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I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Papal Visit

The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis I, begins his visit to the United States today. This is big religious news. Many people wonder why it is news?

First, the Pope is, technically, a Head of State. Vatican City is its own political entity, even though it is nestled tightly in the middle of Rome, Italy's largest city. So in this case the Pope might not be more different than any Prime Minister or President of any other country. The Pope is charged with making political statements. (Many people in our country get confused about this issue, and think the Pope should stay out of politics. But really, how many heads of state do you know of that stay out of politics? The Pope is a politician.)

Secondly, the Pope represents about 120 million Americans, roughly a third of us, in some way as a spiritual guide. He is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, although, as with all leaders, his followers have varying levels of commitment. There are quite a few Roman Catholics who do not care, in fact, may not even know, that the Pope is making a visit here. On the other hand, there are quite a few Roman Catholics who are pumped up to have the leader of their faith visit here. The travails of leadership...Image result for pope francis

For me, the Pope will get me to read a few more articles on the web about his speeches and his ideas and proposals for his people. I have a lot to do while the Pope is here, and I don't think I'll have time to fit him into my schedule. (Unless one of the papal emissaries wishes to come to Blair and teach Confirmation for me so I could go hear the Pope.) I am glad he's here, to keep things honest so to speak, but his visit is not going to change my routine at all.

Since a Pope (Leo X) ex-communicated my hero Martin Luther, I'm not a huge supporter of the idea of "pope." I understand that every group can use a leader, but I'm not too big on the way power has coalesced into the papal office over the past centuries. The doctrine of papal infallibility ratified in 1870 at Vatican I is a complete mystery to me. Why would anyone want to be infallible at any level? What's the point? I find great consolation that the actual men elected Pope have never used the doctrine. I am sure the Popes, like most of us, find such a idea inconceivable in conjunction with a doctrine of free will.

This particular Pope seems a bit more in tune with our world. Although as a scientist, he drives all the people who do not believe in science nuts. (I don't really understand how people cannot "believe" in science. I understand you don't want all decisions made by science, but it's not like gravity or electro-magnetism is going to go away anytime soon. Deal with it.) This Pope seems to respect women a bit more than others; he really wants to see people act differently in respect to our climate; and he does not seem afraid to put forth bold proposals in order to make his points. He also seems very personable, and that goes a long way these days...just ask his predecessor, Benedict XVI who had the personality of Roquefort cheese.

No matter how good or bad this Pope this, he cannot live my life for me or for anyone else. My faith rests in the relationship God has established with me in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. No matter how life goes for me, that faith cannot be taken. It might be lost, misplaced, or forgotten, but it can't be taken because it is not mine. It's for me, but it's not by me. Faith is the regal relationship I have with God, and nobody, not even the Pope, can change that.

My your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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