Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Lead, Kindly Light by Simon Dewey
Erika is our very cool 17 year old we started teaching last week. She's been to Church and really likes our faith, but, she has this tolerant, pluralistic approach to faith, thinking we can make it back to God by any way, as long as we are good people. "Why follow one religion?" she said, "We are all different, so God devised many ways to get back to Him. If we had to look for just 'one' way, no one would make it back!" She believes that as long as a person is serving their idea of God, that it all works out in the end.

I don't think Erika is alone in this thought. Belief in one God and one Way doesn't set well in our day of tolerance. One "strait and narrow path" leading back to heaven smacks of exclusion. I mean, we don't want to make anyone feel bad.

Can't all paths lead to heaven? Can't Salvation come in many forms?


We bore testimony that God is a God of order, and so has made one simple way for us to return. And, that Way is Jesus Christ. 
I am the way, the truth, and the life;
No man cometh unto the Father but by me.
John 14:6
Now, Christ could have been more politically correct had he said, "I know the way," or "I'll show you the way." But Christ wasn't just speaking of what He does. He's speaking of who He is. I am the Way. So, He established His one true Church upon the earth and provided a way for others to follow. The apostle Peter even identified Christ's position and mission.
Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men, 
whereby we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?
But some, like Erika, think this sounds out of date. In our era of broad mindedness and modern technology the world is shrinking, cultures are blending, and borders blurring. In this day of inclusion, don't all roads lead to heaven?  But can they?  Can all approaches to God be correct?  Let's just compare a few beliefs:
     •  Some say that Christ was not the Messiah, yet Christians say he was. Both can't be right.
     •  Some have plural, impersonal gods, yet members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe "there is 
          but one God the Father...and one Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 8:6). Someone is making a mistake.
     •  Non-Christians say, "You can save you." But Jesus says, "My Atonement, death, and resurrection 
          saves you." Someone is wrong.
How can all religions lead to God when they are all so contradictory? We don't tolerate that kind of logic in other things. We don't pretend that all roads go to Canada, or all ships sail to South Africa, or all flights lead to Rome.  

Imagine conversation with the travel agent who claims they do. You approach the desk requesting a flight to Rome, Italy. He looks at his computer, "There is a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico departing at 8am."
     "Does it go to Rome, Italy?"
     "No, but it offers great in-flight service and blockbuster movies."
     "But I need to get to Rome, Italy."
     "Then let me suggest Delta Airlines."
     "Delta flies to Rome?"
     "No, but they have won an array of awards for safety."
     "Listen," you say, trying to be patient, "I need one airline to carry me to one place: Rome."
The agent is terribly offended, "Miss, all flights go to Rome!"

Christ is the Way
Strait: Because it is void of worldly definitions (ie: strict, rigorous, difficult)
Narrow: Because it is framed with Commandments and Covenants.
You know better. I know better. Different flights have different destinations.  Every flight does not go to Rome.  Every road does not lead to God.  Jesus blazed one path: "strait and narrow." 

And in paving the way, creating one Church and one doctrine, Christ actually became the Way. There is no alternative.  No detour.  No shortcuts. 

So, with Erika, we are focusing our lesson on Jesus Christ because no other man or doctrine or catch-phrase can get us back into God's presence. Christ wasn't just a nice teacher or philosopher, as Erika seems to think (her idea is that Christ came to teach God's word, that it is God's word that saves us, and that Christ died because men sinned in killing Him, not that He died for our sins).

God is a God of order. His Plan includes one simple Way back to Him. This is the reason I am here on my mission for a year and a half, talking with a people I've just met, in a language I've just learned. Why else would I be away from my family? Nothing less than Salvation itself is my reason for being here. I feel honored to be taking part in this work.

Gaspare's schedule does not permit us to meet with him often, but we hear from him almost every day. "I just like to hear from you, is all," he says. Most of his questions center on the Pre Existence and the Book of Mormon.

"I Actually Lived with God Before? That Makes So Much Sense!"
During the Plan of Salvation lesson, Gaspare exclaimed, "I never thought there was a preexistence. It makes so much sense!"  

Then he expounded. "When I was little, I always felt out of place, like I didn't belong in the world. Something seemed off - like this world wasn't real. It was a weird feeling to have, but now I understand what it was - you're telling me that I actually lived with God before. That makes sense!"

