I found this blog recently through a series of other blogs’ links written by a man who I think has been an Evangelical pastor and is considering the Catholic Church.
He posted recently about a meeting he had at a coffee shop with a fellow Evangelical pastor and a very interesting exchange when confronted with (what is today considered) a large family coming into the coffee shop, and then, surprise, them making the sign of the Cross.
It reminded me of two instances in my life when I was in a similar place to this pastor: I was an Evangelical, going to a Southern Baptist Convention church, but I had started thinking about all the different Christian denominations and beliefs and how Jesus did not want us to believe things that aren’t true.
The first instance was hearing the pastor at my church give us a sermon where he was asked by a hospitalized church member to come and pray over him and anoint him with oil, as it says in the book of James, chapter 5:
“He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.”
My pastor said: “Sure enough, I looked it up, and it’s right there in the Bible just like he said, so, I didn’t really know what to do, but I went to the hospital and took some oil with me, and then, well, I poped him!” (This “poped him” statement was made with the pastor making the gesture of the sign of the Cross over the hospitalized man.)
Raucous, sustained laughter and applause from my dear old Baptist congregation followed. I would have found it funny, too, if I had not begun to consider that the Catholic Church may well be what it claimed to be and therefore that the Pope really was the direct successor of St. Peter, given authority by Christ and to whom He gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
What is interesting about this event? Well, this church claims to believe in the Bible alone as the sole source of revelation and rule of their faith, sola scriptura, but, my pastor had never done what St. James said he should do before, that is, pray over a sick parishioner and anoint them with oil; in fact, my pastor knew that this was something that only the Catholics did, perhaps even knew that this was one of the seven sacraments of the Church.
So he did what the Catholic Church does and has done for 2,000 years: He made the sign of the Cross on him with the oil and prayed over him.
The second instance occurred around this same time as I was becoming more convinced of the Catholic Church’s claims. I was living with three Evangelical friends in an apartment (during college). I was bold enough to make the sign of the Cross after our prayer together before eating my meal. One of my friends kind of snorted and asked: “What was that thing?” as he parodied the sign of the Cross.
I explained to him what it was, a calling to mind of Christ’s crucifixion and death for our salvation, something Christians had been doing throughout the centuries even from the apostolic times, but which our church had excised a few hundred years ago. He looked at me funny and made a comment about how it looked strange to him.
I loved my dear friend and understood that this was something foreign to him. It was the same thing for my pastor. I made many attempts to explain my exploration of Christianity with them and to invite them to join me in simply exploring it, learning about our faith and its history, but they were not able to at that point in their lives.
Two of them have now graduated from Evangelical seminaries and one of them is leading a Baptist congregation in Houston. We no longer communicate with each other, sadly. But I look forward to seeing them again in Heaven one day, when all of our differences will be corrected and we will be united fully as brothers in our Lord’s family.