After much prayer, discernment, and hard work, St. Mark’s leadership decided we would return to a full in-person schedule beginning Sunday, September 19. Note that some gatherings will continue to be available online.
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
I love a goat video. When the three months of full shutdown happened, I was struggling and YouTube was on and I would reward myself for getting something done by watching some guy restoring old toy cars OR a good goat video. I mostly liked the ones where the goats were in sweaters and there is always one who seems to have had a little too much coffee, and that over-caffeinated goat is running back and forth, jumping up and down and jumping on and off the other goats. Goats give me great joy. So in this gospel truth, what does Jesus have against goats?
Mixed herds. Shepherds had goats and sheep mixed together. The sheep ate grass and the goats would eat the shrubs, the leaves, the other plants…it was efficient. The goats would reproduce faster and to have a good ratio for health of the herd the goats got culled faster than the sheep. So it really is not about goats and sheep at all it is a way of describing that act of culling in a way that would make sense for Jesus listeners.
Right and left
More about our behaviors/choices
And in the Gospel we have pretty clear-cut choices. We either were for service to folks who had less or we were not. You clothed, fed and visited or you did not.
We have a pretty simple clear choice: do we help or do we not?
What about when it is not so clear? We get to learn, and we get to do it by trial and error.
The wall around Lafayette Square is also a place of trial and error and not as clear-cut as giving money to people on the street.
So the wall went up when African-American folks and white allies were protesting the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and what happened is that it rapidly turned into a memorial for the community to grieve members killed by the police, dead because of indifference, dead because of neglect, dead because of the sin of racism. For a couple of months there were protests down by the White House, and there was a community down in the streets.
The fence was rebuilt, bigger than the last one and this community organic memorial was remade, and then one day the President wanted to have a photo opportunity at St. John’s Lafayette Square and protestors were tear gassed and chassed down 16th Street. The Mayor responded by having local artists paint Black Lives Matter down 16th Street and renaming it BLM Plaza.
The memorial rapidly turned into a protest wall, anti-trump rhetoric took over, and when I came down on an early morning that is what I saw. I had not been down for the protests. I was not willing to risk Covid exposure and I was heart sick that my hometown was on fire. I came down on an early Sunday morning to see the street and I saw a fence calling out the president. I did not see the memorial. It was not clear to me.
Last weekend there was Trump supports and White supremacists in town protesting the election. Once the political rally was over, the thugs from the proud boys stayed late into the night spoiling for a fight. There were counter protestors who were also spoiling for a fight and there were people out trying to protect their churches and the memorial.
I think that the memorial was taken over; it was taken over because it was not seen by the people who were mad at the president. Last weekend it ripped down by white supremacists. Both were painful acts and that is what we need to work on, for us to see past our own bias, to see actually see what is before us. I did not want to be downtown last weekend; I went for a long bike ride. It never occurred to me to engage with the proud boys. I wonder if I could have stood in solidarity with POCs defending their memorial? I wonder what it would like to see, what is before me. I wonder if I will EVER HAVE eyes that saw that memorial before it was taken over and then ripped down.
I do not see the world through the eyes of African Americans whose city is under attack, both by gentrification, political un-rest, and racists attacking their memorial.
The parable of the goats and sheep are not just about a dollar to the homeless man, or a donation to Everyone home DC, or the Incarceration ministry or Washington Interfaith Network. We should do all of that work. The parable of the sheep and the goats is about changing our perception. It is about changing our eyes, our hearts, our ears…so that we see. In Native circles we are told we cannot see with colonizers eyes. You can be 100% Native and still have be taught in residential schools and you have the eyes of a colonized person, so we must train ourselves to see a new.
People are called to train our hearts and our minds into the love of God. To see the world as God would see it, to train our hearts and our minds. For folks of the dominant culture we also have to not put whiteness in the center of everything we see, and touch. We would no more redecorate the Washington monument or a Jewish cemetery yet we took over the fence. Then the worst of whiteness came and ripped it all down.
So how do we retrain our hearts and not step in fully, we work at it, we read we study, we pray, we expand our friends group, we have conversations, we show up and we make mistakes, we feel like we failed. We get up and try again. That is the only way not to see with colonizers eyes, that is the only way we live more closely to the desire of God SO we do the work and for that I say thanks be to God. AMEN