“C, E, and G”

Matthew 28:16-20

June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Prayer.

Fire off the confetti cannons!

It’s Trinity Sunday!

Seriously, it would be a rookie mistake to

Lecture at length during the sermon

The theological significance of the Trinity.

In place of a lecture

Think about a C note on the piano / guitar.

Allow the C note to capture your imagination.

Now, add to the C note an E note.

Now, add to the C and E notes a G note.

What do you have?

You have the opening chord to “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty”,

A hymn that expresses Trinity more thoroughly than an academic lecture:

Holy, holy, holy!

Lord God Almighty

Early in the morning

Our song shall rise to Thee

Holy, holy, holy!

Merciful and mighty

God in three persons

Blessed Trinity!

(UMH #64. Words: Reginald Heber, 1826 (Revelation 4:8-11). Music: John B. Dykes, 1861 (Nicaea))

This hymn preserves the mystery of God;

At the same time invoking

The awe-inspiring nature of God and

The power, mercy, love, and purity of God in three persons,

A blessed Trinity.

In adoration

The worshiper is called to unite in praise with

Saints of biblical times.

“Holy, Holy, Holy!” was written specifically for use

On Trinity Sunday by Reginald Heber,

A poet, vicar, and bishop of Calcutta.

C. E. G.

The Gospel lesson this Trinity Sunday includes

The Great Commission –

The resurrected Jesus commissions his remaining 11 disciples,

To make disciples, baptize, and teach all the world.

The commissioning takes place

On a mountain top in Galilee

Where he had previously taught.

Think: Mount of the Beatitudes

Overlooking the majestic Sea of Galilee.

Similar to resurrection accounts in the Gospel of John,

Jesus appears out of the ether, out of nowhere.

When they saw him, they worshiped him,

But some doubted, the Gospel of Matthew reports.

Those who worshiped him may have fallen

As did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary

When they encountered the resurrected Jesus at the tomb.

He told the women

“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

– Matthew 28:10

The disciples who worshiped Jesus

May have worshiped with words and music similar to “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

C. E. G.

A few gems catch my eye.

First, the disciples followed directions.

They did as they were told.

They returned 90 miles north to Galilee.

Galilee is a region slightly larger than Monroe County,

About 2,000 square miles.

(https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/dict_meaning.php?source=3&wid=S8143)

So, where in Galilee did they go?

They returned to the mountain where Jesus directed them.

They returned to the familiar, the safe, the known.

You may have noticed the past few Sundays

I have been recording the Gospel lesson

From different locations around the Town of Rush.

Today’s Gospel reading came from the grounds of Industry, near the chapel.

Why?

In these pandemic days of lock down and isolation

It is my goal to bring to you, the viewing audience,

The same sense of the familiar, safe, and known.

My intention is to associate the Gospel with

Our Christian values

Of faith, worship, and relationship with God.

Setting, location, environment … frees us to connect with God in our holy places.

For the disciples, their familiar, safe, holy place

Where they could experience the essence of Jesus

Was the Mount of Beatitudes.

Which begs the question,

Where is your holy place?

The place where Jesus is known and familiar to you?

For me,

It’s the shoreline at Casowasco;

The church camp where I attended and worked during college.

Another holy place for me has been with the poor and disabled in Tecpan and Puruha, Guatemala.

Jesus and I came together with the homeless and hungry in Telica, Nicaragua.

The safe, familiar feet of Jesus have been around the picnic table at our cottage,

Where we are blessed to entertain church members, family, and friends with disabilities.

My holy place is quietly floating in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Where is your holy place?

It can be anywhere you serve in the name of Jesus,

With anyone who is on a similar journey of faith,

Engaging in an activity that brings laser focus

And undivided attention

To Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Many of us may associate the church sanctuary as

The safe, holy, familiar place where we encounter Jesus.

I certainly, do.

We are mourning, as in death, over the fact that we can’t safely gather for in-person worship until a vaccine or cure is found.

Anger is a stage of grief.

We are angry because what we had

Has been taken from us and

We’ve been largely powerless to resist.

Know this to be true.

Anger is a stage that will soon pass.

It’s normal to be angry.

Beyond anger and acceptance will come healing.

This time of mourning will pass;

It will take time,

But it will pass.

Anticipate like Advent

The time when we will gather in person once again

To encounter Jesus,

To worship the Holy.

Low, it will be a great and holy day

When Christ appears right before our eyes!

C. E. G.

Secondly, Matthew reported that

When Jesus appeared,

Some of the eleven disciples doubted.

They doubted it was Jesus,

Risen from the dead,

Materializing right before their very eyes.

It puzzles me that

Given all that Jesus and his disciples had been through together

That some would doubt him.

It doesn’t say they didn’t recognize him;

They doubted.

What did they doubt?

This was their first time in the Gospel of Matthew seeing the resurrected Jesus;

So, did they doubt his death? His resurrection?

Did they doubt his teaching?

Did they doubt their own decision to follow Jesus?

Did they doubt that Jesus was both human and Devine?

Jesus commissions the doubters anyway.

An honest confession with full, spiritual transparency,

I’ve had periods of doubt in my life:

Heaven and hell,

Evil and suffering,

God, Jesus, Holy Ghost,

Forgiveness, atonement,

Healing and salvation,

Covenant, Law, and Grace,

Justice, peace, and love.

Jesus commissioned me anyway.

I suspect most everyone on a journey of faith

Has periods of doubt in their life.

In the privacy of the confessional,

I’ve heard doubts shared with me  throughout 35 years of ordained ministry.

It’s okay to doubt, to question, to inquire further, and dig deeper.

In fact, I’d suggest it is a healthy thing to do.

Giving each other permission to doubt,

While supporting one another with love, encouragement, and assurance,

Is a means of God’s grace to work wonders and miracles.

To doubt is to be normal.

Jesus commissioned you anyway.

The commission is God’s holy work,

Something only God can do.

C. E. G.

The commission itself is so baked into the Christian psyche

That there isn’t much I can add to the conversation.

Jesus commissions us to three things:

Make disciples of all nations,

Baptize disciples in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and

Teach disciples everything Jesus commanded.

Short.

Simple.

To the point.

It makes for a good three-point sermon

(I’ve preached that sermon many times!).

