This is the 3rd week in a row that the Lectionary compilers are getting us to look at a lifestyle parable. Now sometimes when Jesus tells a funny story you just have to do funny things.. In case you can’t guess this is the parable of the sheep and the goats..
It is interesting what people take away from a parable.. I am surprised how many people focus on Jesus in judgement. For me what I notice is the whole discussion around the sheep and the goats.. Why sheep and goats I wonder? If you work with these animals I would love to know what you think about this and what insights you can share.. For me I hear about ordinary things that helped the people of the time live, they provided food, wool, milk.. It is interesting that sheep are seen to follow along, one goes and they all go. Where as goats most of the time I have seen them more as solitary animals.
But that is not the most interesting bit in the story for me. It is the response from both the sheep and the goats.. When Lord did I help your children and when didn’t I help your children? Neither knew what they had or hadn’t done, they just did or did not..
It got me thinking about my life, when was it in times that I helped that I didn’t realise and when was I so caught up in other things that I missed the chance.. What I hear in this story is busy people like me trying to get on with their life, going about thier business and it was in that way that they got it or missed it. Again like last week I hear a challenge to think about how we live out these values all the time, being ready or prepared, but not as a chore but as a natural way that we live out our lives. We become so used to doing it that we no longer notice when we do it. We see the hungry and give them something to eat, see the thirsty and give them something to drink, meet strangers and invite them in, see the naked and clothe them, encounter the sick and look after them, know someone is in prison and go to visit. Because when these become second nature when it is a natural assumption that this is who we are, they are no longer as they are named. When you have an attitude of welcoming the stranger, no one is ever a stranger again they are just the yet to be met friend. When sharing a drink or some food is just having a meal with a friend.
I wonder how often we read this reading as almost a welfare understanding of the world, I must do this good to help that needy person. They are the victim, I will be the saviour. This reading is not about saviours it is about sheep hanging out together. It is interesting when you spend time with people who have hit hard times you realise very quickly this could be me. It could have been me that couldn’t pay the rent for whatever reason, who’s clothes are missing, who are sick or have ended up in gaol (yes it too could happen to us). They are not victims to be pitied or rescued but people who are loved and it is hard not to love them when you get to know them (well mostly sometimes God needs to help alot with this!)..
This is why I think the sheep don’t notice because these people aren’t naked or sick or hungry they are their friends who need a hand..
I feel for the goats, I feel for me on my goat days.. Those moments when I am too busy to see, too caught up in my own stuff to know. It is moments like this that I am so grateful it is Jesus on that throne, not me or others, because I would be in trouble. Jesus on the other hand taught us about grace.. So you might have had a goaty kind of day or maybe you have been a goat for a long time.. Good news if you are still breathing there is a chance to open your life to the world of generous hospitality. The irony you’ll probably find yourself guest alot more often than you actually get to be host. I wonder who my next new friend will be ?