As associate pastor for evangelism, I work to welcome new people into a large urban congregation. As I delve into the complexities of outreach in this postmodern age, I find that some of the most interesting conversations happen when I’m speaking to people who work in marketing.
In the social media I often read about a Christian community that has excluded an innocent person or demonized a marginalized group. The writer then juxtaposes this with a pithy saying from Jesus about loving all persons. And there you have it—we Christians are exposed as two-faced and heartless, insensitive to anything but our own proclamations of righteousness.
In elevated, beautiful language God promises to create new heavens and a new earth. The problems and pain, the injustice and hunger, the longing and the loneliness—all will be vanquished! This image of predators and prey happily coexisting will appear again in the Isaiah text for Advent 2, and in Advent 3’s Isaiah passage there will be “no lion . . . nor ravenous beast” in God’s renewed Zion.
When I was a new pastor I imagined that I was breaking new ground, doing things differently than older colleagues. Funerals, for example—folks liked it when funerals were called “celebrations of life” and involved lots of personal stories about the deceased. “Your service was so personal,” a friend of the widow might gush.