It makes for a good three-point mission statement.

The third and final detail that catches my attention

Is the concluding promise Jesus makes

That ends the Gospel of Matthew.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:20

Remember.

Numerous parishioners over the years

Who have received a devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, or related, disease

Have expressed to me their fear

Of how their progressive loss of memory will affect their faith.

What happens when I can no longer remember?

What happens if I forget Jesus?

Jesus promises to be our eternal care giver,

Always at our side,

Even, to the end of the age.

As one progressively loses independence,

We can be confident is placing greater dependence on Jesus.

You may forget Jesus.

But Jesus will never forget you.

“I am with you always”

Is the promise of Emmanuel.

The first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew

Opens with an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream.

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. … All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” – Matthew 1:20, 23

Emmanuel.

God is with us.

God is with us in our safe, familiar, holy places,

Just as God is with us in our valleys filled with shadows and death.

Though it feels as if the world is out of our control

And we’re angry because of a forced dependence beyond our control,

Remember, God is with us, and

Will remain with us, beyond these trying times,

To the end of the age.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

God is with us when our faith is strong, and

God is with us when we doubt.

We are commissioned anyways.

When we know that God is with us always,

Tomorrow is filled with hope.

We will overcome.

We will overcome this pandemic.

We will overcome racial injustice.

We will overcome partisan vitriol.

We will overcome our failures and sins.

We will overcome the mortal constraints of life itself.

With God by our side,

We will overcome.

God, in three persons, blessed Trinity.

C. E. G.

Amen.

“Moving Forward”

Pentecost! May 31, 2020

John 20:19-23

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Prayer.

Welcome to Pentecost!

This is the day we’re called to burn the house down,

To start fresh, new, and live life as if there were no rules;

As if there was only complete submission

to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s will.

This is the day we allow ourselves to be taken away

Completely, wholly, and without reservation

To be shaped and formed as God’s living vessel,

Through which God can work to bring about God’s kingdom.

Pentecost, from the Greek, literally means the “fiftieth day” after the resurrection.

Jesus appeared risen from the dead

no less than five times during this fifty-day period.

As we heard last Sunday,

Jesus ascended into heaven

To be seated at the right hand of the Father.

The first crisis hit the disciples square between the eyes:

“now what do we do?”

To best appreciate this question

It is helpful to view the very real crisis of what to do next

Through the lens of baptism.

Remember when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan.

His baptism, remarkably similar to the practice of other religions of his day,

Was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

One was washed clean of their past wrongs, sins, and shortcomings.

One was cleansed,

Made ceremonially clean,

Returned to a righteous state,

And was reunited with family, neighbors, and faith.

In John’s case, baptism was very Jewish,

Deeply rooted in the Law of Moses,

And was an opportunity to start fresh and new.

John’s baptism was about cleaning up the mess we made in our past.

In John’s testimony, he says about Jesus,

“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

The Spirit descends upon Jesus,

Claims him,

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”

Strengthens him, and

Guides him as he begins his earthly ministry.

In one fleeting moment

On the rustling Jordan waters

Baptism was transformed

FROM looking back,

Fixing what was wrong

TO moving forward,

Being filled with the Holy Spirit to do God’s work.

Immediately before Jesus ascends

He commissions his disciples to

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

Baptism for the repentance of sins was looking backwards.

But now,

Baptism in the Spirit became all about

Moving forward.

Most of us have been baptized by both water and the Holy Spirit

(If you haven’t, contact me, because God wants it to happen).

During uncertain times

There are great questions about

What does the future hold?

Where are we to go?

What are we to do?

How is God calling us to make disciples of all the world?

For many of us, this is a huge leap of faith moving forward.

Many of us attend church and participate in missions and ministry for personal benefit, such as

A sense of community,

Friendship for life’s spiritual journey,

Support for one another during life’s more difficult times, and

The joy of celebrating the best of God’s blessings we are privileged to experience.

This is important, YES!

Yet, this is only answering half the call of Jesus.

Faith only focused inward is destined to die.

Faith, filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit,

Becomes life giving faith;

Disciple making faith.

Faith that embraces the world, starts right with the next breath.  

Faith in practice fishes for disciples,

Leads disciples to Jesus, and

Welcomes every new disciple into the loving arms of our Savior’s redemption and salvation.

Pentecost is not a call to begin door-to-door evangelism.

Pentecost is, however, the opportunity to be energized by the Holy Spirit and begin to move forward,

Fulfilling Christ’s great commission to each of us

To make disciples of all nations.

Like the first post-ascension disciples we ask,

“Where do we begin?”

As a student of history,

– as one who believes God works in and through history –

I believe we can look to those early disciples,

Soon to be Apostles,

And learn from their examples.

We begin by learning what the Apostles did.

First, Holy Spirit empowered Apostles from a Jewish background stayed in Jerusalem and attended to their Jewish traditions:

Teaching, learning, attending Temple or synagogue daily.

Then, they returned to their homes

To retell the Gospel, the Good News, of Christ.

Early Apostles gave witness to the death, resurrect          1      tion, and ascension of Jesus.

They celebrated Holy Communion, as a common meal, to maintain the memory of who they were and

who was individually and collectively calling them.

Holy Spirit empowered Apostles from a Gentile background

Left Jerusalem and returned to their hometowns.

Others moved to other cities,

Cities like Antioch, Athens, Alexandria, and Rome.

There, they also retold the Good News amongst themselves.

This solidified the story and strengthened their witness to others.

They also celebrated Holy Communion whenever they met

To build their identity as Christ’s called and commissioned Apostles.

Moving forward,

Larger society noticed Spirit filled disciples.

They noticed that people who followed Jesus Christ

Were different from everyone else.

They were different than faithful Jews.

They were different than pagans, also quite common, especially in rural areas.

They were different than the Greek and Roman middle class,

Who recognized a different god for every aspect of life.

And they were certainly different than empire-growing Caesar worshippers.

Roman leaders attempted to unite a trans-cultural, expanding empire.

Jesus followers were different.

They were known by their love.

People noticed they loved one another.

And they loved people other than their friends and families.

In fact, they set a new standard for loving

The least, the lost, the left behind.

Early Christ followers loved the poor, the homeless, the sick and the diseased.

First generation Apostles took in widows and orphans,

And fed the hungry wherever they found them.

