Like many others, I had something to say this morning about fat and skinny sheep and sheep vs. goats. I also had something to say about God’s concern for economic justice, and that it cannot help but take us into the realm of politics whether anyone likes it or not.
Although I stressed that there was nothing wrong with being a fat sheep, there was something wrong with butting and shouldering other sheep out of the way to keep them from getting a share of the good grass and clean water. Although I stressed that there was nothing wrong with being a goat, there was something wrong with failing to address conditions of homelessness, hunger and healthcare. Although, I said, that whether we like the analogies or not, we must be mindful that the issues are dear to God who emphasizes them frequently through the prophets and speaks to them directly through Jesus Christ.
Although I said those things, the congregation still got hung up on the critter and not the deeds. Some took offense at being compared to sheep, dumb sheep. Some praised the intelligence and courage of goats, and noted that we raise more goats than sheep around here. It’s a price to be paid when preaching in farm country.
Some, cleverly reading between the lines, were a bit nervous about an implied political message that might appear supportive of those radical, lazy misfits occupying Wall Street.
The after sermon conversation went on for quite some time, and I suspect it was because these lessons hit close to home. Better to deflect them than to let them invade our private places. We prefer God’s word to endorse what we already believe, not challenge it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction, one common to us all. What was it that our Lord said to Paul on the road to Damascus?: “...It hurts you to kick against the goads.”
I don’t think it was a bad thing that we had that extended after sermon time to talk. It was, to me at least, a sign that God had penetrated more than a few defenses, my own included.