Last night I was watching a DVD which I had borrowed from a friend. The title is Common Ground and the subtitle is What Protestants and Catholics can learn from each other. Father John Ricardo of St Anastasia Roman Catholic Church and Pastor Steve Andrews of Kensington Community Church, both from Troy Michigan, (just north of Detroit), were trying to find common ground between their religions. It was really intriguing to watch, in spite of a number of things I could criticise.
It was good to hear why the Roman Catholics believe what they do believe and although I realise that there is a huge division between us in doctrine, it was good to see that there is also a lot of common ground. I remember as a student that we visited a Roman Catholic church once as a class and afterwards I mentioned to a friend that I had heard a more evangelical sermon that morning than I was used to hear in the church I normally attended as a student.
At one point Pastor Andrews was trying to verbalise what he truly appreciated in the Roman Catholic church and this took my mind back to 2005, when I had the opportunity to visit Germany for two days. Two places I really wanted to visit while I was there were the university city of Heidelberg as well as the town of Worms. Worms is the town where Martin Luther was excommunicated from the church and where the Reformation in a certain sense was born. I rented a car and three friends and myself took the road.
Standing in the cathedral in Worms was quite an experience. One of my friends with me is a pastor in a charismatic church. So this was quite something: Myself from a Reformed background and a pastor from a charismatic church and together we were standing in a Roman Catholic church – quite an ecumenical experience! As we stood there, watching people come in, lighting candles, kneeling before the crucifix, sitting or kneeling in the benches to pray (it was not a Sunday), I felt an overwhelming presence of the Lord. And at that point I mentioned to my friend that I wish that we could feel the presence of the Lord in our churches in the way that I felt it there. I sensed the holiness of God in that church as I had seldom sensed it before.
In the DVD this is also said. Pastor Andrews mentions at one point that, instead of making Jesus our friend (as He wants to be), we had made Him our buddy. Obviously Jesus came close to us and as Hebrews tells us we can now have direct contact with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but when I read the Bible and especially the book of Revelations, then I sense something of the awe that the Bible authors had for God, even though He had come so close to us. And this is something which I sometimes miss in our own churches – something which I felt I could learn from the Roman Catholic church.
Possibly we have become so used to God and what He had done (and is still doing) for us, that we seem to have lost that awe. Perhaps something needs to happen so that we can once again appreciate who God really is.