Friday, June 8, 2007

Trip to Rome -- Epilogue

Regrets. Mostly due to poor planning, but still a great trip even so. A member of our church recommended the German National Church. Didn’t go. I found out afterward that the lone Lutheran Church in Rome was only a few blocks from our hotel. Didn’t go.
A really nice restaurant. Didn’t go. Went to St. Paul’s “Outside the Walls” but not St. Paul’s “inside the Walls.” Oh well. You can’t do everything. And someday I hope to go back. So regrets, but they don’t compare to the truly great things we saw and the lasting memories we have.

What struck me was being in a city that has visible signs of history stretching so much farther back than the cities in our country. Europe is really great in that respect. And especially Rome, with things to see there spanning not simply centuries but millennia. Tough to beat that. What also struck me was the number of churches. Most of them were cold inside. And quiet. Even though they were all ornate, it was worth going into as many as we could because each one had something to catch your attention and ponder. The thing that caught me most by surprise was seeing how Roman Catholicism is actually practiced. It’s one thing to know doctrine, it’s another to see it played out. In a way I feel like in Rome I witnessed the very best of Christianity and the very worst of Christianity. Beholding the majesty of the cathedrals and artistry is inspiring. The music of the worship was heavenly. But it was disconcerting to see and hear the focus on the human beings of Roman Catholicism rather than on the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of Paul as anyone and probably identify with Peter as much as anyone. But when you see him standing twenty feet above you with massive keys in his hand you can’t help but get the message that Christ is not at the center here. I in no way want to bash the Roman Catholic Church. I am grateful for the experience of seeing all the good there is to see in Rome. But even more grateful that the one holy catholic and apostolic Church is truly the Church of Jesus Christ and rests in Him alone.

On our flight home our layover was in London. It was great to see England on the way in. The nice countryside, the quaint churches and homes. There was also a Starbucks in the London airport. Not a chance of finding that in Rome. Flying home took us over Iceland, which was really cool. It would be great to go there sometime.

Rome was great. It’s a great place to see. It would have been even better if we had known Italian and Latin (because so many buildings around here have Latin on them). The highlight for me was seeing all the churches. There are 901 churches in Rome, I’m assuming that’s referring to Roman Catholic churches, but I haven’t checked that. St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and that’s kind of cool to be able to say you’ve been in the largest church in the world. It has also been neat to be in some of the oldest churches in the world. And of course Sara and I got to have the kind of vacation we really like, traveling and exploring, and as we talked about this evening, being together for an entire week! It was a great ten year anniversary. I enjoyed my first visit to Europe and even though I saw nothing of what most of it is like, Rome was a great introduction to it.

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