Okay, I know, I told you I was finished, but, well, you see, things keep popping up that I need to share.
In a recent email, Deny Brigance sent the following observation:
"It struck me this morning that one of the things I like about the legacy of The Jesus House is that, back in those days, it was demonstrably clear that there is only one Church. Only Jesus Christ makes real church members. And now, years later, as we've all gone our semi-separate ways denominationally, or at least with customs and practices if not doctrine, it's nice to have something going on from time to time that points up the reality of the One Church."
Deny's thoughts reminded me of a postcard I received from Sheldon Vanauken in 1987, after the Jesus House was closed. Some of you will remember Vanauken as the author of A Severe Mercy, a popular book around the Jesus House in the late 70's and early 80's. Vanauken wrote a later book titled "Under the Mercy" which chronicled his spiritual journey. One of the experiences he related was his move into the Catholic Church. I was not bothered that he joined the Catholic Church but I wanted him to elaborate on the one of the reasons; which was that he concluded that it was historically the one true church. I've never believed that any of our non-profit organizations we call churches can represent the "one true church" leaving all the others out, so I was surprised that he gave that as one of his reasons. In his response to my question, printed in small writing on both sides of a postcard was, "the Catholic Church is the ancient church, founded by St. Peter in the days of the legions of Rome. It wrote the creeds which include; 'I believe in one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church.' That did not mean some invisible, nice collective of Christians wherever they might be gathered. It meant the church: priest, bishops, sacraments - Above all, sacraments - which require priests. Christ is indeed present when two or three are gathered in His name, of course, but that is not the church, not the sacraments, not the teaching authority of the apostles (bishops)."
Receiving the postcard from Vanauken was an interesting experience for me. I had never previously written one of my favorite authors. Lewis and Tolkien were both gone before I read any of their books. I was amazed he took the time to write. I was also amazed by his response. Since I don't believe you need to have a priest or any ordained person in order to baptize or serve communion, then his point about needing the Catholic church in order to have sacraments would never point me in that direction.
Of course, his reasoning that the Catholic Church was founded by Peter in Rome leaves out the Greek Orthodox Church founded in Constantinople at the same or possibly earlier time. For some years the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Constantinople had conflict over who was more powerful and who was really leading the church. Eventually, they stopped trying to work together and the Roman Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church grew out of that. Yes, I just simplified a journey of history that took many years to develop, but this is a blog not a history book.
Vanauken found the move into the Catholic Church comforting and an aid to his spiritual growth. I'm glad he found it so, but I'm still perplexed that he was looking for the "one true church" among the organizations that have been started by human beings in our attempt to worship God. Although there were times when we thought we had a little better understanding of God than others, we were usually brought back to the reality that we were human and prone to mistakes, while trying out best to worship God in spirit and truth. Deny's thoughts reminds us that the Jesus House was then and still is an eccentric collection of Christians from a variety of backgrounds. I like that. I hope you do too. If you don't, we'll just disagree on that point, okay? But we will not start a new denomination over it.
There is, in the works, a new recording project for JH people. A collection of original Christmas songs will be written, recorded, and released on CD by Christmas 2010. Several songs have already been submitted. Stay tuned for more updates.