The Parable of the Goat

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Dear John:
Your mother tells me that you are discouraged by the presence of so many cantankerous old people in the church you are working in. You are very young and at your age this is a common complaint among young people.
I know it is hard to be patient when you are young, but it may help cheer you up if I tell you an event that happened to me when I was much younger. At that time I was serving a pastorate in a rural area full of pleasant rolling hills and green fields of corn.
There was in my congregation a family whose head was a widow with a fine son who was a college student. The widow also had a pleasing daughter who was very much in love with a young man of unfortunate character whom she married.
The family ilved on a nice farm that was at the very end of a long unpaved road. There they enjoyed living in a certain isolation from their neighbors. I had visited the family several times and seen nothing wrong in their situation. It seemed isolated to me but was pleasant, peaceful and quiet. As a preacher, however, there were things I was not aware of.
One day the son of the family came to see me. He was worried. He said his brother-in-law had planted marijuana plants, which were illegal, all over the gardens of his mother’s farm. His mother had no idea what they were. He was afraid the helicopters of the sheriff that flew all over the area checking ?or illegal substances might discover them by a radar they used to find marijuana growing illegally in the forests. Then his widowed mother might be in serious trouble.
The widow had no idea the marijuana plants were marijuana. S he just thought they were pleasing tropical plants her son-in-law had put out. I had to confess to the young man I didn’t know what the plants were either. I had been out there to visit. I never noticed the manjuana plants neatly planted in the flower and vegetable gardens.. The young man said to me, “Preacher, I don’t want to butt in and make trouble in my sister’s marriage. It will upset the family,but I sure don’t want to let me mother get in trouble with the law either. What do I do?”
I thought the young man’s question a good one. Well, I never do anything without praying over it first. I don’t eat a meal without saying grace. So I said to him, “Let me pray and think over this. You do the same and we’ll talk again in a few days.” The young man agreed, got in his truck and left.
I thought things over for several days and prayed about it of course. I was getting worried on the third day when I hadn’t been able to think of some solution on a par with King Solomon. Every solution I thought of showed up somebody and was guaranteed to create strain and much family tension.. None had the right touch that I call the Jesus touch. While I was so thinking, the telephone rang.
The young man on the other end of the telephone told me to worry no more. Things had been resolved. I asked, “How on earth?” He said on the farm was a pen of farm animals. The animals included one particularly nasty old goat.
The neighbor’s children often came to play with the farm animals. They were normal children and were somewhat careless as children tend to be. The previous night they had forgotten to close the latch on the gate of the pen when they finished playing with the animals. All the farm animals except the goat had wandered out and had been much trouble for the young man to locate the next day. Particularly was this so with the pigs.
But the good thing was the goat did not wander off. He sniffed in the air a pleasing new weed and went straight to the front yard of the widow ‘s house.
The next morning the marijuana plants were all gone. The goat had eaten them. The goat consumed a considerable lot, but I was told the goat seemed very happy if he did walk somewhat unsteadily as he was led back to the animal pen. After all he was very full.
The young man asked me on the telephone ff1 thought the marvellous solution that came was an answer to prayer. I told him I declined to comment. This was a theological speculation it was best not to take up. But scripture taught us to be thankful for all things. I guess that included old goats.
I said I was happy to note this fact since there were so many old goats in my congregation. I was delighted to see they could be used in the service of the good.
So, John, be patient with old goats. I have seen how they can be used. God does work in mysterious ways. This was a true happening. People don’t seem to want to believe that but it is. This took place many years ago when I was a minister in the country. This real event that happened to me has many times made me laugh in Christ as well as delight in the works and irony of God.
Sincerely, your pastor,

James MacLeod
(The Rev. Dr.)


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.


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