People noticed.

They took notice of the fact that Spirit filled disciples of Jesus reached out beyond themselves,

Placed the needs of others first,

And became servants of all.

The early Apostles were united by love,

Proclaiming love and practicing love of God, love of neighbor, even, love for enemies.

People rejected hypocrisy and embraced authenticity.

Authenticity made disciples of Jesus Christ in the first century

And authenticity makes disciples today.

While they were united by love,

There was a lot that was internally debated.

There was no precedence.

No creeds.

No Bible or sacred texts.

There wasn’t even an agreed-on method of organization, leadership, finance, or growth.

It was simple.

Love God, love neighbor.

Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ,

Witness to the fact of his resurrection,

And gather to celebrate Holy Communion.

It can be this simple today.

A Church of Christ followers,

Without one single building, I might add,

Utilizing the advanced transportation technology of the era,

– Mediterranean shipping –

Propagated Christianity to every nation,

Exactly as Christ commissioned,

Using the guidance, support, and strength of the Holy Spirit

Which filled them on this Pentecost Sunday.

This is how the Spirit of Jesus

Gave birth to the Church.

So, what does Pentecost mean for us

Moving forward?

Here are some simple tactics we can apply right now:

1. Focus on the poor and most vulnerable.

Serve.

Love.

Give.

Give it away, generously, joyfully,

Knowing that God always provides and we will be replenished.

The poor will come,

– who doesn’t want to be loved? –

And so, too, will the rich,

Because they will also see how wonderful it is to be a loving, giving disciple of Jesus.

The happiest people

Both rich and poor

Are those who love and give generously.

2. Be different.

Practice what you preach.

Avoid being the hypocrite everyone points to and laughs at.

Talk the talk and walk the walk.

Be honest, truthful, and moral.

Be authentic.

Treat everyone kindly, especially those who despise you.

You don’t have to like everyone,

But you do have to love them.

Love everybody.

Make the extra effort to love the less advantaged.

3. Like Mediterranean shipping and commerce,

Leverage the technology of today to advantage the Church.

Covid-19 is propelling the Church forward at warp speed

Into new and exciting digital spaces,

Whether we like it or not.

Get savvy with social media, web pages, and video streaming.

Hit the “SHARE” button so the rest of the world can SHARE our love and

SHARE a relationship with Jesus.

Embrace diverse methods of communications

Because everyone communicates differently:

Some print, others text, others YouTube, Facebook, some Twitter.

Embrace them all,

As if each platform is God’s gift to the Church.

Because they are.

4. Witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus died to take away past sins.

Jesus rose from the dead to give eternal life.

That’s the 5 second elevator message.

Moving forward.

Witness.

Share the story.

Leave the rest up to the Spirit.

Let God do the convincing.

5. Proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Gather regularly, frequently, to worship.

Give praise and thanks to God,

Through the work of proclaiming the Good News and

Celebrating Holy Communion.

Beloved friends,

This is our commission

Directly from the lips of Jesus.

Today, we are reminded and refreshed

By the power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

We have all that we need.

The rest is up to us.

Let us move forward.

Amen.

“Honor, Proclaim, Pronounce, and Roll On the Power!”

Luke 24:44-53

7th Sunday of Easter

Ascension of the Lord

May 24, 2020

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 24:44-53

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Prayer.

I’ve always hated good-byes.

When I was dropped off at college,

I cried like a baby as mom and dad drove out of the parking lot.

When Nicholas, my eldest son, moved to Virginia for seven years,

The hardest thing was to say good-bye after a visit.

I was an emotional basket case driving all the way home

Or watching him pull out of the driveway.

I get choked up seeing soldiers leaving family to go off to war.

Loved ones saying good-bye when death is imminent always brings tears to my eyes.

Since the age of 19,

I’ve served 12 different churches.

I cried saying good-bye at the 11 I left.

When time is short

There is no time for idle chit-chat.

Words have the potential to last a lifetime

In the memory of your loved one.

Like the discipline of writing a sermon

Choose your words carefully.

Get in everything you mean to say.

Keep it short. Succinct. To the point.

Rehearse it in your thoughts.

Then say it.

It’s time to fly.

And so it is with Jesus’ last, final, earthly moment

With his disciples.

His educational investment had been made.

Jesus crammed a four-year college degree into three years

Of lectures, clinical work, and internships in the field.

Every ounce of effort over the past three years

Had gone into this less-than-perfect band of brothers.

Jesus worked with what he had.

He’s now ready to turn over the keys of his in-person, earthly operation

To the work of an omnipresent, but unseen, Holy Spirit.

His final lecture obviously had an impact

With his first-generation disciples.

They spread the word, told the story, and evangelized like a California wildfire.

Jesus’ farewell has been passed on to every generation since.

Today, it is our turn.

The Good News comes to us.

I’m of the mind that

It is important

To stick with what works;

Go with experience,

The proven,

The best practice.

Listen to the whisper of history.

This is what Jesus has to say

Before he flies away:

Honor scripture,

Proclaim the witness,

Pronounce grace, and

Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

1. Honor scripture.

Everything written about Jesus in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

It does not appear to be Jesus’ intention

To point to any specific Hebrew scripture

That is fulfilled by him.

Rather, that “all Scripture

Finds its ultimate meaning in Jesus,

Particularly in his passion and resurrection.”

(with thanks to professor Richard Carlson, Luther Theological Seminary, as found at workingpreacher.org)

I don’t think it was self-serving job protection,

But I recall my Old Testament professor, Irvin Batdorf,

Who said, “If you want to know Jesus,

You have to know the Old Testament.”

Law and covenant are the necessary foundation

For Jesus to advance a gospel of grace.

History is necessary to understand the ultimate failure of original sin and

The divine initiative to replace sin with repentance and forgiveness;

To replace mortality with immortality. 

Prophecy sets the stage

For incarnation;

Divinity and humanity melded together in Messianic promise.

Honor scripture.

It points to Jesus.

Honor scripture,

Proclaim the witness,

Pronounce grace, and

Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

2. Proclaim the witness.

Proclaim to all the nations what was witnessed,

Starting in Jerusalem, that,

As it was written,

Jesus suffered, died, and has risen from the dead.

Obviously,

Not one of us were present at Golgotha to see Jesus die.

