Pictured here is a photo of my great uncle Newman, taken many years ago at his farm near Santiago, Chile. Newman developed quite a reputation as a leader in “the goat business.” He was held in high esteem for developing techniques for producing goats that generate an unusually high quantity and quality of milk. His were definitely not your average goats.
This Sunday we will ponder again Matthew 25:31-46 — Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment. It is a familiar text – a text that makes most folks squirm, at least a little. Jesus is referring to the “end times,” but we are meant to hold this text up against the canvas of our own times. Are we sheep or goats?
Personally I can get confused about which is better. In our culture of rugged individualism, being a “sheep” – a follower – is looked down upon. But, in this text, it is the scrappy, pushy, willful goat that is set aside and will be destroyed. This is a message of warning – a word that tells us to pay attention and to critique our actions.
I never had the opportunity to meet my great uncle, but I would bet a chunk of salary that he loved his goats. Just look at the photo. You can see his appreciation of these beasts – these creatures that, like it or not, are God’s ‘kids.’ Newman spent his life working with these animals, helping them to produce something of value that, in turn, helped to feed and nourish the community around them.
The good news is that, even on those days when we look in the mirror and see a goat looking back, God stands with us, loving us and waiting to transform us into something beautiful. He stands ready to empower us to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. He gives us the willingness and strength to take care of the sick and to visit the prisoner.
On any given day, we will find that there is a bit of goat in even the best of us, and a bit of sheep in the worst of us. We will find that Christ the King has followed us even into the most troublesome thicket. He waits with open arms to lovingly embrace us, to set us free.