Sexta-feira santa. It means Good Friday in Portuguese and as you know that's today.
We live in a culture that is dominated by the Catholic church.
There are tons of Catholic churches. We hear the church bells (I love them!) all the time and see people going to mass.
The Catholic church has a long history in Brasil.
Over our 11 years here we've, obviously, met many people. Some we've gotten to know deeply, some are good friends but the friendship doesn't have deep, spiritual roots and some people we've met we've only had passing, superficial conversations with.
One thing we've noticed is that quite a few people will say they are Catholics but then will tell you that they've only been in a Catholic church for their baptism as a baby and for their wedding. I love their honesty but their Catholicism is kind of like me saying I'm an American. I had no input in the decision. I was just born there. Many people are born into Catholic homes but they don't have their own faith. Their Catholic faith is not their own. There are no real faith roots.
Another group of people here is Evangelical Christians. This group is a fast growing group in Brasil but, from what we've noticed, the faster growing churches reach out to the poor and many times twist God's word to their benefit. We've heard of a preacher, not long after we moved here, that told the church family, the majority of who were very poor, to give their tithe abundantly so that they could have a dental plan in heaven. Sounds too funny, or sad, to be true right? Yes but many of these preachers are super rich. More than one church leader, just since we've been here, has been caught red handed stealing money from the tithe and even laughing about it. And yet they still run these massive churches.
I realize you can't broad brush any certain group and say they are all the same. I wouldn't want anyone to do that with our small house church family. It's not fair and, more times than not, it wouldn't be true. So we don't share about these groups to judge but to share some things we've seen in our decade plus of living here. If I were to judge I don't think I'd put evangelical christians down. We are such a group.
Anyway, my girlfriend and I know there are many Catholics who have a deep and intimate faith with the Father. They walk with Jesus and we know heaven will be full of our Catholic brothers and sisters. We can't wait to spend eternity together.
We also know that not all leaders of evangelical churches are thieves and liars. We've known some people who go to those churches I've mentioned and they walk with more grace and peace in their lives than I do. They would never do anything to mislead or lie to someone.
We have a dear friend in the states who told us once that wherever the name of Jesus is spoken God shines His light there and smashes the darkness. We believe that and have seen that here in POA. We've seen it in the middle of both of these groups.
I even hate to share about two different groups. If you call on the name of Jesus as your Savior you are my brother. You are my sister. I don't like group names. I don't even like seeing names on buildings where the family of God meets.
So why share?
The reason we share all of this is to share about the new Pope. Pope Francis. If you don't know he's the first pope chosen from outside of Europe. He's from Argentina.
Last week, in house church, our discussion turned to him.
My girlfriend and I were asked what we thought about him. Like I said before, Catholic roots have and will always run deep in Brasil so the topic of a new Pope is a big one.
I shared that although I have a huge problem with the way people look at the Pope in an almost godlike way, I really liked the stuff I was reading about this new Pope. He seems humble and really wants to do the will of God. He has a servant heart. He doesn't seem to want all the pomp that goes with the title of Pope. He lived a simple life in Argentina and he wants to continue with a simple life.
One of the main complaints that we've heard over the last 11 years about the Catholic church is how much money they have and how little they seem to do to help. Their complaints start at the Vatican and the money they see there and how those riches could be used to bless.
I shared with the group last week that this Pope has the chance to, literally, change the world if he continues living and encouraging the message he is sharing. He said he wants the Catholic church to be a "poor church for the poor." I like that.
I've included a couple of articles that will tell you more about Pope Francis.
The first one is about him shunning the fancy living arrangements at the Vatican. Click here to read that.
This one is about him washing and kissing the feet of some young inmates in a juvenile detention center. Click here to read.
Please pray for Pope Francis. That he will allow God to use him to lead as the Spirit leads and to share the love of Christ to millions around the world. This world needs more simplicity. More simple faith in Jesus.
We pray that your Good Friday, your Sexta-feira Santa is a good one.