None of us saw him sealed into the tomb

or observed guards posted at the door.

Not one of us were eye-witness observers of Jesus’ resurrection,

Or of his many encounters with his disciples and others before his ascension.

Yet, every one of us have been taught

The first-hand witness like it just happened yesterday and

We saw it with our own two eyes.

We’ve been told the story.

The story, experience, and encounter with Jesus

Is not ours to keep;

It is our responsibility to pass the witness on

To the next generation of disciples.

The witness has been entrusted to you and me.

Now, at the moment right before lift off

Jesus directs us to

Proclaim the witness to the world.

Jesus suffered for our sins.

He died an earthly death,

Just like every other mortal person.

Jesus rose from the dead,

Immortal as only God can be.

In defeating death,

Jesus gives to us life,

Everlasting life.

You’re living the story;

Proclaim it!

Honor scripture,

Proclaim the witness,

Pronounce grace, and

Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

3. Pronounce God’s grace.

Grace is God’s gift

Freely given

For our acceptance.

The grace Jesus cites before his final good-bye

Is the opportunity to repent of sins

And be forgiven by God.

Pronounce repentance and forgiveness of sins

In the name of Jesus.

Repentance means to turn your back on sin

And vow never to return to sinning.

Repentance means leaving the dark side

And walking only in the light of righteous behavior.

Walk the walk and talk the talk.

Repentance means making restitution

For the damage you’ve done.

Repent of former ways.

Christians lead by example.

Proclaim repentance

That others might follow.

We repent in the name of Jesus

To promote Jesus.

Turning over a new leaf

Is all well and good,

But repentance alone leaves unfinished business behind.

Forgiveness rights the wrong,

– Repairs the offense –

As if it never happened in the first place.

Repentance is behavior;

Forgiveness is Divine.

Our forgiveness was paid for on the cross.

It is a God’s gift of grace given to you and me.

We know this, and have claimed this.

Likewise, forgive others.

Forgiveness doesn’t come from any words you say.

The forgiveness of others

Came from the same cross that forgives our sins.

Do not withhold forgiveness,

For it is not ours to deny.

When you forgive others,

Do it in the name of Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness, intentionally presented in the name of Christ,

Places an emphasis upon

God’s gift of grace already paid for and delivered.

Like a delivery package on your porch,

Forgiveness is God’s gift waiting to be claimed.

Honor scripture,

Proclaim the witness,

Pronounce grace, and

Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

4. Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

Be assured, you will be clothed with power from on high,

Jesus promised his disciples.

The author of the Gospel of Luke, and

The Acts of the Apostles to follow,

Reported that Jesus ascended into heaven

40 days after his resurrection from the dead and

10 days before the feast of Pentecost,

Which we will celebrate next Sunday.

In place of a single Messiah limited by time and place

To teach, heal, cast out demons, and raise the dead for a select few

The ascension of Jesus makes it possible for God to present as Holy Spirit;

Omnipresent: Always present.

Omniscient: All knowing.

Omnipotent: All powerful.

God’s Presence. Wisdom. Power.

Setting up shop inside of you and me.

Awesome!

Our God is an awesome God,

Unlike any competitors.

There is no limit to what God through the Holy Spirit can do

In and through our lives.

We don’t face difficulty alone.

God is with us.

We don’t have to rely on our own intelligence.

The Holy Spirit knows and guides us.

We don’t have to have the strength.

The Holy Spirit has it all.

Honor scripture,

Proclaim the witness,

Pronounce grace, and

Be empowered by the supremacy of God.

As Jesus is lifted away to make room for the coming of the Holy Spirit next Sunday,

Let us join with the disciples of old.

Worship Jesus Christ.

Be filled with joy.

Be blessed by God, and

Be God’s blessing to the world.

Amen.

“Love and Responsibility”

John 14:15-21

17 May 2020, Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

John 14:15-21

”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

1

Prayer.

 

When I’m in the driver’s seat

I like to be as productive as possible.

I listen to podcasts.

Podcasts are recorded audio shows

Produced by people from all walks of life.

 

Listening to podcasts is how I stay up to date on topics of interest:

Technology,

Scientific research,

Economics and public policy,

Military aviation,

Religion and theology,

And, yes, even politics.

 

One of my favorite podcasts

Comes from the category of economics and public policy:

“Freakonomics”.

 

“Freakonomics” began as a non-fiction book described as:

“A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything.”

I highly recommend the book “Freakonomics” and listening to the weekly podcasts.

 

In a recent episode, the show host, Steven Dubner,

Interviewed Seth Stephens-Davidowitz,

Who does extensive, in-depth research about

Human behavior from big data behind internet searches.

 

Internet searches reveals a lot.

For example:

 

Stephen J. DUBNER: Here’s a question: how many men are gay?

Seth STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: About 5 percent.

 

DUBNER: Does advertising work?

STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: Yes.

 

DUBNER: Why was American Pharoah a great racehorse?

STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: Big left ventricle.

 

DUBNER: Is the media biased?

STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: Yeah, it gives you what you want to read.

 

DUBNER: Are Freudian slips real?

STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: No.

 

DUBNER: Who cheats on their taxes?

STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: Everybody who knows how to cheat.

(http://freakonomics.com/podcast/)

 

One of his most startling conclusions

Is that people lie.

People lie a lot.

He reports:

“People just are in such a habit of lying in their day-to-day life,

People lie to their partners or their kids or their parents,

That these behaviors carry over to surveys.”

Surveys cannot be trusted.

But the data behind internet searches can.

 

Lying is a problem.

Based on my own behavior and experience,

I intuitively thought that lying was a bigger problem than is publicly acknowledged.

Stephens-Davidowitz research confirms my beliefs.

 

Rarely have I spoken about this

Because I know I represent bits and pieces of data points,

And doing so amounts to a public confession.

 

Like the rest of us,

I have no defense.

Repentance is the only lifeline I cling to,

Vowing to do better day by day.

 

Lying, of course, is a violation of the Ten Commandments

Handed down by God to his subject, Moses,

Speaking “face-to-face at the mountain, out of the fire.”

– Deuteronomy 5:4

The eighth commandment reads

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

– Exodus 20:16

 

It sits right there between thou shall not steal,

And neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.

