Last Sunday, Congregation Chai v’Shalom celebrated the installation of a new pastor, Rev. Brian Earl, who is serving our ministry in outreach. He was one of my students in 2006 and continued to work with Rev. Brad Aldrich, who was serving our ministry then. Following graduation at Concordia Seminary, Brian served a parish in Nebraska for five years, and then moved to St. Louis with his new bride Christa and while he is here serving a Chaplain internship, he received and accepted a call to serve our ministry to help in outreach.
He and his wife have been a blessing to our ministry. Christa is a violinist, a linguist, and gifted in many other ways along with being from Colorado. It is nice to talk to someone else who knows Denver! She and Brian are young (so much younger than me!) and have a lot of energy, and Brian has faithfully been leading our monthly outreaches for some time now. In addition to a bunch of other things that we do, we hold a monthly outreach on the 2nd Saturday evening of each month and go to an area of St. Louis called “the Loop.” It is a shopping district in the midst of a vibrant Jewish community and a wonderful area university.
The night before his installation, Brian and I were on the Loop. We are enjoying really warm weather in St. Louis right now, and there were a lot of people around. Part of what we do is try to engage people in conversation, prayerfully leading to a spiritual conversation. Between the two of us in the span of an hour, we had three conversations. He met a woman who really refused to talk spiritually, and wanted to talk more about the election. OK. . .that’s fair. I met a “Hebrew Israelite” who wanted to talk spiritually, but she didn’t really help me understand what “Hebrew Israelite” meant, or what her faith was. From what I could gather about her, she wasn’t Jewish per se, and not Christian either. She did allow me to share who I was, and I gave her some literature from our worship service, and also told her where the nearest synagogue was when she asked. At least we got to talk about Jesus, about whom she seemed to have no opinion! That’s rare.
Our third conversation that evening was together with two young men who enjoy “intellectual dialogue.” One said he is an agnostic and the other eschewed all labels. Both believe in a higher power, but not the Bible or even a traditional understanding of God. They sort of fell into the Aristotelian concept of the “unmoved mover.” But when pressed, they chose a deistic approach to God who created everything, got bored, and moved on to another planet. Yes, we did talk about “extra-terrestrial beings”, and at best we left them contemplating about why God would create all this, and how he chose to reveal himself to us.
All-in-all, an average evening on the Loop. So, why do it? The Loop is a snapshot of how badly the world needs Jesus, and how confused it is. But at least all those who we talked to left knowing about our faith in Jesus. Sometimes that’s the best we can do, trusting that God is working in these lives through the rest of His Church!