“The Illusion of Independence”

Matthew 10:40-42

June 28, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


Sometimes I just get it wrong.

I read one thing and think another.

I’d like a quarter for every time I just knew I was right,

only to be proven wrong.

This has nothing to do with gender or marital status, quite frankly.

(I’m not going there!)

Humans tend to interpret the world from our unique point of view,

looking at life from our own background, experiences, values, and beliefs.

This leads us to jump to conclusions,

make assumptions,

which may, or may not, be accurate or true.

You know what they say about assumptions?

Communication is hard work;

far more dependent upon the commitment of two parties to communicate

than on the actual content that is transferred from one to another.

Many years ago the United Methodist Church embarked

on a new media campaign.

The tag line is this:

“Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors;

We are the People of the United Methodist Church”

Sounds great.

Problem is, it is not completely true and

Most of us know it.

The reality is

not EVERYone is welcome.

Our minds, hearts, and doors are open to

People just like us;

Who look like us,

Who think like us,

Who behave like us.

People different from us,

probably will not become just like us,

so they should just go someplace else.

The door slams shut.

If you are homeless, you probably smell and won’t get cleaned up.

If you are addicted, you will probably relapse and disappoint us, one more time.

If you are intellectually challenged, behaviors distract me during the worship service,

so look someplace else.

If you don’t look like us, act like us, or ask too many questions,

perhaps you should just keep church shopping.

If your sins are little, you’re in;

but, if you have some whoppers in your past,

keep moving on.

It’s impossible to not call out a history of racism in the church.

The United Methodist Church has long and painful history of segregation:

Laity, congregations, pastors, and conferences.

Central Jurisdictions were created to separate blacks from whites.

Denominations like the AME, African Methodist Episcopal church, and

AME Zion, African Methodist Episcopal Zion church,

Split away from the United Methodist Church

(or our predecessor denominations)

To be freed from our discriminatory ways.

We reflect the larger society.

Now racism is raging, boiling over in social discontent.

I own it. Do you? Are we willing to start a conversation about it?

There is so much work to be done.

Listening. Conversations. Education. Repentance. Forgiveness. Prayer.

Partnerships. Friendships. God’s love and grace.

It is going to take it all to open this door.

The message of

Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors is painful.

The message it portrayed is

“Come to us, become like us, and we will all be united.”

The media campaign is inconsistence with Jesus’ charge to his disciples

as he sent them forth,

into the villages, towns, and countryside.

Jesus didn’t tell them

“Build it and they will come.”

Ministry doesn’t begin with flashy ad campaigns, beautiful buildings, big budgets, or flawless preachers.

Ministry begins when we go;

when we GO!

meet people where they are at,

and address their deepest human needs.

It is helpful to remember the Church never closed during this pandemic.

The building closed, but the Church did not.

The past 17 weeks have forced all of us to

Take ministry out from the building,

Make ministry new, and

Take ministry into the world.

Ministry begins when we go;

when we GO!

If people are sick, cure them.

If people are dead, raise them.

If people have leprosy, clean them.

If people are living with demons, cast them out.

Often the interpretation of the Gospel for today is backwards;

totally upside down.

We often assume it is all about us extending gracious hospitality.

It is not!

Jesus is sending OUT his disciples

and instilling in them a sense of dependency;

the complete and utter reliance upon the

hospitality of strangers

and the grace of God.

Take no money for your work.

Leave your purse or wallet at home.

Don’t dress nice or drive a fancy car.

Don’t pack an overnight bag.

Don’t bring your own food.

If Jesus was speaking today, he’d say, “leave your cell phone behind.”

Stay as long as people will support your dependency

and leave when hospitality runs out.

Dependency is primarily an act of faith.

It makes us vulnerable.

Dependency can also be dangerous.

Consider old school missionaries:

They’d go to another country,

Christianize it,

Baptize everything except the kitchen sink

and expect that locals to be reformed just like us.

Christian colonialization stinks

and the whole world knows it.

Jesus is telling us this morning the complete opposite;

something altogether different.

He’s telling us to GO!

Go to other people,

become dependent upon them,

assimilating their culture,

all the while

communicating Christ’s love

and extending Christ’s invitation

to become his disciples.

When we correlate our culture with the Gospel,

we’ve gone astray.

Jesus’ message isn’t

“come, be like us”.

The message of Jesus is


become dependent upon the Lord.

Trust in the Lord.

Love the Lord.

Love your neighbors and

Invite your neighbors into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The danger and vulnerability of dependency

is a complete reorientation for us,

a massive paradigm shift.