 

Bearing false witness,

Dishonesty,

Lying,

Is a violation of one of God’s laws.

We might deny don’t do it,

But big data suggests otherwise.

 

 

Our Gospel lesson for today begins with Jesus

Teaching his disciples,

And by extension, teaching us today, that

 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

– John 14:15

 

Did you just feel the chill run down your spine?

 

“Well of course we love Jesus!

Why else would we be gathered around the computer or TV screen in worship?”

Besides, “just who are you, Pastor Todd, to suggest otherwise?”

(I am nobody, no one exceptional,

Other than a simple parish pastor

Calling my flock to abide in Jesus Christ)

 

Frankly, in the past

I had not considered the revolutionary nature of

Jesus’ farewell discourse, in general,

Or this aspect of it, in specific:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

I was content to leave these vital words of Jesus

To be confined to the funeral liturgy,

Where most of us pastors prefer to keep them safely tucked away.

 

However, this 14th chapter of the Gospel of John

Invites us to consider more deeply

The role of commandments and law,

Of love and responsibility,

In the lives of the faithful.

 

When it comes to God’s commandments in the Bible,

An easy way to describe them is like this:

 

There are the Father’s commandments

And there are Jesus’ commandments.

 

 

Our maternal and paternal Father,

who created all things,

Commanded Adam not to eat of the apple.

Adam ate it anyways,

Ushering sin into the world.

 

To cleanse the world,

God sent the flood and spared Noah and his family,

Leaving the rainbow as a sign of a covenant between God and humankind

That God will never destroy humankind again.

 

Divine destruction is out;

Removed from the menu;

Taken off the table.

God loved all children and didn’t want to see them destroyed.

God was all about making a new plan.

 

To establish Lordship of all,

God made covenant with Abram,

Who the Lord renamed, Abraham,

Promising him, in short,

“I will be your God and you shall be my everlasting people.”

– see Genesis 17:5b-8

God even promised to set aside land just for Abraham’s offspring.

It’s a sweet deal.

 

Yet, our ancestors, Abraham’s offspring

Were a grumbling, backsliding sort of rascals.

Divine destruction was off the table,

(remember Noah and the rainbow?)

Instead, the Lord gave laws to Moses

To give to the people,

That all might live in peace,

Share in a just society,

And live in love and fidelity with God.

 

 

The Ten Commandments

Are deeply rooted in our Creator’s love

And desire for our best possible outcome.

 

Yes, there are many other commandments in the Old Testament.

But, let me be crystal clear:

These “lesser commandments” are priestly extrapolations

Of God’s original;

Written, edited, refined, and established over later generations.

 

You thought following the original ten was hard?

Add in an additional 611 laws.

Go with the genuine;

Stick with the original ten!

 

 

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus said.

 

Then, there are commands that Jesus compliments

With His Father’s original ten.

Pay close attention to these, for they are directly from the Gospels.

Weigh the commandments of Jesus carefully.

Follow the words of Jesus

As a direct command

From God’s lips to our ears.

 

First. Love the Lord, your God.

– Matthew 22:37

BOOM!

Any explanation needed?

Love God

With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Simply love God.

 

Two. Love one another.

– John 13:34

BOOM!

Not just your favorites or a selected few.
Love everyone; including your enemies.

Any explanation needed?

Love all neighbors because

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13:35

Love neighbors.

Simply love.

 

Three. As often as you eat and drink together,

Do so in the memory of Jesus.

– 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Holy Communion reminds us that Jesus

Sacrificed his life,

Gave his body and blood for us,

That we might proclaim his death, resurrection, and return.

That self-sacrifice

Is a gift of love.

Eat. Drink. Love.

Simply love.

 

Four. Make disciples of all the nations and teach every disciple everything Jesus taught.

– Matthew 28:19-20

Lead people to Jesus.

Teach people everything about Jesus.

Educate everyone about the words and actions of Jesus.

Breed new disciples of Jesus like rabbits breeding bunnies.

Crawl into the Gospels like a scientist in search of a cure, and

Don’t come out until mortal life gives way to eternal life.

Love is not an idea.

Love is Jesus.

Jesus is love.

 

 

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

 

Do you see a common motive developing here?

Can you see a common theme?

 

John reminds us about God’s love

In the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus:

“For God so love the world that he gave his only Son,

So that everyone who believes in him may not perish

But may have eternal life.”

– John 3:16

 

God’s punishment, drowning, death, and destruction

Is so Old Testament,

The Book of Genesis is never to be repeated again.

 

The Gospel’s lens is redirected with Jesus.

It is focused on a loving God loving the world,

Leading the world to love one another,

Seeking love in return.

 

The light of the Gospel shines on Jesus,

The Son of God,

Given as a gift,

Forgiving sins,

Calling all to believe and follow,

Rescuing all from sin and death,

Liberating all into eternal life.

Jesus is a gift of love.

Simply love.

 

 

If it were merely about adherence to God’s commandments

Both the Father’s and the Son’s,

Every one of us fail the righteousness test.

Remember, we all lie?

(Let’s not even think about starting a tally of our sins)

 

The former way to be made righteous

Was to be ceremoniously cleaned

and to make your animal sacrifice at the altar.

But, God is clear as a bell,

Speaking through the prophets Isaiah and Amos

Saying that the Lord has tired of our sacrifices.

God doesn’t want them.

Like corroded batteries,

They don’t work anymore.

 

It is the Apostle Paul who wraps up our Gospel for us this morning,

In his letter to the church in Rome.

 

Paul writes:

“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ.”

– Romans 3:21-23

 

Good behavior has been replaced by Jesus Christ

As the only means of righteousness possible.

Jesus is our righteousness.

He makes our failures right.

He corrects our wrong turns and poor choices.

By his blood,

We are made clean.

 

Righteousness under the law leads to death.

We can never achieve perfection,

And the former ways of righteousness

Just don’t do it for God anymore.

 

God has given us a better way forward.

God has given us Jesus.

 

Jesus is a gift of love.

Simply love.

His love is a sign of the grace

God gives to us

Each and every day.

If you abide in God’s love, then you live in God’s grace.

 

Grace is a gift from Jesus that leads to life.

 

 

I think about this a lot

As I consider the trajectory of the Church, in general,

And the United Methodist church, in particular.

