On Wednesday Bruce and I headed down to the 122nd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Portland, Oregon (a self-proclaimed City of Roses) for the ministerium part of the meeting on Thursday. We headed downtown for supper that night to try and find Chinatown (Bruce was in the mood for Chinese). Without a map, I somehow managed to get us there--we drove through a bit of the downtown area first, and then asked for directions (yes, men can do that). The downtown of Portland was quite an eye-opener. Plenty of gay bars, shops of an adult nature, homeless people in abundance, unbridled consumerism. I happened to bring with Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz. He's from Portland and I happened to read a statement of his the next day that Portland has the least amount of churches per capita (or something along those lines). It was evident, driving through what we saw of Portland.
On Thursday we sat through a continuing education session on Hosea (and why/how to preach on the Minor Prophets in general). The beginning of Hosea is a poignant lesson in how we treat God when we turn away from Him (the story involves God having Hosea marry a prostitute in order for him to understand and be able to share God's hurt with Israel). The afternoon was mostly our business meeting, which I won't go into the details of.
But the Thursday evening worship session was wonderful (as they usually are). Missionaries on home assignment, as well as ones being commissioned, proceeded in with the flags of the 39 countries that the Covenant church is serving in. After wonderful worship, a video was shown on the ministry of Foundation el Pacto, which does amazing work reaching out to the poor, homeless and destitute in Columbia (truly I have never seen a greater example of reaching out to "the least of these"). The message that night was given by Andres Bunch, a Covenant pastor in Columbia and president of Foundation el Pacto. He preached on David's time fleeing from Saul, living in a cave and having 400 men come join him--men who were of low stature, much like the people Jesus drew to Him. And with those 400 men, Jesus conquered many nations. By investing in people like that--people who wold be humanly incapable of changing the world--we are now here today 2000 years after Christ. It was a wonderful message (made all the more enjoyable as the missionary who was interpreting, tried to keep up with Andres). The message was followed by the commissioning of short-term and project missionaries, and the church coming together to send them out in prayer and the laying on of hands. It was a wonderful time of uniting together in Christ, seeing friends from throughout the States, but mainly by being challenged in this whole becoming like Christ thing we're called to do. (If you want to see some of the service, I believe it's available under the Annual Meeting link.)
So, it's a struggle that I've been wrestling with over the last few days. On the way down I saw a few different people standing on street corners, on the entrances to highways, with their signs stating their current position in life. I'm never sure what to do with them. I feel I'm supposed to do something, but nothing really seems appropriate to do. On the way back, Bruce reminded me of the fact that Jesus didn't heal everyone, He didn't meet the needs of everyone who needed help. That's why we're supposed to live, as one of the six Covenant affirmations states, in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Only through the Spirit can we discern who we're supposed to help and how. But all the while we're called to love. I know. I'm still struggling with it, too. But we need to wrestle with, rather than ignore, those hard parts of the gospel.