He came in to church yesterday wearing a fedora. He actually looked pretty good in it, like he was about to go out swing dancing or something. I’d never seen him before, but he looked young – I’d guess older teens. I learned later he was 21.
“I converted from Roman Catholicism, but my Lutheran church is too liberal,” he told me as he entered. “I did some research and saw that you were more conservative. So I thought I’d give you a try.”
Today we sat together over supper at a restaurant and chatted.
“I was Roman. Traditional Roman,” he told me over chili-glazed brussel sprouts. “We rejected Vatican II. And I was really into it. I was at seminary to become a priest. But as I read more and more, I realized I couldn’t do it all. There was always this uncertainty. But I had some friends who had left the Roman church to become Eastern Orthodox. So I left seminary and tried that for a while. It was basically the same thing. And then I was Baptist, but they just kept pushing rules, too. And then I discovered Lutheranism.”
He pauses and looks up at me. “Jesus died for my sins. And sometimes justification still just, it brings tears to my eyes, you know? I know. It’s not me. I can’t do it. But Jesus did.”
We chatted for two hours in that booth, over a meal made special by my companion. He asked, “Do you do private confession? I saw Luther wanted to keep that.”
I nod. “Kind of. See, we don’t demand you come in and say all your sins. But if there’s a sin that’s bothering you, come in. We walk through a little thing that allows you to speak your sin, and then I speak the Gospel to that sin. I point out what Jesus did for that sin, showing that you are forgiven.”
“Wow. That makes a lot of sense,” he says. “It’s about comfort, not about being interrogated about every little thing you did.”
As we sip our sodas, he asks, “So what’s catechesis like?”
I explain, “For adults, I have nine sessions. And I call them ‘sessions’ because each one might take one time getting together, or it might take longer. One group I took through, it took six months because they kept wanting to know more about this or that. Another person it took closer to a month because he wanted to just keep going keep going!”
“Can we start Sunday?”
I smile. “Yes!”
This guy has done his research online already. He listens to several confessional Lutheran podcasts. He revels in historical faith and the liturgy. He played me one of his playlists, asking me if I knew the music.
It was the music that, months ago, I’d planned on using for this coming Sunday.
And through all of this, it was so good to see someone reveling in the Gospel. We talked about justification. We talked about various Bible verses. We talked about all sorts of things, and his excitement simply grew.
As we walked out of the restaurant to our separate cars, he spotted a friend of his coming into the restaurant. “Hey!” he called to his friend. “This is my pastor!”
So, well, I guess he’s claimed me!
And I can only give credit to the Holy Spirit for it. I didn’t do any work to find this person; the Holy Spirit brought him to us. The Holy Spirit led him to faith. The Holy Spirit convicted him of sin until the Holy Spirit showed him Jesus.
It’s all God’s doing.
And that… that’s pretty cool when you get to see it!