Sheepishly Resolved

New Year’s Eve is my least favorite celebration. Too often in my younger years it meant staying out too late in high heels that were killing me and wearing a silly hat. The parties were always too noisy and too crowded. I really didn’t mind the hat, but the shoes … ugh! My husband and I adopted the tradition of his parents after awhile. We stay up as late as we can and go out on the front porch in our pajamas at “midnight” (which might be 10:15) and pop an air-filled brown paper lunch bag. Boom! Welcome New Year.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t my favorite thing either. Researchers tell us that within six weeks, most of our resolve fizzles out, and we are back to our old habits. Why bother?

I am much more in favor of making life changes based on the Scriptures that speak to us. In that vain, look at today’s lectionary passage. This calls us to change our lifestyle immediately in response to the Gospel … and become sheep.

Now for those of you who follow a certain political rhetoric that implies that sheep are mindless, subpar creatures who blindly follow what their leader tells them, you are right. And I, for one, just want to be a sheep. A Gospel sheep.

Matthew 25 (The Message)

The Sheep and the Goats

31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

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.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

And BAM … there it is. There is the only New Year’s resolution you need. There is the Master’s instruction for self-improvement for 2022. Visit the prisoners. Drop in on the sick. (wear a mask!) Clothe the cold people. Volunteer and support your community homeless shelter. Feed the hungry through your community food bank. Be the change.

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

Just as following the voice of the Master brings blessings into your life, refusing to do as he bids will result in consequences you don’t want to face. In the end, we will all be held accountable to the Gospel demands.

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: 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.’

46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”

Let us covenant to do better in 2022 in all of these sheepish things. May we give of ourselves in ways we never have before, and may others be blessed by our efforts.

Happy New Year from At Water’s Edge!

Sun Setting on 2021

Feeding the Need

Crowdsourcing is a way of outsourcing a task or obtaining information for a project by using the input of a large group of people, typically via the internet. Social media, smartphone apps, and electronic surveys are just some of the means by which interested parties can source work or gather information. People are invited to collectively contribute ideas, time, expertise, or funds to a common goal. For example, traffic tracking apps such as Waze use driver/rider generated reports to communicate accidents, objects in the road, construction, and police on your journey. Uber pairs drivers with people who need a ride, an example of crowdsourced transportation. We use these types of crowd sourcing applications to “feed the need” of others.

A few years ago, Lays Potato Chips really maximized the concept of crowdsourcing in its campaign “Do Us a Flavor,” where they asked people to submit ideas for potato chip flavors. The public was invited to vote on the flavors they would like to try. The top four submissions became actual products. So new flavors such as Crispy Taco, Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle, and Beer Cheese have been crowdsourced from inception to having the final selection available at your local Publix. I don’t know who came up with the idea of Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle potato chips, but I want some!

At the heart of crowdsourcing is the notion of people coming together to help each other. I once traveled to Florida using Waze and saved close to two hours in traffic. Others ahead of me reported a crash that had shut down the highway, and Waze suggested a faster route.

Crowdsourcing existed in the early church, but of course they didn’t call it that. Martin Luther was an original crowd-sourcer. His frustrations with the institutional Church led him to write his “Ninety-Five Theses: A Disputation on the Power of Indulgences” and nail them on the door of the church in Wittenberg, which was located in the heart of the city on the public square. People read it, printed it, translated it, and shared its ideas with others throughout Germany and the rest of Europe, and thus the Reformation began.

But Jesus, of course was THE original crowd SOURCE. He spent a good deal of his ministry among the crowds, finding ways to feed their needs. In the wonderful miracle known as the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” we see him at his crowdsourcing best:

Matthew 14 (The Message)

Supper for Five Thousand

13-14 When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

15 Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

16 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

17 “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

18-21 Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.

Did you notice how that went? The disciples were expecting Jesus to come up with the meal. Jesus told them to figure something out. They came up with five loaves and two fish, and lunch was served on the lawn. So Jesus sourced the miracle, and the crowd sourced the resource.

What resource are you holding onto that would be better shared with the crowd? Where can you offer your expertise, your ideas, or your opinions in a way that constructively benefits others? Where is God calling you to take the Good News out into the public square and re-form the people?

Whatever our resources may be, God calls us to break our loaves and fish out of our lunch pails and offer them to the world. And whenever you have served the least of these with whatever you have, you have served the Lord. And don’t forget to pick up the leftovers!

Crowd-Saving at the Lifeguard Competition by Karen Warlitner