Sermon on Sarah and Abraham

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

I want to note that I would have probably never written this sermon if it wasn’t for it being assigned to me. It’s difficult to know what to do when you’re given a story that is 1/5 of the book of Genesis. Because this is the “last” sermon I’ll preach for a while, it gave me more anxiety than it probably should have…

Sermon at the Brookline Church of Christ

May 11, 2014

You’ll have to forgive me for this… It’s the end of the semester, the end of my time in Boston, and you’ve all been so good to me. As nervous as it makes me, I’ve really enjoyed being able gain this experience preaching here, and I have no idea when or if I will ever be able to again. That being said, I hope I’m not judged too harshly here, this one being the “last” I will preach, but also being second in a sort of series on Salvation history leading up to Pentecost. Continue reading “Sermon on Sarah and Abraham”

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Why did you do it? Three Reasons I Became Catholic.

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 9, 2016

Why did I do it? I was asked this the other day by a post church of christer married to a catholic post church of christ… I don’t think I answered the question. You’d think after 3 years I would have my answer all worked out. I just met this person. My words?

“It was a slow burn…”

“The community…”

“I don’t know if I could have done it outside of Boston, the Jesuits, etc…”

Even though I wrote in the last post that the reason was to do the denomination thing and liturgy–totally true. It’s a copout for the more mystical answer, that is, the Eucharist.

Why did I do it? The Eucharist.

There is something indescribable that happens. And in trying to explain it, I would only ruin it for myself or someone else. That’s what Mike McHargue says in Finding God in the Waves. To sit and to be and to experience the ritual – everyday, any hour, in any language, all across the globe. There are not many (if any?) churches that can say they do this.

I love communion in church of Christ and I continue my adoration in the Catholic church.

Why did I do it? Universality.

Like in the above–I can go anywhere in the world, and be at home. The Catholic church is so huge and so small and homey at the same time. Then there is this sort annoying paradox of “universality” and “exclusivity.” How can something so huge actually be exclusive? The only exclusive part of being Catholic, is that you choose to commit. Is that too much to ask? Is that any different from any other church?

I understand the issues many have with the Catholic church (particularly on gender and sexuality), but it is still in dialogue. I appreciate this. Leadership in the church is like parents fighting over what they think is best for their children. They want the best, we’ll turn out ok…

Lastly, why did I do it? Conversion.

Because I believe in a God of conversion. If you are born and raised Christian, are you really a convert? Where is your heart blocked off from God, because you don’t believe you can be converted, changed, transformed, healed, forgiven, forgiving, or reconciled. That’s what God is after. Just because I was confirmed Catholic does not make God any less after me. Regrets? No. Issues with Mother One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Of course.

If I can believe in conversion for myself and others, I can believe for the same for any religious institution that is made up of myself and others.

Confirmation: I Guess I’m Catholic Now

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

April 28

Welp. I guess I’m Catholic now. I feel about the same, but I smell like oil. I like it. I don’t want to wash off all the smells and feelings. I feel a little bit of a weight lifted. I feel grateful, but also kind of sad. Not sad because I got confirmed, but a little sad that there are friends and family that might be scandalized by the whole occasion. It’s kind of sad.

It was a great service. One of my former grad school professors presided over the mass. Mom and Dad came, and I was happy they were there to support. There was even a guy who jumped in to get confirmed at the last minute. Seriously. I think depending on the diocese/community you’re a part of, you can pretty much become Catholic whenever you want–provided you have some sort of Christian background, i.e. baptized Christian. Anyway, the ritual is intense, but good. Afterwards, there was a little reception for all of us, and we got gifts! I had no idea I would get gifts. One of my friends got me a scapular. If you wear it when the apocalypse happens, it protects you from hell. It actually says that on it. I also received a really lovely cross from one of my sponsors. It felt like home.

When I began writing all this stuff, I remember thinking that it’s good for Protestants to become Catholic. For myself, it had a lot to do with the experience of the denomination. I would say to all those “non-denominational” church people, “Go experience a denomination.” It’s beautiful. The process of learning, the rituals, the initiation, the families and friends and communities. Growing up, my experience was very anti-denomination. I realize that for some, even the word “denomination” is said like spitting, but it’s really just a descriptive word.

