Pastoral ministry is never dull. It’s full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something happens where your only response is, “Well I’ll be…” That was certainly the case with my friend Sue. Sue grew up a Catholic and after a bad experience with the church, decided to steer clear of anything religious. She turned up at Grace one day through a connection with a lady in our church. After attending one of our Long Story Short courses (introducing people to the basics of the Christian faith), she decided to give her life to Jesus. She was wonderfully saved.
Sue came up to me one day after the close of a service and said, “I’ve decided to write a letter to the Pope.” I gave her a wry smile and said, “That’s a great idea.” I honestly thought she was joking. Sue read my facial expressions perfectly. “I’m dead serious. I going to write to him and ask for an explanation. I want to know after all those years of attending mass, praying the rosary and all that stuff that I was never given a bible and never heard that we can be saved by grace.” This was definitely not a joke. Sue wanted an answer, and what better way to get it than go right to the top. “Do it,” I said. “If God has impressed this on your heart then you need to follow through.”
So she did.
Now Sue has a unique way of sharing the good news with people. Instead of shoving booklets and tracts under people’s noses, she gift-wraps them. She has done this with a number of her friends and some family members. She planned to do the same with the Pope. Before sending it she asked me to read the letter she wrote. Here is some of the content:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 1:2
I hope you can help. My name is Sue, I am 68 yrs of age, I was born in London and have lived in New Zealand for nearly forty years. I was baptised at 53 days old, had my first confession, communion and confirmation at all the correct times. I was educated through Roman Catholic Schools and Church. Through school and church, I was taught the catechism and learnt about the Holy Trinity. As far as I remember we did not have Bile studies in school nor were encouraged to own or read the Bible. I have been unable to attend Mass or Church as I a married a divorced man.
Two years ago, I watch a lady teaching the Word of God on TV. I bought a Bible and it has opened my yes.
Sue then points out some of the discrepancies between what the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church teaches:
The RCC teaches that by going to Confession and attending Mass and Communion you are guaranteed a place in heaven.
The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from ourselves; it is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The RCC encourages its followers to pray to Mary and the Saints.
The Bible teaches there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
The RCC teaches Purgatory, and that we should pray for the souls in purgatory because they cannot get out without our prayers.
The Bible does not say anything about Purgatory anywhere.
As you can see, I need help.
I pray each night for our world leaders, that they are doing the best for the people they serve, and more importantly they are doing God’s Will.
God’s peace be with you
I wondered what the Cardinals might think after they read that one! No doubt the Vatican receives hordes of letters each day and have a team of secretaries and administrators whose job is to sift through and file them accordingly.
Still, one never knows. One never knows that a letter like this could be placed in the hands of someone “up the line” so to speak. One never knows that it might pass under the eyes of some Cardinal. And one never knows, that this Cardinal may mention a word about it to the Pope himself.
We see in the pages of Scriptures, all kinds of amazing things happening to God’s people when they step out in faith and act out of the convictions of their heart, to do something that they believe would be honouring to God.
Good on you Sue. You go where angels dare to tread. And it is that very daring spirit that we need in more of us in the church today.
Note: According to Roman Catholic doctrine, St Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and the Pope is not only his lineal successor in that office, but also inherits in its fullness the unique commission given to him by Christ (Matthew 16:18 f. and John 21:17). When the Pope speaks ex cathedra (literally, “from the chair”) he speaks with absolute infallibility and has authority even over the Scriptures. Also based upon the claim of an unbroken chain of Roman bishops, Roman Catholics teach that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church, and that all churches that do not accept the primacy of the pope have broken away from them, the original and one true church. Outside the RCC Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church. That teaching still remains today.