 

We are a people organized by the efforts of John Wesley,

An English Anglican Rector from the 17-hundreds who spearheaded

An evangelical revival in England and the American colonies.

 

In the past 300 years,

We have developed a unique Wesleyan culture.

We are Christians who have a great history of leading with grace.

Recognizing God’s love through Jesus Christ

Is the only way any of us can become

Redeemed, perfected, or made righteous.

 

We can trust in ourselves, and fail.

Or we can place our trust in Jesus Christ,

And be made righteous.

 

A church anchored by moral adherence,

Is relegated to the rusting junkyard of decline and demise.

But a church anchored by faith

In the grace of God through Jesus Christ,

Is one that places love front and center.

A church anchored by faith

Is one that is filled with life!

Spirit filled life!

Life eternal!

 

Love becomes our common motive.

Love is our DNA.

And there is nothing of this world

That can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ;

God’s gift of righteousness

To you and me.

 

Beloved, friends and neighbors.

Continue to lead with grace.

Love.

Simply love.

And leave the rest up to God.

Amen.

“Whatever You Ask”

John 14:1-14

10 May 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

John 14:1-14

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

1

Prayer.

 

Heavenly Father,

I’m asking in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,

Exactly as he taught his disciples to do:

 

End this despicable pandemic.

 

There.

I said it.

 

Like most others

I’m tired and, quite honestly,

Angry that life has been altered.

 

Here is a value-added benefit:

End this pandemic

So that the Father will be glorified in the Son.

 

Think about it.

God will work through scientists

To discover a vaccine and a cure!

Who-hoo! Praise God the Father of Jesus, his Son.

 

God will work through politicians

(if this is possible)

To punch the economy into high gear and everyone returns to work and prosperity.

Yipee! Praise God the Father of Jesus, his Son.

 

End the pandemic.

To God be the glory.

 

I’m asking, O Lord.

 

Except …

My request isn’t followed with a question mark.

It’s a statement, ending with a period.

It’s more of a command than a request.

My request reveals the pent-up frustration of

A privileged, grumpy man

Not feeling much in control of my future.

 

Guilty as charged.

(Psss … please Lord, end the pandemic anyway!

It would be the best Mother’s Day present, right?)

 

My guess is that I’m not alone.

Many of us are feeling the same way.

Angry.

Afraid.

Uncertain.

 

 

Jesus had just informed his disciples

That one of them would make a public denial of ever knowing him, and

Another would betray him to the authorities

Resulting in his death.

(13:36-38 and 13:13:21-30)

 

Talk about angry, afraid, and uncertain?

The disciples of Jesus are living a different kind of pandemic.

They’d be angry at Peter and Judas.

They’d be angry at Jesus for apparently letting them down.

They’d be angry at themselves for wasting three years of their lives

Following a man headed to his public execution.

They’d be afraid of what this unfolding tragedy meant for them

And they’d be uncertain what the future held.

 

The disciples of Jesus were teetering on the verge of panic.

 

Like a negotiator talking a jumper off a ledge,

Jesus puts his best pastoral foot forward:

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he tells them.

“Believe in God, believe also in me.” (14:1)

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

I needed to hear this from Jesus today.

 

The word “let” is permissive,

As if it is our call, our decision.

We are told we can keep,

We can prevent,

Our hearts from being troubled.

Jesus grants us the gift of control

When the rest of the world feels so out of control.

 

It’s a small nuance; but I believe important.

God has already granted us control over our troubles.

To God be the glory!

 

 

Jesus knew he was about to die.

This was God’s plan all along.

But now time is drawing short.

It’s time to tie up loose ends.

 

Jesus isn’t leading his disciples to their death.

He is assuring them that he is leading them to God,

When and where God …

In God’s own time …

Will welcome every disciple home.

 

It is as if

The Lord knew we were coming.

So like a loving parent,

God gets the house cleaned and ready,

Then sends us a Son to welcome us and

Show us the way right to the front door.

 

Thomas confesses,

We don’t know the way to the Father dwelling place or

The rooms being prepared for us.

Will you show us the way to God? He asks.

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, Jesus promises.

 

“I Am the way,” Jesus says.

Come follow me, Jesus answers Thomas’s petition.

 

If you don’t know the way, follow Jesus.

That’s good advice,

Especially in this cloud of a pandemic.

 

Philip makes his own petition.

He wants to see the Father.

“I Am in the Father and the Father is in me,” Jesus replies.

Look at Jesus and your looking at our heavenly Father.

Request granted.

 

Jesus leads his followers into a relationship with God,

And, in doing so,

Reveals much about the nature of God.

 

The nature of God is One.

One who created.

One who rules.

One who acts in the interest of humanity.

One who loves; deeply, intimately, eternally.

 

The same One is One with Jesus.

One God who sent a Son to teach.

One God who forgives.

One God who saves.

 

The nature of God sustains the faithful.

One God provides; nourishment, shelter, talents, resources.

One God brings free, abundant, unmerited grace.

One God who fills the air in our lungs with the Holy Spirit and

Leads humanity in an upward trajectory to perfection.

 

One God: Father. Son. Spirit.

Revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

If we are asking the One God

to end this despicable pandemic,

Look to Jesus.

 

Follow Jesus.

Look to Jesus.

Ask in the name of Jesus, and it will be done.

Don’t ask in the name of self-promotion or

The accumulation of wealth, property, or social advantage.

 

Asking in the name of Jesus

Is for the promotion of Jesus,

His values,

His truth,

His love.

 

Good advice.

The pandemic is only going to end by

The One God who grants us our petition

In the name of Jesus.

 

The name of Jesus is

Love, forgiveness, and salvation.

This should be the characteristics of our request

If we expect God to grant it.

 

Lastly,

The work of God,

Mostly shrouded in mystery,

Is according to God’s own motives

Acting in God’s own time.

 

The death of Covid-19 …

The answer to our prayers …

Will come at a future time and place

According to God’s will and plan.

It will come to glorify God,

The One,

Father in Son and Son in Father.

 

The pandemic will be defeated

As prior plagues and viruses have been defeated

By scientists using the intelligence and experience God has given them,

By effective communicators, and

By cooperative citizens.

 

Rest assured,

When the defeat is final,

The glory will be to God,

The One.

