Jesus and the Old Goat

“Know what? We need a scapegoat,” I told the Preacher. “Someone to take the blame for everything that goes wrong around here.”

He chuckled.

It all started the day the car stereo died. We’d had music on the way to our friends’ home, but driving back, the radio wouldn’t turn on. “Locked,” read the digital display.

“You used it last,” the Preacher said. “What’d ya do to it?”

My hackles stood at attention. Unmerited blame, they shrieked.

“Nothing—at least nothing I haven’t done a thousand times,” I huffed. “I turned it off.”

The Preacher began fiddling with knobs, trying to fix the problem, still sure I’d caused it. Nothing worked. Stewing at his accusation, I stared straight ahead.

Happily, the next time the car started, so did the stereo.

We agreed later: we have a bad habit of leaping to place blame. It begins early in the morning some days…

“When I got up in the middle of the night, the kitchen had a strange blue glow. SOMEBODY forgot to turn off the stereo last night.” (Replace the last part, the part after “forgot to,” with “turn off the porch light,” or “turn down the furnace,” or “lock the door.”

Ad nauseum.

Yes, we said, a scapegoat would help. And then I remembered.

Decades ago, when the Preacher’s maternal grandmother died, we travelled East for her funeral.

Grandma Corney owned hundreds of unmarked antique family photos. No one wanted them, but somehow the box ended up at the Preacher’s mother’s home.

One afternoon, as Mom sat doing a crossword puzzle, I sifted through it, wondering about the stories forever hidden behind the unnamed, unsmiling faces—especially the face in one beautifully preserved professional photo. Nicely posed in a field, stood a large, white, long-haired—and rather regal-looking—goat.

I snickered. “Hey, Mom, is this a relative too?”

Without looking up, she answered, “They’re all relatives.”

I stuck the picture under her nose. She laughed. “I’ve never seen that goat before. My mother never told me his story!”

The forgotten goat fascinated me. No one knew or wanted him, so when we left Ontario, I tucked him in my suitcase, brought him home, and put him in storage, thinking I may have a use for him one day. Or perhaps learn why someone had once loved and honoured him.

We used the old goat as a play prop once. For the most part, we ignored him for years. But after the car stereo hiccupped, I dug him out.

The Preacher named him Cornelius S. (“Scape”) Goat and hung him on the wall above the parrot cage. He serves us well there, bearing the penalty for our errors and disasters with dignity and grace.

He’s brought a degree of peace. Even better, he’s a marvelous conversation piece. I hardly ever wonder about his real story anymore.

A token picture of Christ hangs in many homes, churches, and facilities. Seems to me, he and the old goat have much in common.