Orphaned no more

Published 8:55 am Friday, June 8, 2012

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Ken Jensen, retired ELCA pastor of Albert Lea

In the mid-19th century New York City was overflowing with immigrants from Europe. It led to wide-spread poverty, overcrowding, disease and death. As a result, many children were either abandoned or orphaned on the city streets.

From 1854 until 1929 an estimated 150,000 of these children were placed on “orphan trains” and sent to families in the Midwest. The intent was to place orphans with wholesome farming families who would offer them loving homes.

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However, it didn’t always work out that way. Some children were paired with families by lottery. Others were lined up at the station for inspection before being chosen by prospective parents. Siblings were frequently split up. One infant male was placed in a family that later traded him for a field of corn! What began with good intentions did not always produce the desired results.

Romans 8:16-17 says: “The (Holy) Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

As children of God we were once orphans, but are orphaned no more. We have been adopted and given a place of honor in the family of God. In the imagery of scripture, we have become heirs of the kingdom and all that implies.

Thus, we are called upon to share in Christ’s sufferings by showing love and compassion toward our fellow co-heirs. We are a special people. We are followers of the humble Galilean. In so doing, we live our lives as he would …in love and service to others. It is as if we are to reach out to embrace other orphans who were not as fortunate as we.

It is a lesson not to be lost in the current rush to reduce the size of our government and to remove it from the business of looking after the least and lowest in our society. The burden of caring for the frail elderly, the poorest of the poor and the vulnerable will increasingly fall upon the shoulders of those who bear the name of Christ.

Will we be up to the task? Will we voluntarily take up the cross and make personal sacrifices for the sake of others …especially those beyond our families?

Will sitting in the pew on Sunday morning make a difference as to how we apply our time and resources Monday through Saturday?

The challenge may turn out to be a blessing. Early Christians joined the fellowship because they saw how much they loved one another. Witnessing a faith active in love, not division, will lead orphans to become orphans no more.