 

Follow Jesus.

Look to Jesus.

Ask in the name of Jesus.

God will be glorified.

 

 

Angry?

Afraid?

Uncertain?

Yes, I am.

I suspect you are, too.

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Rest assured, disciples of Christ,

Our request in His name

Will be granted.

Rest assured, disciples of Jesus,

When our request is granted

To God will go all the glory.

Amen.

“Life Abundant”

May 3, 2020 – Easter 4

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

John 10:1-10

 

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 

1

 

Prayer.

 

The Gospel of John loves to record the

I Am statements made by Jesus.

I Am the Bread of Life (6:35)

… the Light of the World (8:12)

… the Door, or Gate, as we read today (10:9)

… the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)

… the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)

… the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)

… and the Vine. (15:1,5)

 

In John’s final Revelation, Jesus speaks in the twenty-second chapter

“It is I, Jesus … I Am the root of the descendant of David,

The Bright and Morning Star.”

 

The Greek Ego Eimi

Is an echo from our sacred Old Testament, Hebrew text,

Meaning “I am, I exist, to be”.

(Interlinear Greek – English New Testament)

We hear God thunder to Abram

“I Am

the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans.” (Genesis 15:7)

And to Moses

“I Am

who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14)

 

What is apparent to me is

There are many ways to speak reverently of God,

And many ways God uses to self-identify.

One isn’t wrong to consider alternatives just as Jesus did.

Consider tender passages of scripture

And think of God as a loving, nurturing mother, or,

Passages of scripture revealing power and strength, and

think of God as a heavenly father.

 

It’s all good.

There is enough of God to go around …

And more.

 

Today, Jesus self-identifies as a Gate

Protecting the entrance of a sheepfold.

The Gospel today is a continuation of

The narrative of Jesus healing a man born blind.

The newly sighted man gives testimony to the Pharisees who investigate his healing of what Jesus had done, and

That Jesus was from God.

They drove him out of their flock

Right into Jesus’ flock.

Jesus asks him if he believed in the Son of Man.

“The one speaking with you is he,” Jesus confirmed. (9:37)

 

Add “I Am the Son of Man” to the list.

 

A sheepfold is an enclosure made of stone walls, topped with briars.

A sheepfold has only one entrance, which also served as an exit.

Its purpose was to provide sanctuary for the flock at night,

Safe from thieves and bandits.

 

Thieves steal.

Bandits, implied by the usage of the Greek, maraud and destroy.

Bandits avoid the gate and attempt to go over the wall.

Bandits could be roving guerrillas involved in insurrection,

Messianic hopefuls,

Garden variety evil people, or

Even religious authorities of the day.

Thieves and bandits threaten the Shepherd and his flock.

 

“I Am the Gate,” Jesus proclaims.

 

Sheep are gathered in the sanctuary of the sheepfold,

Like Christians gathered for worship on Sunday.

But when the Sabbath is over and

The sun rises,

The flock isn’t allowed to stay in the sheepfold.

They are driven through the gate and

Led to green pastures and still waters,

Where life is abundant.

 

Jesus’ disciples were a bunch of old fishermen.

It isn’t surprising they didn’t understand an agricultural metaphor.

So Jesus makes plain his instruction.

“I Am the Gate.”

Sheep that hear my voice know me,

Like the previously blind man who knew Jesus by his voice and

Followed his command to wash in the pool of Siloam.

Sheep know the voice of their shepherd

And follow him.

 

Sheep may hear the voice of others;

Thieves, bandits, preachers of other faiths, false messiahs, snake oil salesmen, every politician with a promise, and the like.

Sheep don’t follow them.

Sheep stick to the familiar,

The Shepherd,

Who knows them,

Who protects them,

Who leads them to abundant pastures and still water.

 

“I Am the gate.”

“Whoever enters (or exits) by me will be saved,” Jesus promised.

Salvation is taking part in the ebb and flow of the flock;

Of coming in and going out.

 

Life, or Zoen, in the Greek means

Literal life,

Spiritual life,

Eternal life. (Ibid.)

Abundant, or Pi-erisson, in the Greek means

More than enough or necessary,

Exceeding expectations.

 

Life in the flock of Christian disciples

Is this rhythmic tidal surge between

The sanctuary of the sheepfold and abundant life found in green pastures.

It is in the green pastures that sheep get down to work and demonstrate their value.

 

With pastors serving like sheep dogs working to keep the flock together,

It is in the pasture where the Shepherd shears the sheep of their wool.

They are not harmed.

Their sacrifice is for the benefit of the Shepherd.

 

Without pushing the “I Am” metaphor too far,

I think the green pastures and still waters of the world

Is were God is calling us to be the greatest benefit to God’s kingdom.

As Church, as a flock, we love the Lord in our worship gathered in the sheepfold.

As Church, as a flock, we love our neighbors in the green pastures of life,

In the community, near and abroad.

Living this life is living abundantly,

Claiming God’s gift of grace and salvation.

 

How do we apply this text to our life?

 

  1. Come to Jesus.

Right here, right now.

If you’re not a member of his flock,

He is waiting for you with a hearty “Welcome!”

Come into the fold.

 

  1. Make a commitment to Jesus.

Learn his voice.

Learn his methods.

Learn his ways.

Get to know him.

Get intimate with him.

 

  1. Don’t listen to other shepherds.

This flock has one – Jesus Christ.

Tune out and turn off the promises of a better deal.

Know that Jesus laid down his life for you;

That’s how much he loves you.

No one else even comes close.

 

  1. Abundant life can only be found in the flock led by Jesus.

Christianity is a team sport.

Get on the team and don’t ever quit.

In the unlikely event you have a bad religious experience and do find yourself lost,

Jesus is never going to stop searching for you.

Jesus desperately longs for you to return to the flock.

 

  1. Pastors will push you through the gate and

Do our best to keep the flock together.

Know that, while sometimes irritating, it’s for our own good.

Pastors are not the Divine Shepherd.

Pastors come and go.

Christians only follow Jesus.

 

  1. Leave the sheepfold and get to work in the mission field

Loving and serving our neighbors, near and far.

Give up your wool.

Give all your love away.

Like hair on a bald head; it will grow back.

When it does, you can give it up all over again!

 

  1. Life is good in the flock.

Abundant love.