At the same time,

It can be insightful for Christians

who are ready to plumb to new spiritual depths.

We live in insular worlds of delusion.

We believe we are greater, stronger, smarter,

and more independent than we really are.

We live an illusion of independence.

We take pride in our accomplishments;

our education, our job, our compensation, our pension.

Egos swell

over our cars, our properties, our toys, and things.

We are lured to believe we are masters of our own universe

and there isn’t anything or anyone else to change it.

Yet, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes

are filled with dependent people

who once believed in their independence.

Each of us are a heartbeat away

from a catastrophe of dependence.

People with chronic mental illness, developmental disabilities, addictions

may have a lifetime of dependency

– may have never had a dream of becoming independent as we know it –

yet are no different from us

other than a barely mutated snippet of DNA

or a slightly different dollop of brain chemistry.

Graveyards are full of corpses,

once the vessels of life

of people just like you and me,

yet, whose souls are now completely dependent upon God for eternal life.

There is great danger and vulnerability

in one of the hardest stories in the Bible:

Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac.

God called,

Abraham went,

not knowing when, or how, or why.

Yet, in his vulnerability,

confronted with the danger of losing his son, Isaac,

Abraham placed his complete and absolute trust

in the Lord.

Abraham’s trust, faith, and courage

forever grafted his life with that of God.

As great as Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac,

there is no greater example of dependency

than our Lord, Jesus Christ,

laying down his life,

offering his life on the cross

with complete and absolute trust


 – this was the way forward –

for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.

Willingly stretch yourself out on a cross sometime;

ask a soldier to pound in a few nails.

That’s vulnerability.

That’s danger.

That’s what I’m talking about.

At the end of the day

we are no more independent than the last choice we made.

We are dependent upon God for everything.


We are dependent upon God for grace:

for life, health, and breath.

We are dependent upon God for love:

for the people who are placed in our lives,

for the gifts and talents each of us are divinely given,

for the opportunities granted to us with the start of each new day.


let us join our destiny

with those new, fledgling disciples of Jesus.

You and I are given authority to perform miracles

in the name of Christ.

We must GO, as Jesus commands,

that his invitation might be to

“COME, follow me.”

GO! he tells us.

Take no money, no clothes, no food.

Place your whole trust in God;

It is primarily an act of faith

to follow God’s will and Jesus’ commands.

Be the dependent guest.

Allow vulnerability to teach you.

May the humility of dependence

grow our relationships with one another.

Let it deepen your faith and trust in God.


“Do Not Fear”

Matthew 10:24-39

June 21, 2020

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 10:24-39

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


The Gospel of Matthew picks up from last Sunday:

Jesus naming, commissioning, and sending forth his 12 apostles.

Their charge was to go to Jewish towns and villages

  • Proclaim the Good News that the kingdom of heaven is near,
  • Cure the sick,
  • Raise the dead,
  • Cleanse lepers, and
  • Cast out demons.

Do it without pay or preparations.

Depend upon the Lord for your daily bread.

Get out there and get the mission done.

Like coming out of a huddle:

One, two, three. Hike!

Let’s go!

Apostles of Jesus must be innovators by nature.  

Status quo for the Church is a cold cell in solitary confinement.

Watch us slowly become irrelevant and die if we continue to put new wine into old wineskins;

If we fail to innovate,

If we continue to stubbornly refuse to change.

Innovation is the only way to get the mission done

As Tasked to us by Jesus.

Mission accomplished?

Has all the world heard the message that the kingdom is near?

Is there sickness or death?

Are the dead being raised?

Has evil been vanquished?

Have you noticed the protests?

Do we have a cure?

Has all the world been introduced to Jesus?

Christ’s mission is not accomplished.

The game hasn’t been won.

There is still time on the clock.

Change the world.

Transform it into to God’s kingdom.

You know what happens to innovators?

Jesus pumps the brakes of his newly ordained.

A shadow drifts over Jesus’ teaching

When he warns his apostles that

They will receive passive-aggressive resistance.

Expect it.

Don’t take it personally.

Don’t fight it.

Shake the dust off your feet and move on.

If it was only that simple.

Today, Jesus locks up all four tires in our Gospel lesson

When he teaches about consequences and conflict.  

If you’re not stunned, you are not paying attention.

Listen to what comes out of the mouth of Jesus:

“I do not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

(Matthew 10:34)

This is the same Savior

At his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane

who told his disciples

to put away their swords!

