April 22, 2018
I had an idea this week…
You know how we’ve been talking about reaching out into our community,
growing, and making new connections.
Some of that is of course marketing and social media.
So I had this idea…
What if we changed the name of our church?
What if…instead of “Good Shepherd Lutheran Church,”
we were “Great Shepherd Lutheran Church!”
Great idea, right?
It’s interesting that Jesus chooses the word ‘good.’
I am the good shepherd.
Not the great shepherd;
not the awesome shepherd;
not the extraordinary shepherd.
The good shepherd.
It’s important that he chooses that word,
because we are all called to be shepherds.
Later in the gospel of John he says:
Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep.
Be my shepherd.
And if we had to be “great” shepherds or “extraordinary shepherds,”
we just wouldn’t even be able to start.
So what does a good shepherd do?
The Bible talks about bad shepherds…
In Ezekiel, the ‘wicked shepherd,’
fails to care for the poor and sick.
In 1523 Martin Luther wrote a sermon about this Bible reading,
and in fitting with his context when he was confronting the religious leaders of his day,
he said he knew some bad shepherds – the pope and bishops!
The reason he called them ‘bad shepherds,’
was because he said they were always telling people “do this” or “do that,”
but Jesus’ message wasn’t that you had to be or do something different to be loved by God,
but merely to “Come,” and see how much God already loves you.
God already loves you.
You are good enough.
In our culture, when we say someone or something is “good enough,”
it carries a connotation of mediocrity – who wants to be ‘just’ good enough?
But it is tremendously freeing to say with boldness that
“Good enough” is ‘good enough.’
Back in the 1950’s, British pediatrician DW Winnicott wrote about the ‘good enough’ mother.
(It was the 50’s – so caregivers were mothers for the most part –
today he probably would have written about the ‘good enough’ parent.)
He said a ‘good enough’ parent was one who cared for their child’s needs.
Who met their needs as an infant – fully and completely.
But, he said, that same parent as the child grows ought to fail sometimes.
If a child never experiences frustration,
they’ll never learn to adapt to a changing world.
In fact Winnicott said, perfection in a parent
is a sure path to really messing up your kids.
And so he advised not trying to be a perfect parent – but a ‘good enough’ parent.
So back to my earlier question…
If we don’t have to be the perfect shepherds, but a good shepherd…
what does a good shepherd – a ‘good enough’ shepherd do?
This text suggests a couple of things.
First of all, a good enough shepherd is self-giving.
Unlike a ‘hired hand’ for whom work is ‘just a job,’
a shepherd gives of themselves.
Perhaps Tammi Jo Shults’ name sounds familiar now…
She was the pilot of Southwest Flight 1380.
The flight lost part of its engine shortly after takeoff,
and Tammi Jo managed to the plane safely.
You can listen to the audio between her and the air traffic controller.
Her voice is calm –
“We have lost part of the engine.”
“A passenger has gone out.”
You can hear the anxiety in the air traffic controller’s voice –
“A passenger has gone out of the plane ???!!!”
He then asks her where on the runway she’d like to park.
She responds simply, “We’ll park next to the fire truck.”
Nerves of steel indeed.
But what I think is just as remarkable is what happens next.
After the landing, she doesn’t rush off the plane to try to contact her own family…
Instead she meets with each of the passengers on board.
And she makes a statement saying,
We were simply doing our job….but our hearts grieve for the family of the passenger who died.
It was never ‘simply a job’ though for Tammi Jo.
She was not a hired hand.
She was a shepherd – a good shepherd.
Certainly good enough.
A good enough shepherd is self-giving.
Jesus also says that a good enough shepherd makes room for others –
others who are not yet part of the fold.
Pope Francis made news this week.
Apparently the pope was visiting a parish on the outskirts of Rome.
When he travels, he invites questions from those who are listening,
and this time a young boy around 7-8 years old was invited to ask a question.
He came to the microphone,
but despite encouragement, was just too shy to ask his question.
So the pope motions the boy (whose name is Emmanuele) to come closer to him,
and to whisper the question into his ear.
Emmanuele walks up to the pope,
and the two are seen having a brief conversation
before the boy returns to his seat.
The pope then says,
“This is what Emmanuele and I talked about…
Emmanuele’s father died recently,
and he was an atheist.
And Emmanuele wanted to know if his father was in heaven….
I told Emmanuele that God has a dad’s heart.
(I don’t know Italian, but I think it was intentional that the pope used “dad” rather than father!)
And would God keep a child of his far from him?”
The pope asks the crowd again and again,
“Would God keep a child of his far from him?”
“Would God keep a child of his far from him?”
Jesus says that there are other sheep who are not part of this fold,
and he will go out and bring them in too.
The pope spoke of the character of God
who makes room for others to join the fold.
Whereas some of us in the church create boundaries between us and them,
the good shepherd reveals the character of God which breaks down barriers…
whose sole desire is that all are close to him.
Not the perfect. Not the great. Not the extraordinary…but all are close to him.
You are not great – and that’s okay.
(Even Jesus isn’t a ‘great’ shepherd.)
You are good enough…
You are a good enough parent
even if you’ve never been a perfect parent.
You are a good enough student
even if you’ve been rejected by your 1st or 2nd or 10th or 12th choices of schools.
You are a good enough worker
even if you didn’t get that promotion or the job you wanted.
You may not be great…
but you are good enough.
You are good enough – just as you are.