What do you do with the fifth goat?
Between the Services Sunday:
Join us for “Up, Up & Away- Jesus’ Ascension and Ours” this Sunday at 9am in the Parish Hall. How does the reality of Christ’s ascension (which we celebrate this Thursday) make a difference in the lives of those who follow him.
“What do you do with the fifth goat?”
Bishop William asked the leaders gathered from across India this question as he began his week of teaching about leadership in the church: Leadership that is fruitful, lasting, and marked by abiding joy.
The priests and deacons of Mission India, seated together in an upstairs room, lit up as he described a farmer who had a single goat. He loved it so much that he fed it by hand, sang to it at night, and led it around for walks on a leash. Each day concluded with his prayer of thanks for the blessing of his goat. Later, the arrival of a second goat doubled the farmer’s thanks. The following year brought a third goat and then a fourth.
At this point, the goats sometimes tangled their leashes, and the pressing need for food and water left the man frustrated. At night, instead of singing, he worried how he could bear the burdens these goats placed on him.
And then came a fifth goat.
“What do you do with the fifth goat?”
Even across translation, +William is so good at this. He and +Carl have joined Ivan+ and Felicita with these friends (and more from the US) for the past several years, gathering together the local leaders who have been sharing the gospel, planting churches, enduring persecution both systemic and hostile, and thinking about leadership development for the next generation. What a joy to be with these women and men in worship, meals, prayers, study, discussion, and strategy. Every wonderful thing I’ve ever heard about the Christians there was true. (And your prayers for me, my family and the translator were graciously answered.)
Their faithful service has led to increased responsibility and increased suffering. They talked about these things and many others. Conversations about new people to reach. Questions about pastoral responses to difficult situations. Concerns about safety and courage. Or, as +William might say, “Very many goats.”
The opportunities and blessings God lays before us all can be occasions either for thanksgiving or complaint. Our own “goats” certainly have different names, but the challenges that accompany entangled commitments, allocating limited resources of time and attention, and thinking about tomorrow with either hope or anxiety is common to each of us. India, Winter Springs, DRC, Apopka, Zanzibar, Casselberry, South Sudan, Oviedo.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard from a number of our international partners about life in their piece of God’s kingdom. Their places, like ours, are yet unfinished. The reign of God has not been fully realized. Opposition to God and the effects of this world’s sin have left their mark on the places they serve and the people for whom they care. In many cases, the burdens they face on a daily basis cause us to be shocked and moved to prayer. It happened again this week.
But the burdens and challenges in our own piece of God’s kingdom urge us to pray with them, and not simply for them. Despite our relative comforts and security, our neighborhoods are not yet living under the saving care of the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s prayer is still needed both there and here.
Joining our prayers to God with them, in partnership, allows us to see the challenges common to all those who follow God in the broader light of the struggle and triumph Jesus has won for us. The specifics of our situations vary. But as our partners reminded us as they joined us for hospital visits and prayers, suffering is common to all until Christ returns.
+William pressed one additional point throughout the week. The blessings of God, the service and calling God has given to us is not designed to be fulfilled as duty alone. It is to be done with joy. Not joy as an additional duty, but as an experience of serving with Christ as he leads and provides.
This week, we will look at the path to victory laid out for us in the words of Jesus and two of our Apostles. The Resurrected life is for Christ and for all who are his. Wherever they live, whatever they face, whatever the names of their goats.
See you Sunday,