Are you kidding me?

What gives?

Jesus knows how to attract a crowd.

Consider all the occasions when crowds of would-be disciples

Follow him across the lake,

Put him in a boat to teach,

Or packed the synagogue to experience

His traveling salvation show.

People loved his sermons.

He often repeated the Beatitudes,

Teaching about injustice,

And parables about the Kingdom.

Peace, love, mercy, and blessings win over a crowd,

Especially if they were free to do nothing about it, or

If there was a free magic show and fish dinner afterwards.

However, today’s Gospel message

Appears to be the complete opposite,

A totally opposing message,

As if Jesus is pulling back the curtain

And revealing the Ugly Stepchild of Discipleship.

There are consequences of following Jesus.

Just as doing nothing is not an option,

The things we say and do as a faithful follower of Christ

Is going to end us up in conflict and mortal danger.

We rarely hear about the thousands of would-be disciples

who received his invitation,

but decided the price of discipleship was too costly,

so they walked away.

There are a few exceptions.

Consider what never happened because

  • That one guy decided to return home first to bury their father?
  • That rich guy decided to walk away sad because he couldn’t bring himself to sell all he had and give the money to the poor?
  • Another one decided the ridicule he would face from his family was too great for him to bear?
  • Yet another decided Jesus had been just another shooting star who disappointed the nation?

Consider the Passover crowds who welcomed Jesus

With shouts of Hosanna on Sunday,

But who were screaming “Crucify Him!” to Pontius Pilate by Friday morning.

They just walked away.

This is why the kingdom has yet to be completed and

We’re still hammering away at it today.

There are consequences to following Jesus.

There is persecution and possibly death.

There is a price to be paid for exposing injustice,

for fighting evil,

for bringing the light of Christ into a world of darkness and shadows,

where the evil one veils himself

and hides his despicable work.

We will be falsely accused of working for Beelzebul,

The devil,

just as Jesus was falsely accused

of being the king of the Jews.

(Matthew 10:25)

Consequences for following Jesus run deep.

You may be estranged from family

– the ones who are supposed to be your closest loved ones.

Weigh the consequences.

Consequences of following Jesus?

Say good-bye to football, cheerleading, and soccer.

Worship is the only Sabbath activity.

What are the consequences?

I’ve been mocked and shamed by the hypocrisy and failures of the Church,

Just as I’m sure you have been, too.

People will stare in disbelief and say, “what are you, nuts?!”

Expect the world to throw an emotional fit worthy of a three-year-old

When we work to innovate,

When we work to change,

When we improve

This broken world into God’s kingdom.

The consequence of following Jesus is conflict.

And it doesn’t always come from those outside the church.

I’ve been a part of 22 churches in my 59 years.

Plus, I have inside knowledge of a whole lot more.

I’m here to tell you that there is not one church

in which there was no conflict.

Internal conflict can be hurtful.

Church folks reflect the larger culture.

Not all Christians are nice all the time.

We make mistakes.

Sometimes we hurt others.

We are a community of sinners

Striving to become Saints.

I’ve learned one of the signs of a healthy congregation

is not the absence of conflict,

but how the members of a church family respond to it.

  • Avoidance: Is conflict swept under the carpet, denied and ignored? That is a sign of disfunction, at best, a ticking time bomb, at worse.
  • Discernment: Are people able to listen and discern God speaking in their own life AND listen and discern God speaking in and through others?
  • Healing: Is repentance and reconciliation an occasional occurrence OR has it become so much a part of the community that an outsider would comment, “Look how much they love one another!”
  • God’s Will: Is joy ever found in submission OR is the will so strong each has to get their own way?
  • Love: Is there gentleness in the voice, love in actions, and faith in heart, OR is there suspicion, criticism, avoidance, or sarcasm?

How does our church rate?

How do we handle conflict?

I pray we do so with prayer on the one hand

And the Gospel on the other;

With humility, dignity, respect;

With love, repentance, reconciliation, gentleness, and faith.

I pray we begin with Jesus,

Submit our will to His will,

To heal all the issues that divide us.

Allow the memory of conflict to be swept away by the grace of God.

Let it go.

Let it be.

As we face the withering resistance to Christian innovation and progress,

Both from within, and by outside critics,

Jesus calms our disquieted hearts.

“Do not fear,” Jesus repeats.

Do not fear!

“Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered.”

(Matthew 10:26)

The truth will be revealed.

The truth will set you free!

