I’ve been reflecting today on the movie “The Overnighters.”
I saw it recently at the Brattleboro Film Festival, and I think I’m glad I did, but I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience. It’s the (documentary) story of Pastor Jay Reinke, leader of a Lutheran church in Williston, ND, who sets in motion the idea of his church being a warming shelter, basically, for men who come to the area to work the oil fields but who are homeless. His sense of call was strong, and his theology about broadening the community’s understanding of who is The Neighbor (as in “love thy neighbor”) was commendable, but I became *so* anxious as I watched him wear himself (and his family) to a nub and deceive even his church as he tried to single-handedly save a veritable flood of broken, desperate humanity. So I’ve been thinking about trust and Sabbath (“DUDE,” I wanted to call out, “YOU NEED ONE!!!”) and the ego factor that can be such a driving force in certain types of social justice crusades. (I also felt the film wove back and forth on that fine line between documentary and reality show, which felt somehow both deceitful and voyeuristic, but maybe that was just me.)
Many who gather in our sanctuary on any given Sunday feel strongly that following Jesus means serving the last and lost and least, and I agree. We take seriously the words of the prophet Micah when he says,
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6: 8)
It sounds simple enough on the surface, but it’s a tricky balance to strike, isn’t it? Who have you known who was especially good at that? How have you succeeded and how have you fallen short of these ideals?