The weird things that happen, Saturday night I went for a walk to relieve myself of a bit of stress, knowing that my grandfather was in his last hours, and somewhat surprised I hadn’t heard anything yet. Stubborn and tough Swede that he was, he held onto life preciously, even knowing that Christ has secured a better place for him. I went for a walk. I took Cecilia, because she needed a walk, and some loving, but nothing attracts attention like a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Who knew a dog could be such a great evangelism tool?
Well, I’m walking around the block and I run into a group of people having a couple drinks and relaxing for the evening. And they start asking about Cecilia. I stop to talk. Then one of them remembers that she has talked to me before, and I’m the pastor from the church she said she would visit. I remembering her, because she said she would visit and never has, asked her if she was still going to the Roman Catholic Church, She had started going there when the pastor from the Fundamentalist Baptist Church started preaching against drinking. She said, “no, Now I go to… Pentecostal rock out for Jesus church, and she tells me that she can really “feel” the lord there and the pastor preaches, he “really” preaches.” I just smile. I’m really not that much in a mood for debating, or making wise cracks. But then she starts telling me that as long as someone has the faith of a mustard seed… you just have to accept Jesus, and on and on about how she loves the Lord, and then the all start talking about how much they love the lord…. And I say something about it is much more important that He loves you, and he does, he died for you, and it is much more important that he accepts you than that you accept him. But they can’t fathom that and it becomes apparent that they probably had more than a couple drinks by now, and the conversation isn’t going to be productive. Actually it got a bit comical, even trying to have a conversation with them. And given my mood I felt it was better just to leave well enough alone with an invitation to come to church sometime, and move on.
Sunday comes along. I get the news that sends me into a bit of a funk. I have a visitor from Virginia, nice guy. I barely make it through the service having to pause many times to collect my composure, military bearing being tested in a much worse manner than my TI yelling six inches from my face something about my mother. After church I tell told the congregation what had happened, and I don’t know exactly what my plans are for the week yet. Then Bible Study hits. And this is where the story gets interesting. We are doing a doctrinal study, using that index to synodical resolutions that Kieschnick commissioned “This We Believe” and I am bringing the congregation through “A Brief Statement” that hasn’t been so brief. We are now talking about the church, and what it is. Just getting started when a couple from Alabama walks in and apologizes for being late, I say well were just starting Bible Study, you’re welcome to join us. I get their names and where they are from. I remark at my surprise about being visited by Lutherans from Alabama. And they joke back confirming that they are Lutheran, but they think it is a joke. They think they are in a Baptist church!
I’m continue doing the study, and as I go to my office to get the book of Concord, they tell the Bible Study that he is actually a retired Baptist minister. He tells me this when I return. And I think, that it is an odd time to convert to Lutheranism in retirement, but anyway. Continue with the study. We get into heterodoxy and orthodoxy. I mention this bit about you having to accept Jesus into your heart, and the drunk lady so adamant about that the night before. The Baptist pastor says, “well she had the right idea, but obviously she hadn’t done it.” Can I tell you how many suspicions about the meaning of that phrase, “you just have to accept Jesus into your heart,” he confirmed for me with that statement, and how much it confirmed for me about the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists? I still wasn’t in the mood to debate. But I looked at him and said, “no, I wouldn’t say that. That she was a bit drunk made the conversation a bit hard, and comical, but I don’t doubt that she is sincere in her faith in Jesus. I wouldn’t write her off for that. And anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind a few drinks here and there myself… Jesus accepted her and I long before we were ever able to make any sort of confused confession regarding him.” That is normally how I like to think of this “accepting Jesus into your heart” bit, a confused confession of faith. And it is dangerous, for obvious reasons, to think like that. But I wouldn’t think they are not Christian, for saying that.
But then the Baptist minister just confirmed for me that they think of it as pledging to live a certain way, and don’t think a person really believes in Jesus if they still end up sinning this way and that way. Had this happened any other day, we might have had a bit more explosive bit of debate about baptism. They were quiet when I explained how denying the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper was really a denial of the divinity of Christ.
Turns out this couple didn’t expect to see more than one church on a street in Utah, so they turned in at the first place they saw a cross, confusing our church with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church across the street. Not until after the Bible Study, were my suspicions confirmed that he hadn’t converted to Lutheranism. Slow on the uptake I guess. But my head wasn’t in it yesterday. Though I found it a little awkward, it was funny, and I learned a bit.