Earlier this week, I finally got permission to take a paid day off on Friday, and I traveled with a couple of my frequent travel companions  over the past day and the evening before that along an epic journey from the Portland area across the state and in a wide arc, before spending the evening with a friendly widow from the La Grande congregation. Technically, I suppose, she goes to the Baker City congregation, as that is what it is called, but it meets most of the time in La Grande, which is a little less than an hour way. For those people I know who complain about the Portland, Oregon congregation meeting across the river in Vancouver, and I happen to know at least a few people who are bothered by that, think about a congregation which meets in a city that is an hour away, where there is no grand metropolitan area to represent with the name. I suppose that a greater understanding of how other people are living allows us to better appreciate what we have. Before this week, I had not even knew there was a congregation that met in La Grande. I thought that the next congregation east of Hood River was in Boise.
So it was with a sense of humor that I chatted with the brethren in La Grande and let them know that I had never heard of their congregation before, and now I found myself attending there. The congregation was friendly, mostly full of widows as well as a family with some cute children, including an adorable baby girl about a year old, and I was struck by the fact that this friendly congregation that appreciated people who sang the other parts to hymns and were willing to work on sermonettes without much notice and spend a few hours on a Sabbath with brethren in a small building next to a nearly unmarked bus station, enjoying when a little child with hearing much sharper than my own said choo choo because she could hear the train a few blocks away. While sitting down at the tables in that room, I pondered that this friendly congregation needed better marketing. If someone who is friendly and sociable and lives only a few hours away has never heard of a congregation, clearly it could use some better marketing. Why would it be that such a congregation would escape the larger attention of others, even if it is a little congregation. I have nothing against little congregations; in fact I enjoy attending them whenever possible, especially when those little congregations are friendly. One wonders if there is attention paid to local television, or if there is any sort of local evangelism effort being made through personal relationships and a good example let, of a small group of people in a small town, reaching out to those who are around.
As it happens, as I was writing this, in the living room of the trailer where we have been staying since yesterday evening the other people in my party as well as our hostess were watching a Yacov Smirnov video of surprising sentimentalism, where the comedian talked about the kindness that was shown to him by his new neighbors upon arriving in the United States touched him deeply, and encouraged him to be a patriotic American when he had the chance to become a citizen himself. He commented that good deeds of kindness and concern for others, done unselfishly and out of a sense of plenty rather than an obsessive belief of scarcity that must be protected, ought to be talked about since those sorts of stories will not generally receive a great deal of attention on their own because such stories do not conform to the goals of media for sensational ratings, which operate under the dubious principle of “if it bleeds, it leads.” Who is it that is to give marketing to the good things in a world where negativity draws so much more attention? To what extent are we all part of the problem of denying positive stories the oxygen that they need to keep glowing and casting off light, because our negative press smothers the good that we could have said?
Sometimes messages have a strange congruence that cannot be predicted beforehand. For example, the sermonette message I had prepared for today  dealt with one of the experiences of Paul in a city on a Sabbath day not unlike this one. Without knowing the subject matter of my message, our hostess chose a video to watch that looked at the real first journey of Paul, one of great importance in the early life of the Church of God, but one that is not recorded on maps at the back of one’s Bible, largely because the trip was mostly alone, and in obscurity and indeed in disrepute. Paul had been a religious zealot, persecuting brethren in the name of God, thinking that he was one of the holy warriors, one of the good guys, only to come face to face with the fact that he had shown himself to be an enemy of God’s ways, and the resulting crisis shook him to the core. On the other side of that crisis, he repudiated the exclusivity and negativity of the Pharisees that he had once promoted and practiced. Yet it is Paul’s fate that his negative comments about the twisting of God’s law that were done by the Pharisees, including showing negativity towards women, Gentiles, and slaves, that have been remembered far more than his godly example of respect for God’s law and his Sabbath observance, even in places, like Philippi, where there was no synagogue. Perhaps Paul too, both in life and afterwards, has been in need of better marketing. If so, he is certainly not alone in that.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: