How many of you have heard this saying or my derivative of it? It means – to lose your cool, to be annoyed.
The popular urban story has it that a goat is placed in the stable next to a thoroughbred horse and the presence of the goat calms the horse down before a big race.
If the goat is stolen, the horses loses its calm, and will run badly. Therefore unscrupulous thieves who stead such a goat created consequences for the owner of the horse.
Thus, ‘You really get my goat’ means, not only does the horse lose its calm but the owner loses his and becomes annoyed.
Goats in themselves are interest animals. Unlike sheep, goats are not led by a shepherd or any human, in fact. They can lead each other. In fact, they are often independent of each other. You won’t find a unified flock of goats in the same way you will find a flock of sheep.
Because of this, it is much more difficult to domesticate goats.
Goats have often been labelled as self-willed, destructive and sometimes violent, aggressive and even angry (that is, a goat can get is own goat!)
In ancient times and especially in the Middle East, to the untrained eye sheep and goats look very similar. Thus they were difficult to separate simply on the basis of their outward appearance.
But, as we have just heard their behaviours and actions are very different. Think of today’s gospel passage in the light of the previous two chapters where there is similar themes.
When Jesus ‘blows up’ at the Pharisees which we saw in our video presentation a few weeks ago, he tells about their outward appearance being presentable and respectable, but on the inside they are like tombs full of decay and death.
So Jesus uses the analogy of similar looking sheep and goats.
But Jesus says that the righteous or right-acting people will share eternal joy with him. These are the people who love and show love to others. But those judged to be not righteous will not enter eternal life with him. These are the people who may look pious or speak in right ways, but act in another way or do not act at all.
For me, the big thing about this passage rests in just a few words. These are the which I believe are poorly translated from the original Greek in the NIV version of the Bible and thus lessen the impact of our actions or inactions upon the listener’s ear.
In verse 40 and verse 41 we hear ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you (did) did not do for one of the least of these you (did) didn’t do it for me’.
However, the NRSV and the Greek version do not use ‘for me’ but ‘to me’. Thus the emphasis shifts from what we do as representatives for Christ to what we do to Christ.
The implication of Christ being in everyone and Christ being personally affected by our actions or inactions, changes the emphasis considerably to say the very least.
It’s little wonder that non-righteous, non-right acting, non-right behaving people get up God’s goat.
But our actions towards God also includes the ways we approach our worship, our traditions, our rights of passage and our rituals.
A Christian funeral in our tradition is for the living – to help understand grief, yes, but also to help us grow our faith.
A Christian wedding and a Christian baptism is nothing more than an outward ceremony unless it leads to inward and outward changes.
And finally, Holy Communion – which we will come to shortly – is not simply about God’s work for us, but our works of love in response to God’s love.
It is about inward transformation that then responds in outward acts of love to the Shepherd and his flock.