There is more than enough to go around.

Abundant life.

There is more than enough than our mortal bodies can even imagine.

 

  1. Are you saved?

Of course, you are.

Salvation comes when we take our place in the flock.

If you’re in, you’re in for good.

Stop obsessing about it.

 

Join me.

Roll up your sleeves and get to work!

Amen?

Amen.

“Blind Spots”

Luke 24:13-35

Third Sunday of Easter, 26 April 2020, Pandemic Week 8

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

He asked them, “What things?”

They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

1

Prayer.

 

From my personal experience and

Observation of others,

I believe we all have blind spots.

On some issues

I can see with intense clarity.

It is easy to develop a deep sense of empathy and understanding towards others if we share a common past.

 

My life has been blessed with personal intersections

With aging and Alzheimer’s disease,

Autism and disabilities,

Alcohol and addictions,

College and campus ministries,

Emergency services and mental health.

 

I say “blessed” because after emotionally working through precipitating incidents,

My faith leads me to question with curiosity

The theological intersection with that particular aspect of life.

Dementia and Theology.

Disability and God’s image and presence.

The intersection of addictions and God.

Life and God’s intentions and plan.

Christ in the storm of crisis.

 

How is God present in caring for an aging love one?

Where is God’s grace expressed in people with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome?

What does Christ offer to those facing unrelenting, merciless temptations?

How does God participate in revealing to college students and young adults their call, their purpose, in life?

Is it possible to be the love of Christ to the medic sitting on the back step of the ambulance crying their eyes out?

 

The intersection between life and theology is a privileged place to be.

There are many opportunities for clarity when

We join with other Christians

Traveling a similar path,

The same road.

 

….

 

There is clarity in the common experience of bread being broken.

 

Hit me with a critical incident not in my playbook

And I’m as helpless and dead in the water as anyone else.

When life connects with me in my blind spot,

I collapse like an unconscious boxer imitating a sack of potatoes.

 

Painful hindsight reveals blind spots

Like light bending around black holes in space.

I can’t fake it when

I’m told to straighten up that my language.

I just don’t understanding.

Or my tone is insensitive and hurtful.

I can tell when my sins of omission cause harm and reveal personal blind spots

When I feel like I want to throw up.

 

Had I only known …

… her ex-husband was a clergyman

… the father of her children would beat her on a regular occasion.

 

Had I only known …

… the treasurer who threw the church checkbook in anger was, at the same time, losing his own business to bankruptcy

… the retired teacher who screamed at me and pointed his finger in my face had been abused by principals like this all his life.

 

Had I only been able to see …

… the son or daughter struggling with gender identity or preference

… the fear in a person of color pulled over by the police.

 

Had I only been able to see …

… combat in a foxhole, in a jungle, or at 20,000 feet

… the effects of a family chronically anxious for their loved one to return home.

 

Had I been able to see …

… the lifetime effects of childhood sexual abuse or exploitation

… the painful scars from prior abusive religious experiences.

 

These are journeys I have not personally traveled.

However, these are journeys that have bloodied me on occasion throughout life.

 

….

 

There is clarity in the common experience of bread being broken.

 

Recognizing our spiritual blind spots

Is the first of many steps the Lord is leading us to take.

For the man born blind to serve God’s purpose,

Jesus healed him and gave him sight.

For the disciples on the road to Emmaus,

Jesus had every intention to open their eyes

And recognize his presence among them.

 

As in physical blindness,

spiritual blindness can make us more attuned to our other spiritual perceptions.

Thinking of the 5th chapter of Galatians and the Fruits of the Spirit,

Our blind spots can contribute to greater love, joy, and peace.

Our spiritual blindness can make us more patient, kind, and good.

We can access deeper faith,

Become more gentle, and

Exercise more self-control.

 

Blindness may serve God’s purpose,

Until, according to God’s time,

We may come to see.

 

Let us be clear:

God doesn’t want us to remain spiritually blind;

Rather, followers of Jesus are invited to change our blind spots into spiritual clarity.

Jesus invites us to his table

To break bread,

And in the breaking of bread,

To be revealed in our midst.

 

….

 

There is clarity in the common experience of bread being broken.

 

Clarity comes in an experience shared with others.

Clarity doesn’t come in isolation,

But in the intimacy of sharing the table with others.

A private spiritual life is starved

Of the bread Jesus offers;

Dying hungry and without recognition of our Lord who breaks it.

 

….

 

Humility is required to recognize and address

Our spiritual blindness.

I don’t know all.

I can’t see everything.

I’m unable to know what I don’t know.

Trusting in myself, my intelligence, experiences, or resources goes out with the morning trash.

Humility places our complete trust in the Lord.

We place ourselves wholly in God’s hands.

 

Humility is required to trust in the Lord and take our place at the table.

 

Humility turns the world upside down.

The disciples had all the news and they were more than happy to proudly inform the unknown, ignorant fellow traveler.

Yet, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

 

The disciples were the hosts, inviting the traveler to be their guest.

Yet, when Jesus takes his place at the table

He assumes the role of host,

The disciples become to guests,

And Jesus is revealed in the breaking of bread.

 

Humility is acceptance that God is making all things new.

 

Humility in faith

Is belief that Jesus is with us

Even when we don’t recognize his presence.

Jesus desires more.

He desires to break through our blind spots, to be seen, and

For us to witness to his resurrection and presence to the world.

 

To those who have been hurt by my spiritual blindness, I’m truly sorry.

Don’t give up on me.

I’m try to humble myself, place my trust in the Lord, and

To hold on as Jesus heals me of my blindness.

 

My invitation to you, is to do the same.

Apologize.

Be humble.

Listen.

Learn.

Trust in the Lord.

 

In the breaking of bread Christ is revealed.

Our spiritual blind spots begin to be transformed

From clumsy ignorance to

Empathy and understanding.

The Christ that has always been with us

Is revealed in all his glory.

 

Dearly beloved,

Who are the individuals that we are blind to?

Who do we fail to see or understand?

Perhaps they are God’s gift to you and me,

A part of a larger plan

To bring clarity,

To reveal Christ and his love

for all the world to see.

 

May God heal us of our blindness.

 

Sing with me.

“Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”

(Clara H. Scott, 1895)

 

Amen.