The Lord is light, the Light of the World,

and where he is,

there is no darkness for evil to hide.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

“Do not fear those who kill the body

but cannot kill the soul; 

rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(Matthew 10:28)

Opponents to God have limited power.

They can only hurt you so much,

they can only go so far.

God, on the other hand, is unlimited in power.

Fear only God;

He is the Lord of life,

and the Lord of life everlasting.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

God’s love for you is detailed and compassionate.

If God is concerned with a sparrow not even worth a half penny,

isn’t He so much more concerned about you?

If God loves you enough to count the hairs on your head,

isn’t God so much more enveloping you in His love and grace?

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

Do not fear the consequences of being a Christian;

the presence of conflict in your life because you are trying to be faithful.

Jesus promises that  

He will be our advocate at our judgment,

IF we live our lives as advocates for Him.

(Matthew 10:32)

Build the Church of Jesus Christ …

… expand God’s kingdom …

and Jesus will appeal for you.

Extend the invitation to discipleship and

The invitation to salvation is made to you.  

Grow in spiritual depth and maturity,

drawing close to Christ,

and He will draw close to you.

Do not fear! Jesus proclaims.

Do not fear the consequences of being a Christian;

the presence of conflict in life because you are trying to be faithful.

This, our Savior also promises:

Lose your life for His sake, and you will find it.

(Matthew 10:39)

Sacrifice time, energy, money

– give it all for the sake of Jesus Christ,

and discover true life,

Freedom that brings substance and meaning.

Serve the Lord,

and your fellow human beings,

and you will be served.

Take the seat of least honor,

and you will be lifted up.

Submit your will to the will of God,

and Thine will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Do not fear! My beloved.

Do not fear the consequences of following Jesus.

Do not fear the conflict that is certain to follow.

Know this: the Lord is Light,

in him there is no darkness at all,

he exposes all that lives in the dark.


The Lord is almighty,

having power and dominion over both the heavens and the earth.

The Lord is compassionate in His love for you.

Be an advocate for Christ,

and He will be an advocate for you.

Be willing to take up your cross,

… Be willing to die for Jesus …

and you will be given life;

life everlasting.

Thanks be to God.


“The Harvest is Plentiful – Volunteers are Few”

Matthew 9:35-10:23

June 14, 2020 – Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 9:35-10:23

(Text: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=458795397) (Video: https://youtu.be/FzHKpODSaP0)


From now until Thanksgiving,

Sundays are nearly always

All Matthew, all the time.

So, let’s get comfortable.

This Gospel was authored by the generation that followed the disciple’s generation.

Matthew was most probably developed in a small house church

of former Jews turned Christians

living in modern day Syria.

It was taught to generations of Christians by rote memorization,

Called the oral tradition,

Until it was written down approximately 50 to 70 years

After the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, of Jesus and

Approximately ten to thirty years

After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem,

Slaughtered the Jewish population,

And scattered the few surviving Jews throughout the world.

The earliest manuscript archeologist have found

Dates to between 200 and 300 AD, and

It is written in Greek.

My challenge to you: get comfortable with the Gospel of Matthew.

Make it your summer challenge to read it from start to finish.

Up through the tenth chapter of Matthew,

Jesus had only called four disciples.

Today he calls the remaining eight,

Making a total of twelve,

Reminiscent of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Remember, Matthew probably came from a small group of former Jews

Who carried forward their Jewish values into their Christian discipleship.

Twelve is a comfortable number.

Jewish values are deeply embedded in our Christian faith.

This is a key characteristic of St. Matthew.

Think in your mind’s eye …

of the parallels of Moses and Jesus;

Law and Grace;

Success / Failure and Forgiveness;

Slavery / Freedom and Salvation.

Moses commissions Joshua and Jesus commissions the twelve,

Naming them Apostles.

Matthew has the 20,000 feet perspective of Jesus,

Both during his life and in the ten to thirty years afterwards.

Therefore, the Gospel of Matthew enjoys the ability

To place two commissioning sequences:

The first, here this morning in chapters 9 and 10, and

Secondly, at the conclusion of the gospel in chapter 28.

Today’s first commissioning is important.

Jesus passes his authority and power from himself to his disciples.

How does this translate to you and me today?

Confidence, my friends. Confidence.

Let me build up your confidence.

You and I,

Brother and sister disciples of Jesus Christ,

We are given the power and authority of Jesus to do the works of God.

The power of Jesus equals the change of our effort over time.

So, if the kingdom of God is incomplete,

It’s on us.

Name a sin.

Any sin.

