might help them, I pass it on, or try to at least . . . all with good will, and never angry if it is ‘rejected’ as inappropriate for their blog, as it is after all THEIR blog and I respect that :)

    • “I am so glad to hear you are finding a home in the wilderness.”

      I think that is the right perspective.

    • To a certain extent, we never leave the wilderness until we’ve reached our final home. The Jordan River is, ultimately, a metaphor of death. I’ve completely lost hope that the cross I’m called to bear will ever not be largely comprised of the institutional church.

      You too, eh ?? Excellent insights, Miguel.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Miguel,

      your remarks are honest and kind. That goes a long way. Thank you.

      Dana

    • The LCMS needs to quit throwing stones at the ELCA and get their own house in order.

      • +1 for dumb ox’s comment. (No offense intended, Miguel!)

        • I’d probably have to disagree with you in order to get offended. We still take major issue with the positions ELCA has taken, don’t expect us to just get over it as long as you have “Lutheran” in the denominational name, but we certainly have our hands full with our own messes. We have much work to do.

      • I say that as one who gave up on the LCMS for the very things Miguel mentioned that have frustrated him.

        • I don’t think it’s worth giving up on. Tradition has been making a strong comeback. It’s an uphill battle, but there’s a lot of post-Evangelical blood energizing the movement. Many Lutherans really don’t understand their own church’s teaching and tradition, and that’s why they fall for so many gimmicks. But I have found they are quite open and interested to learning more about it. A little tact goes a long way, too.

    • Ben in SoCal says:

      “…what on earth does Rome have to offer that Lutheranism doesn’t?”

      Friend, then you could also say, “What on Earth does Rome have to offer that Episcopalianism doesn’t?” Or the countless denominations of Baptist theology. Or the Mormons. Or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or… enter denominational title here.

      The Catholic Church is something that the others are not: it is pre-denominational. God bless you friend, and may we all find true unity in Christ.

  31. I scanned this a couple of times this morning… then was out all day and this is the first time I had a moment to dig in… your last line threw me for a loop…

    Many prayers for you Jeff on your continued journey. As you know there is much to see and learn. One of the great things about not being in an area dominated by cultural Catholics is that you will get a better sense of the spiritualness and commitment.

    Six or seven years ago I watched as Michael played at the shores of the Tiber, skipping rocks, sometimes turning and hiding his face, sometimes wondering if he should swim for the good of his marriage. In the end he stayed with his tradition because it was right for him and I learned a lot as he shared with us his struggles along the way. I pray that your walk takes you closer to that union with God and that you find the peace you seek and that again we may learn from your journey as well.

    Regards,

    Radagast

  32. I haven’t commented here for at least a few years. Congrates Jeff on your move. I just fear in a few years converts will be disillusioned as I was when I converted to Evangelicalism from RC. I have issues with both communions that Robert F outlined above. I worship at both Sat. Mass. And Sunday Baptist….’m a Pilgrim that hasn’t found a home and I fear if I found one I would turn it into an Idol.

  33. God bless you for sharing this story, Jeff. My husband and I both converted to Catholicism six years ago (I was a lifelong atheist, he was a lukewarm Southern Baptist), and it’s been a wild and wonderful ride ever since. Welcome home.

  34. Jeff, would you say that you once trusted in imputed righteousness, but now reject that in favor of infused righteousness?

  35. Welcome home, brother! (says a member of the Tiber Swim Team, Class of 2007).
    It was a leap for me to come home to Rome -and a painful one sometimes – but I have never been happier. Receiving Our Lord in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is worth all the struggle and rejection I faced from my Protestant friends.

    I am so excited for you, and you’re in my prayers!

  36. Hallelujah! and God bless you, Jeff!

  37. Phil Steinacker says:

    Forgive me, Jeff, for responding to Robert’s post above without extending to you my warmest greetings while joining The Sheepcat in singing out Hallelujah and God bless you!

  38. Jeff:

    Congratulations. God’s blessing to you in this new chapter of your journey.

  39. “I wear my shadows where they’re harder to see
    But they follow me everywhere
    I guess that should tell me that I’m travelling toward light
    I guess something you sang made me remember that
    I guess I’m saying thanks for that”
    – Bruce Cockburn (from “Birmingham”)

  40. Harry Piper says:

    From one convert to another, welcome aboard! We need the help. I’ll say a prayer for you.

  41. @JEFF: sorry to waste so much bandwidth on anything other than a celebration. If I was in your neighborhood, the steaks and cold ones (your choice of) would be my treat. Should you ever make it to if, my house of worship is almost catholic, you are welcome there, or we could go full on smells and bells and do the downtown cathedral, or redemptorist in midtown. Anyway, here, or there, let the party roll, still saves daily.

  42. Ben in SoCal says:

    Welcome to the Faith, Jeff. I am a cradle Catholic who is also a revert; I spent several years wandering spiritually, from Judaism and Episcopalian communities. You will find cause for both profound joy and painful angst with the hierarchy of the Church. Remember there are saints and sinners guiding the Church, or presuming to guide the Church, under Christ’s guise and gaze. For every Judas that has caused horrid scandal for Christ’s Bride, there are 11 other noble men and women waiting to restore goodness. But with the hectic moral state of the world today, I’m glad to call the Catholic Church my home and safe harbor. God bless you and yours.

    • Rosemary A. says:

      @Ben in SoCal – You said it very well. I “swam over” in 2004. My spouse is a “revert” who returned home after 38 years. Welcome, Jeff!

  43. Welcome! I joined last year at the Easter Vigil, having been a Presbyterian for 49 years. It’s wonderful. I do know how hard it is to convert. It’s HARD. It requires truly painful amounts of humility. But what a huge blessing. You are in pain and exhausted. I have been there. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the last week. But Jesus is watching with unspeakable tenderness and love your every small and exhausted attempt to turn to Him. A vast cloud of witnesses is cheering you on. Converting is so painful. But being in the Church is grand.

    • Rosemary A. says:

      JayDee – I entered the Catholic Church in 2004 after being a Protestant for 38+ years. Your words echo my experience. “But being in the Church is grand.” Yes, it is, isn’t it! :-)

  44. Jeff–Congratulations in your journey, not particularly to a church/denomination, but hopefully to a deeper knowledge and experience of Jesus. Hopefully this website will maintain its commitment to the pursuit of a Jesus-shaped spirituality. I frankly find this denominationalism to be distracting and counterproductive, and something I can find on any number of lesser websites.