Saturday, December 22, 2007

stupid is as stupid

(Read Matthew 25:31-46)

One of the reasons I like the comic strip
"Red & Rover" (see December 17th devotion)
is that it reminds me of another comic called
"Calvin and Hobbes." I really miss Calvin,
that little boy who, with his stuffed tiger named
Hobbes, would go shooting into space, off
on a wild safari, or trick his parents wtih
amazing feats of daring-do.

In one strip, Calvin tells his father, "so long,
Pop, I'm off to check my tiger trap. I rigged
a tuna fish sandwich yesterday so I am sure
to have a tiger by now!"

"They like tuna fish, huh?"

"Tigers will do anything for a tuna fish sandwich!"

Then we see poor Hobbes, hanging by his foot,
eating a tuna fish sandwich, and bemoaning,
"We're kind of stupid that way."

We think the goats in this story by Jesus are
pretty stupid, don't we? As good little sheep,
who always do what Jesus has asked of us,
we look at them and wonder, "Hello? People
in prison, naked neighbors, sick friends, a starving
child, a thirsty kid on a hot day. And you
couldn't do anything for them, much less see

And we proudly pat ourselves on the back,
because we are willing to send the clothes we
have outgrown (or are no longer in fashion)
off to the thrift store; we drop a few coins into
the kettle for the army to feed the hungry on
Christmas Day; we'll sign the petition to end
the suffering in Darfur; we'll pray for those in
prison (and hope not a lot of them are released
in our neighborhood).

But Jesus catches us up short, when he makes
clear that we don't get it any more than the
goats do. Here in this story, the sheep are
just as stupid as the goats because, according
to Jesus, the sheep didn't realize what they
were doing.

Interesting twist, isn't it? Maybe what Jesus
is talking about here is not so much organizing
a prison ministry (though he would support
that effort 100%), but being there when a
friend who is addicted to gambling, drugs,
alcohol, whatever tries to find freedom.
Maybe it is not so much bagging up our
clothes, and putting them out for collection
by the trucks operated by the vets, but
standing by our classmate who is stripped
naked by the jokes and ridicules of his peers.
Maybe it's not just buying an extra can of
corn at the grocery store for the food
collection at the church, but trying to fill
the hunger for friendship that new family
in the neighborhood has.

Maybe instead of thinking, and planning,
and making sure others notice all the
good things we do (and congratulating
our selves for such a 'witness), it is feeding
on the words Jesus speaks, it is drinking at
the fountain of compassion he offers, it is
walking beside him as he goes into those
prisons called depression, loneliness, grief,
hopelessness. Maybe it is letting Jesus become
first and foremost in our lives, that doing all
these things become second nature for us,
so that we do them without even thinking
about it.

Then we can admit, as we continue down the
path to Bethlehem to welcome the Babe
into our hearts, 'we're kind of stupid that way."

Prayer: Wisdom we long for: teach us your
ways until we can walk, talk, do, and be
without a second thought. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

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