Wikipedia saves the day, “In Christianity, a denomination is a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership and doctrine.” Maybe that’s why there are so many Christian churches with weird names like Lifepoint, Underground, Mars Hill, Common Ground, Cornerstone, Mosaic, Grace, Christians Meet Here, and New Walk. If they have a distinct name, well then, they can’t be a denomination. Well, I doubt they’ll escape the part of the definition about structure (prayer, band, smoke machine, 45 minute sermon, maybe communion), leadership (white married dudes), and doctrine (sola fide and sola scriptura).

I’m poo pooing on the non-denominational thing because Christianity is too big to avoid it, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can work together instead of battle against one another or pretend like were the only Christian church in a hell-bound vacuum.

Or, maybe my advice is to go experience liturgy. Because there are so many groups that do it! High liturgy: smells and bells and classic music and singing. And low: basically all those same things with more band worship music. The history of the Christian church is in denominations. I admit, it’s a weird breaking issue, that probably isn’t the case for others who “switch” Christian churches.

Do I know what I have gotten myself into? No. But no one ever really does. I’m happy to be here, and I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. That’s also what’s weird, At the beginning, I’m like, “What way am I going to go?” Both.

Time to work on my last sermon in Boston…

Confession: I Still Don’t Get Sin

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

I don’t know how to prepare for a “first confession”. It’s a strange thing being a candidate for the Catholic church. In RCIA, we were basically told to do it, and I did. My only experience with Catholic confession is from Hollywood. Usually set in a small dark lonely box inside a small dark church. In TV and movies usually the camera is right in the priest or confessors face. The light is right above them casting unflattering shadows. I felt like when I went in to do confession that the light would be dark or dim, but it definitely wasn’t. It was in a college administrative office, bright florescent lights. I sat on a couch facing him in his office chair with a coffee table between us. I was talking to a priest, where the last interaction I had with him was five years before trying to get a job in Campus Ministry. He had no idea who I was.

Technically, Catholics are supposed to do confession like right before they go to communion. Or is it as long as they have no mortal sin on their shoulders? I don’t know. They got to be a clean vessel for Jesus to meld with… or something like that. Though, I’ve been told that Augustine thought/said that going to mass was a cleansing enough process for the average Catholic to partake. Not to undermine the significance of confession.

I was really nervous, and I thought a lot about my sin. I realized after that, really, the priest has more to be afraid of. I mean, who knows what kind of sinning I’ve been doing, right? And he has to hear it. I didn’t want it to be fast, but I also didn’t want it to take forever. From what I remember, he didn’t want it to take forever either. Not that I felt rushed, but after a certain point, and a certain feeling of remorse, what more is there to do or say? Pray, receive forgiveness, forgive yourself, and move on?

Weirdly, I cried. I did not expect to cry. I felt light afterwards. I’d done my new Catholic duty, though I’m still not sure what the etiquette is…

I don’t get sin.

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

April 23

Ugh. Last night was “rehearsal night” for confirmation. It was alright. It’s exciting and scary and mundane. It’s like becoming what you become. Unfairly, as a candidate for confirmation you basically have to say that you believe everything that Catholic church claims about God. I don’t really know everything that the Catholic church claims about God, so that’s kind of tough to say. I suppose if I’m going with what I think I know the Catholic church claims about God, then I’m good. Anyway, it’s a weird feeling, and I understand why a witty teenager might back out.

But I don’t know. Whatever.

It’s so wrong, the way I’m going through this process. The more I think I know, the less I know. One of my friends was like, “This is where you are now, and that’s all you can be true to.” True. Very true. I can’t worry about the past, or anticipate the future, I just have to be where I am with God, and the Catholic church is it. Not perfect. Not “believing” everything. Just being true.

Then there is this confession thing. A good practice, but, again, whatever. First, I’m pretty sure I’ve committed no mortal sin. Because, well, it’s really difficult to do this. I have my issues, my day to day struggles, that have always been. Then I have these distinct moments of venial sin action—again, everyone does this. I do wrong, knowing it’s wrong (maybe a lie, not being generous, cheating, stealing, swearing, being mean, gossiping, anger). Then there are accidents of the same thing.

