Good Shepherds reflect God's will by transforming society
You in Luverne likely feel like I do here in Washington. In the midst of the hostile even bigoted political debates and civil disequilibrium, I confess the need for instruction to maintain my faith and peace.
The Parable of the Good Shepherd (in Luke 15) reminds us what the sacrificing-servant-church, service clubs, NGOs and families can be in this period of resurgent racism, the ravages of rapid climate change, and violence toward refugees and others such as Kurds and Palestinians … as we seek to cope and address the long litany of divisive issues.
The Pharisees and court lawyers contrasted unfavorably to Jesus. Their hearts were far from him and they were looking for ways to get rid of him and his message with ideological hate speech.
Their persistent heckling was about His non-partisan association with those whom they called the “sinners,” the poor, the incurable, the confused and desperate.
We have been reminded recently about a story of Good Shepherds and Sheep in Luverne. Some will remember the Otis and Lois Godfrey family in the 1950-60s. Otis was a much-loved Cub Scout leader who died suddenly at 40 just before Christmas 1953. He left his young widow with six children.
More than 60 years later George, the eldest son, wrote a thank you note recalling the sympathy and active kindness of our community.
His 2015 letter of appreciation noted how he and his siblings were “provided health care at no cost to their mother during all the children’s school years” and a job for his mom.
And he recalled that God “does not do His miracles these days by sudden events (like in parting the sea or never letting the food run out). Instead He sends people into our lives to be miracles for us, the widow and her six children.”
The Shepherds, or as George says “angels,” were from the several political parties and many churches without questioning the Godfrey family’s church or political loyalties.
These “miracle” workers … were his third family from outside the bereaved birth and extended Godfrey families.
Likewise many of our Minnesota leaders of all parties, faiths and backgrounds have often modeled the Good Shepherd for our forebears and us.
Since the 1800s our state has been one of the blessed places in America for refugees added by “third families”… and likely will be again when the inhumane restrictions are lifted and doors are once more opened to asylum seekers. Many of our families have the stories to tell. Admittedly there was suspicion to face but also great comfort found.
Some humanitarian Republican and Democrat leaders, especially state leaders, are warning the most needy in America are being left out of critical maternal and child health and food programs.
In fact America ranks among the lowest of all the developed “western” nations … including with high maternal death rates. Because of this we are losing confidence in our leaders exacerbated by rampant gun violence, and obvious climate change damage.
“The soul of our nation is at risk along with the integrity of our faith,” says Jim Wallis of Sojourners. This is the threat when we lose capacity to love our neighbor even more than self. It is more difficult, then, to feel secure in the comforts of Rock County and its long appreciated hints of “heaven in earth.”
I suspect you also find tension producing the hate speech, personal attacks, unvarnished racism, needless cruelty from both sides of the ideological divide in the press, TV and digital transmissions.
In such harsh dehumanizing situations, it is life-giving to remember Good Shepherds, as I did working in the world’s conflict zones, rather than the wolves of chaos. It is deep healing and cooperative kindness at the grass roots when Good Shepherds appear to free us from thickets of hatred and cruelty and increase our trust.
(Adapted from Getman’s Sept. 15 sermon at First Presbyterian Church, Luverne. Continued next week.)