I See!
Unfortunately, due to failing eyesight, Gaspare has difficulty reading. His glasses are in need of an update. He came to Church again on Sunday, is constantly asking the right questions, and has a clear view of what is right and wrong. His eyesight may be compromised, but he is beginning to see with eyes of faith. Sometimes seeing by faith is the keenest vision we can possess. In any case, he has been working through the Book of Mormon slowly. I feel that that book will be the Key to his conversion. We extended to him a "soft" baptismal invite, to which he said yes. We set the date of 29 March, to which he also agreed, provided he receives a testimony by that date.  Praying hard for Gaspare!

Marsh and Me from last week's Palermo Zone Conference
photo: Sorella Waddoups' Blog
This week has been an interesting one - busy at the beginning, then pretty open towards the end.

Relief Society Birthday Celebration
Aren't they cute? Yay Relief Society - 172 years.  We're the smiling heads in the very back, right.
We had an adorable Relief Society birthday party on Wednesday. We missionaries were in charge of the activity, so we played a dice game where everyone has a piece of paper, but there is only one pen for the whole table. Each person takes a turn rolling the dice and when you roll doubles, you starting writing numbers 1-100. As soon as someone else rolls doubles, they take the pen from you and start doing the same. When you roll doubles again, you take the pen back and continue numbering where you left off. First one to 100 wins.  THEY LOVED IT. Then we had delicious cake. Mmmmm.

Fire Extinguisher Anyone?
Torch in the middle of the cake is a Roman Candle
We attended a birthday party for an investigator's mom and a friend. The torch in the middle of the cake is a Roman Candle.

Roman Candles are fireworks in a tube. Once ignited, a succession of stars shoot out like bullets, followed by showers of sparks, exploding shells, and balls of fire. Forza Italia!

Morbid Fact:
Roman Candles get their name from an unfortunate past. Crazy Nero, who ruled Rome 54-68AD, held elaborate garden parties during which he would show his disdain for Christians by tying them to a pole, dousing them with tar and flammable oils, then igniting them with fire for his guests' amusement. Yikes!

The Queen of Slime. The Queen of Filth. The Queen of Putrescence
This last week, we wanted to take a torch to our apartment. Our refrigerator was infested with cockroaches and had a dead animal rotting off the back of it. No joke.

We knew there was something wrong when, despite cleaning the apartment and especially the kitchen every day, we were still smelling mounting infernal fumes of decay.  Gross right?

For a while we were wondering if it was in the walls because we couldn't find the source of noxious putrescence. Our landlord came and checked it out, and said that it was all in our mind - it was nothing - probably rotten food. "EXCEPT THERE IS NO ROTTEN FOOD, LUCA!" said Mikesell as she let him have it. Since he wouldn't do anything about it, we sat on it for a few days.

Finally, this last Friday, the REVOLTING FOUL RANCIDNESS WAS TOO MUCH. We couldn't take it anymore! The stench directed us to the fridge. But if it is not in, or under, or beside, where must it be? Behind! We pulled out the appliance, and what to our horrified eyes did we behold? A DEAD ROTTING MAMMAL MESS OF I DON'T KNOW WHAT on the back of the fridge.

Every mission needs this kind of story. Makes for good journal material.

Cockroach: Does this look like a butterfly to you?
Anyway, we had to hold back from vomiting. And to make the experience more delightful - cockroaches! We found some scurrying around the apartment a few times, and got really good at annihilating them on the spot. But, guess what? We located their NEST...in our dwelling!!!  Can you say heebie-jeebies?

Again, we pointed it out to the landlord who basically said it wasn't his problem and tried convincing us the cockroaches were not really cockroaches but something called "Mangiapane, little flour weevils that turn into butterflies." :|
How stupid does he think we are?!

That's when I let him have it. I won't go into the ridiculousness that ensued (Luca's excuses, and my systematically breaking down every single one), but suffice it to say that the mission office got involved and said we had to move to the downstairs apartment. But now Luca is saying we can't do that until April 6th. The Anziani are in an uproar. Now Mikesell has a rash that is a result of Luca spraying our kitchen down with all kinds of toxic bug sprays and not having us leave the apartment.

As all of that was happening, I said ALOUD, "Guys, all I want right now is my Mom and Dad and my mom's Italian Lemon Cream Cake!!!"
     Mikesell promptly yelled back (with a crack in her voice), "NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT MOMS OR LEMON CAKE!!!"

Me and Mikesell at last week's Zone Conference
photo: Sister Waddoups' blog

Where's a Roman Candle when you need one?
Sorella Ashley Nef

1 comment:

  1. Amazing blog! I am really enjoying it and appreciate both the cultural and spiritual messages. I was one of the first converts in Palermo, being baptised as a child in 1971. Keep up the great work you are doing Sorella Nef!