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Visitors from the east…


Yesterday in worship, we hosted three visitors from the east. There were also three visitors from the northwest and four visitors from just down the road. I’m pretty sure that none of them rode in on camels, or followed a star into our parking lot, or would rightfully be consider magi. But for some reason, all of them were drawn to be in this place on a cold and windy Sunday morning when a more likely choice (one exercised by a majority of our “regular” members, I might add) would have been to stay in the warm and cozy confines of home.

Why do they come? What are they looking for? What do they expect to find here?

I’ve asked those questions of a good number of visitors over the years, and their answers, as you might expect, vary in the details. But the bottom line seems to be remarkably consistent: they seek the hope and strength that comes from knowing that we are claimed and loved by God.

If we are at all true to our calling, they have come to the right place. They will meet Christ in Word and words, in bread and wine, and in the welcome embrace of those already present. They will hear and taste and see the grace of God as it is lived out in a community dedicated to “doing the world” in the way the world was meant to be done (to borrow an idea from Aidan Kavanagh). They will find what they are seeking when they see it genuinely alive in those of God’s people among whom they are gathered.

I’m an old advertising guy. And because of that (I like to think), the advertising our congregation has done over the years has been pretty good. Well written copy. Good clean design. Simple, comprehensible propositions. All the things I practiced in my old career transfer over nicely to this one. After all, whether it’s as a marketing planner or parish pastor, I’m still in the communications business…just with a different client.

But those old techniques only go so far. I have learned: There is simply nothing more attractive or faithful than being genuine community…and to be visibly living out that community when folks come searching. That doesn’t mean we will always like each other or even agree with one another. But we can always choose to love one another for the sake of Christ. And we can make our life together in Christ of such priority that it shines just like that star of old.

I don’t know what the result of yesterday’s visitations will be. Perhaps some of our visitors will return. Perhaps others will not. But I pray that they will have found among us the living answers to their questions…that there is a place, a people, among whom God’s grace is alive and well. And because of that, there is a place for them here, too.


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