I read this post the other day from a friend of mine: http://eaglesfamily.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/catholic-or-christian/. As you may know, this particular post spoke very directly to my life. I'm dating a great man who cares deeply for me, who reveres and honors God, and is a Catholic. And he loves being Catholic!
As we continue to date and grow closer, there is of course that question of where we'll go to church should we get married. Would I consider going to the Catholic church? Yes. I would. Does that shock people? I'm sure that it does. Honestly, had you told me three years ago that I would seriously consider that, I would've thought you were crazy. Why? Because, I, like a lot of those in the 'Evangelical realms' (as pointed out in Jess's blog) have had this notion of putting Catholics into an "other" category.
Am I proud of this? No. Not at all...especially when some of the most sincere and faithful people in my family are Catholics. When Dan told me about how kids in his high school wrote off his faith because he was Catholic, I shuddered. In my heart, I knew that I'd done that when interacting with my own friends before...because they didn't pray the same prayer I prayed or whatever.
I think that we humans gets so caught up in wanting to be right. We are convinced that because this church fits us then it must fit all people; or that because God reached me at this time in this manner, that's how He does it for all people. I love that in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan never appears to the children in the same place or the same manner because "He's not a tame lion - but He is good." He's not on command from us and He's not a formula that can be figured out. There's not a certain ritual you can do, prayer you pray, song you sing, or an order to your service that ensures God will show up or answer you. It's the honesty and sincerity of your heart in performing that, and the goodness, mercy and grace of God in answering you how He pleases - His time, His way.
As I've thought about this, the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well has come to mind. She is a Samaritan, only half-Jewish; long ago, the northern kingdom Jews disobeyed God's law and intermarried. Therefore, the Jews didn't allow the Samaritans to worship in Jerusalem, so they worshipped at Mount Gerizim. She asked Jesus, "You Jews say that we must worship in Jerusalem; our fathers worship at this mountain." Her question: who is right? Jesus' answer: the Jews have worshipped what they know, you what you haven't - but a time has now come when you won't worship the Father at this mountain or in Jerusalem - but in Spirit and in Truth, for God is Spirit." Earlier, in chapter 3, Jesus likens the work of the Spirit to the wind - you can't see it, but you can see the effects.
As I have had more of an open-mind toward Catholicism, I've been surprised. About nine years ago, I prayed that God would do a revival and awaken people in that church. I'm realizing now that He has been - and He was way before I prayed that. He desires that His children would know Him and worship Him in Spirit and Truth - and so, He is always at work - in a variety of churches, homes, colleges, high schools, nations in many different methods. There's a lot of depth and richness theologically to the mass that I never understood before.
Honestly, I think it's beautiful that God has given us so many avenues to express our worship to Him. Regardless of the church, what matters is that our hearts belong to Him - that we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. A friend and I were discussing churches in June, and ended up talking about Revelations when all nations, every tribe and tongue will worship Jesus. I'd never thought about it as all denominations coming together - but it will be. Now, we see in a glass dimly, but then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.
As I have gotten to know Dan, I am impressed by his reverance and humility toward God. He has much more of an attitude like Job, "Shall we accept good from God and not hardship?" Whereas my attitude is more, "Really God? Seriously? You're gonna throw this at me?" He's a lot less self-centered than I am in that regards. He looks to God to handle the big things and takes it upon himself to handle the small things. I look to God to handle small things and can get overwhelmed by the big.
I agree with Jess. Let's allow God to take care of His churches and focus on being attentive to the way His Spirit leads us to influence others.