Don't Be A Goat!

Don't Be A Goat!


I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

~ Matthew 25:35-36 The Message

As the world was just in the beginnings of pandemic life...
As shelves began to empty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer...

We were approaching a pivotal moment that would define us as individuals, as a society, as a nation. A moment where, when looking back at it now, we clearly could have done better.

It was a moment that came quickly, perhaps without much thought... which is why we missed out on an opportunity to live our faith fully, and in turn, to strengthen the well being of our neighbors.

Let me explain.

As history has shown, when we as a society, in our cities, our neighborhoods, experience hardship... specifically, when we fall victim to some type of disaster, we band together to help one another out. We have seen this time and time again following the devastation wrought by hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, house fires, even power outages. When our lives are abruptly disrupted, we have repeatedly sought to help one another.

Emergency shelter has been provided.
Clothing, food and other resources have been shared.
The community has come together in remarkable ways to meet the needs of our neighbors.

A tree falls on someone's house? Complete strangers come with chainsaws to help clean it up. Winter storm knocks out the power? Neighbors welcome others in to their generator-supported home. A friend loses their job? We help them out with food or financial supports.

When we see suffering in our midst, we respond. When we see others in need, we respond.

Well... at least most of the time, we do.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was initially descending upon us, we had nothing to compare it to. And that sense of unknowing increased the levels of fear we embodied. And, when fearful, we may not always be making the clearest of decisions.

And subsequently... shelves once filled with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and soap sat vacant for weeks. Produce and meat sections in the grocery store stood eerily empty. And many of us, many of our neighbors wondered where we would find the essentials we needed to survive.

And perhaps some of us also thought, with a slight ray of hope, that someone was going to come to our aid.

We quickly learned that the pandemic was unlike any disaster we had experienced before. Our communities, our nation were not emotionally equipped for what was in store... a drastic shift in our desires to help one another.

There was a rising focus centered more on self... and away from neighbor.

I have found it fascinating, honestly, to witness this shift.

And yes, there are plenty of people who are looking out for others... sharing their toilet paper and their food. Yet, overwhelmingly, the behaviors we were seeing play out in our communities leaned more toward selfish than selfless.

And that is absolutely heartbreaking.

And now, as we have navigated the past several months of the pandemic...
As stores have been able to restock their toilet paper and produce...
We see another example of this selfish nature emerging.


And somehow, what was to be a resource for community health became a political debate. And the line between selfish and selfless became clearer.

Science continues to show us how a simple cloth face mask can serve as a significant tool in slowing down the virus' transmission. In part, it offers a form of protection for those who wear them. In addition, it provides even more protection for others... those with whom we come in contact.

Wearing a mask reduces the risk of our passing the virus to others.
Wearing a mask is a public witness of our desire to care for others.
Wearing a mask shows that we seek to love our neighbor.

When Jesus spoke of sheep and goats being separated based on behaviors, he spoke of how we are to be more like the sheep... to care for those, the least of these, in our community. He gave us example and instruction on how to live our faith publicly in ways that benefit others. Because, as he named, to do so... to feed, clothe, visit and provide for those in need... we are serving Jesus himself.

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was living with health concerns... and you wore a mask to keep me safe.

We wear our masks as a way of living out this faith, this understanding. We wear them to care for others, not knowing if we could inadvertently make someone sick. We wear them because we are called to love one another.

With the news of increasing COVID cases nationwide, countless new hotspots where the virus is being transmitted in communities that are opening up once again, we are also seeing a vast number of our neighbors who are forgoing the safety that a mask can provide.

And we are being called once again to live more fully the faith which we embody.

To open up our homes to those who have lost theirs.
To share our food, our clothing and other resources with those who are in need.
To show up with chainsaws to clear away debris.
These are significant examples of loving our neighbor.

And yet, so is wearing a mask.

Jesus said to the goats; "Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me -- you failed to do it to me."

In this situation... let's be more like the sheep than the goats.
Let's love our neighbors in simple and extraordinary ways.
Let's diminish the virus' spread.
And let's take steps toward a healthier existence for all.

Wear a mask
Wash your hands
Distance yourself physically from others (though stay socially connected)

Love your neighbors.
Love Jesus.

And the world will be a better place.

Text reprinted with permission from: Timoth's Random Thoughts

Photo by visuals on Unsplash


Timoth Sylvia

The Rev. Timoth Sylvia is the Senior Minister at Newman Congregational Church UCC in Rumford, RI.

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