I’ve always strived to be good. Never actively choosing to step out of grace with God. And maybe that’s a sin too—perfection. Selfishness. Thinking I can do everything by myself, but I need reconciliation. I need to express my imperfection and my need for God.

That’s the short story. The strange thing is rehashing all of this in my mind. Because, I also honestly believe I am forgiven. I don’t need to go to a priest. I get it. Some do need this. And it’s a good practice. A super good practice. It’s better then the cry-fest every Sunday at Evangelical churches reminding us about how terrible we are.

Three Weeks to Confirmation

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

April 6

Three weeks to confirmation. I started thinking about how this whole being Catholic thing is going to go down. I have no idea. For me, even though I wasn’t raised Catholic, it feels like the whole “come home Catholic” thing. But it’s not like I’m coming home Catholic for me, but for all those who hated and were violent and divisive Christians before me. Having an Italian heritage means that half of me is very Catholic/Christian, probably since Paul in Rome. Or likely, being that I have red hair, my Italian side probably goes back to some barbaric pagans… Anyway, the other half of me is not at all Catholic, generationally, anti-Catholic. I know on both sides no one was perfect, and all sides probably did something wrong. But all sides did good too. I’m here, aren’t I?

I realize how flawed this thinking is. I’m not perfect either.

Like something far back inside of me is being healed somehow for someone(s), and the Saints are rejoicing. I’m not simply reconciling for myself, but for many many others in my line who couldn’t. And that’s ok, because eventually, it will be healed, and I have to hope that to be true, and try to embody that as best I can.

Catholic Confirmation: Get it over with

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

March 29

Lately, I’ve been of the attitude of just “getting it over with” when it comes to becoming Catholic. I can’t decide if this good, or bad, or normal, or abnormal. I mean, all the depth is still there. I’m not a totally jaded Catholic yet. I’m just the normal Christian. Whatever that means. Along with my feelings of wanting to just get it over with, I am excited. I do feel a little afraid. I do believe I’m doing the right thing, even though I don’t sound like I am. I know that this is good.

I talk about it sometimes like I’m annoyed I have to do it. This is probably more human experience, as opposed to a parental brain-washing encouraging you to do or not do something you will never fully understand. “Welcome to the One Holy and Apostolic Church.” Like with anything you love, or you have to work for, that intense directed hard-working passion—it get’s old, annoying, and repetitive quite often. But you still love it. You still want it. You’re not always totally sure why you do what you do, whatever that thing is, that makes you move and keep moving, but you always know that it is good.

It’s not always perfect. You don’t always feel perfect. But you know. If you make a mistake, it’s not going to be the end of the world. It’s learning and growing.

I feel like there are so many wrong things with some of the above statements. Like, it’s just another way of saying, “Follow your heart.” But just remember, your heart is not perfect. And no, you also can’t perfectly know the heart of God, and have your hearts perfectly melded in the same direction (because you’re human surrounded by humans). However, that is what the kingdom is—working for that melding of our direction and God’s direction… until the work is done… mistakes and all.

I am in a super transition state. In addition to literally moving to another state, I’m getting confirmed, getting married, getting a new job, and planning to walk across Spain all summer. That’s not even including my hobbies of preaching and podcasting and social media and writing and counseling…

I remember that I wrote, not too long ago, that I really didn’t want to do anything that I didn’t want to do anymore. What do I want to do? I want to help people. I want to learn more tech and promotion skills. I want to have time to write, vacation, and be with family.

One of my co-workers was complaining about life, and he said something along the lines of, “You’re life is figured out!”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You’re getting married, moving to Florida. You’ll pop out a couple kids. And you’ll stay at home and have some sort of popular blog about making your own baby food or something!”

“You think so….”

It was kind of weird. I thought it was mostly weird in that he seemed convinced and maybe even jealous. Personally, I think all those things sound great. But I can’t count on that. I keep writing. I do my thing. But I’m not consistent. I have a million other things in my mind taking me away from what I’d like to focus on. It’s the battle of feelings between “I have to do this” and “I want to do this.”

Even writing this right now, I’m procrastinating. What will this amount to? Probably nothing. But I want to do it. My being depends on it.