Sermon actually began during the Children’s Message, as the children and youth who have gone to Stepping Stones Farm describe William Goat. We decided that he was determined and smart. Also, pictures of our various ministries and other artwork were being shown on the wall next to the pulpit. Those pictures are referenced in the sermon.
Asking the kids: who is William?
The kids sermon will actually be more like a sermon given to the congregation by the kids.
Unfortunately, we are city folk and we may not have spent a lot of time with sheep and goats. However, this past year our youth did get to and will again go to a farm, and on the farm we met William. Let’s describe William.
Cats and dogs. Horse and camel. Cat and mouse. Fox and rabbit. Of all the possible animal pairings, Jesus chooses sheep and goats. Besides their being so familiar and part of the world of Middle East, I think the choice Jesus made was not random. It was based upon what I see as the nature of the beast. I think he is counting on us knowing someone like William, William T. Goat–the smart goat we heard about in the children’s message. Goats are evidently smarter than sheep. Perhaps we can say, they are too smart for their own good.
Goats ain’t dumb. They know that sometimes people are hungry because they spend their money on cigarettes, gambling, drugs, spending on this that and the other thing–big houses with even bigger mortgages, credit card bills that will never balance. Some people are thirsty because all they put in their cups is booze or beer. Goats are wary and don’t welcome the stranger because goats know the stranger might be/most likely trying to get something. Goats figure you must have done something pretty darn bad to be naked, homeless, or in trouble with the law. Goats know that a lot of folks are lazy, ungrateful, demanding. Goats know others as needy, goats see others as users, takers. They are wise to the ways of the worlds.
Goats ain’t dumb. They know that if we give, give, give, give soon there will be no more. They know we do not have enough money, not enough people, not enough time, not enough resources for us. They know. They are very smart.
Goats ain’t dumb, but it’s pretty clear in the Bible, from our story for today, Jesus doesn’t want a bunch of goats. He wants sheeple.
Now, I can’t take credit for the word sheeple–the combination of sheep and people. It’s a creation of my sister Jane came up with, and that’s a whole other story.
Jesus wants people, wants us to be sheeple–the ones who care and give, who feed the hungry, who make sure that people can eat, who make sure that people have clothes, welcome and value friends and strangers alike, visit the sick, who make sure that justice is done, and who even love the imprisoned. Some goats would say we we are wasting our time; some goats would say we are being taken advantage of; some goats say the system (economic, justice, educational systems are just fine). Some goats would say that we sheeple are dumb.
But you know what? In Jesus’ story, do the goats with all their smarts know that they weren’t on the right path, did the goats recognize Jesus. NO! The goats were actually not all that much smarter than the sheep, right? Both the sheep and the goats didn’t see Jesus. They missed him. Because when they saw people in need, well the goats saw takers who want our stuff. Sheep well they see what you’ve been able to watch up here on the wall, and let me tell you, to sheeple that is not dumb.
Of course, we sheeple know a thing or two ourselves. Sheeple know that what we do is not always smiles and laughter. The work we sheeple do is sometimes hard, we get tired, people get on our nerves. We see people in these pictures who we haven’t seen in a while, who may never have come and sat in our pews on a Sunday morning to worship with us, but you know the real difference between sheep and goats, sheeple? The real difference isn’t that one is smarter than the other. Because let me tell you sometimes I am a goat, and sometimes I’m a sheep. The thing, the difference is being a goat is focusing and thinking about on me, mine, and us. Being sheeple is when we stop that because we know it’s not about us. Following Jesus is not about getting more people in here to give, to do, to make us feel good and comfortable. Sheeple know that it’s not about us. This may not be very smart by some peoples’ standards, but what do you see up there in those pictures?
There’s the obvious: God’s children, smiles, giving, laughter. That’s great. Studies even show that people who are generous, people who give of themselves tend to live longer. Truly generous and loving people tend to be happier, and in a study from the UK, older people who said they were happy, even for a little while, were less likely to die over a five-year period. And the happier they were, the longer they lived. Overall, the results showed that older people who reported feeling happiest had a 35% lower risk of dying during the study than those who were least happy. Our spirits, bodies, blood pressure and yes, as it says in 2 Corinthians 9 – “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Of course, caring for, giving, and being with others can make us feel good, bring a smile to our face, be good for our health. But it’s still not about us. No, we don’t feed, clothe, give, visit, care, just to make us feel good, my look at how nice we are, look at how the people love us, appreciate us. No, we sheeple do this because it may bring a smile to someone, it may make them feel loved, welcomed, respected for at least a moment, and most importantly now, because we know, because we know the love of God, because in the doing–we see Jesus. Jesus is the love of God, and sheeple see Jesus in every act of love–giving of our time, our money, and giving especially of ourselves. Jesus didn’t die on the cross because he was so smart.
So, while goats ain’t dumb, the thing about sheeple is that we are everywhere. We are in these pews, we are in the choir, we are out on the street, we are the man who comes to get a pair of shoes, not because his are worn and full of holes, but because a friend has none. We are Judge Craig Mitchell of Los Angeles, a criminal court judge who helped organized a running club in Skid Row in LA. Skid Row is where the homeless live. One of the runners is Ryan Navales–one time homeless man addicted to drugs.
Running became a big part of Navales’ recovery. The physical exercise gave him a boost, and so did the unexpected friend he found in Mitchell.
Judge Mitchell organized and sponsored, buying 15 pairs of sneakers and contributing a large chunk of the $77,000 it would take for this team of Skid Row runners to run participate in the marathon that began at the Colosseum, in Rome Italy, just a few hours ago, this morning.
Of Judge Mitchell, Ryan Navales says “He saw us for who we are,” … “And he treated us like equals. That was important in those early stages. You know, trying to find some kind of self-worth and some self-confidence and some positive momentum in life.”
Goats ain’t dumb, but when we see people for who they really are and not just what the world sees, when we see that this whole thing is not about us, and when we love as Jesus loves–well that’s when we become not just a bunch of smart goats, that’s when we become, sheeple, and that’s when we hear “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. I don’t know about you, it doesn’t matter that goats ain’t dumb, I still would rather be a sheeple. Amen.