Jesus has given you and me the authority to address it and

The power to overcome it.





Lust for power.


Jesus gives his disciples the authority and power to overcome them all.

So, why are we still being swept away with evil and injustice in our world today?

Disciples of Jesus are commissioned to finish God’s kingdom.

Time is passed due

to get to work.

“But work is hard,” I whine.

It means I have to do something.

It means I have to take responsibility for my relationship with Jesus and

Be willing to be held accountable.

Which is exactly why the harvest is plentiful, but the volunteer laborers are few.

Jesus uses harvest as a common metaphor for judgment.

When Jesus says harvest, think accountability.

We are held accountable for our Christian action, or lack thereof.

When it comes to Jesus holding his disciples accountable for our words and actions

Think the 80/20 rule of churches my father taught me:

20% of a church family do the work, pay the bills, engage in mission, and lead people to Jesus.

The other 80% try to fade into the shadows and hope no one notices.

The harvest of potential new followers of Jesus is rich and abundant.

So, where is everyone?

The pool of potential new disciples is harassed, helpless, and wondering,

Looking for a leader.

Introduce them to Jesus.

Christianity on a half-shell will always be held accountable.

Jerry rigged Christianity on the cheap,

Isn’t Christianity at all.

Serve the Lord.

Serve with nothing short of excellence.

Don’t wait to be asked.

Look for the need; meet the need; exceed the need with abundance.

Serve in the name of Jesus.

Leave the rest up to God.

Jesus starts small, but

He’s building the foundation to go global.

And so, too, should we.

In this first commissioning of his beloved Twelve

Jesus gives them all the power and authority,

But he limits their scope to only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

That is, go only to Jews whose religious authorities have misled them.

That is pretty much every Jew and family who had been

exploited by the Temple theology of the corrupt Priesthood, or

robbed by the Temple economy by the crooked Pharisees and Scribes.

They were leaderless;

Fresh for the harvest.

This commission is narrow,

Exclusive of Gentiles and Samaritans.

It is in the second, post-resurrection and ascension, concluding words in the Gospel of Matthew where

Jesus opens the floodgates and

Lets the whole world in.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”

Jesus re-commissions.

– (28:19)

Jesus wants an integrated, inclusive, global Church

Making disciples and serving in his name

Building God’s kingdom.

He doesn’t want a privileged, exclusive, group of former Jewish converts for disciples.

The Samaritan world was filled with people being falsely led.

What about them?

The Gentile world was filled with people chasing false idols and Greek and Roman Gods.

Go after them!

Our world is filled with people chasing wealth and power, lust and gluttony, evil and sin … searching for a leader.

Hunt them down like a hound dog and introduce them to Jesus Christ.

The harvest was plentiful in the time of Jesus, and

The harvest is plentiful today.

Already following Jesus?

Good, roll up your sleeves and join me

harvesting disciples,

teaching disciples, and

developing disciples.

Reality check!

Jesus tells us in full disclosure mode.

Leading people to Christ can be bloody.

Some will slam the door in your face or friendship.

Others will treat you badly.

Sometimes even your family will disown you, or worse.

Don’t take it personally.

Wipe the dirt off your shoes.

Turn around and leave town.

There’s lots of other fish in the sea.

There is no more room for Christianity on the cheep

Then there is for timid Christianity.

Don’t be timid!

I wouldn’t dare call anyone timid;

Though I know I can be at times.

Jesus calls and commission disciples to be bold!

Be bold in faith, because nothing grows confidence better than confidence.

Discipleship and disciple making is like learning to ride a bicycle;

The first couple of attempts might be dicey.

But, by the time you free wheel the first time, you’re on a lifelong journey.

Looking for a leader?

Allow me to introduce you to Jesus.

That first person who accepts the invitation comes as quite a surprise.

Know this, God has been long at work before you or I came calling.

Others may have planted the seed years ago.

God is patient.

God nurtures, waters and feeds that which is planted.

In time, God’s time, comes acceptance.

Here is another dose of confidence for you:

Invite people to meet Jesus and follow as a disciple.

Even though you and I might be initially rejected,

God may be using us to plant seeds for a future disciple to harvest.

Okay, now what?

Don’t worry.

God’s got this.

God will give you the words to speak.

God has given your heart to listen.

The heart of Christ disciples, and

I’m talking about you and me,

Is the same heart of Jesus who looked out on the crowds with compassion.

In place of fake, corrupted, bad news,

Jesus witnessed to them good news.

In place of viral disease, injury, or death, Jesus cured, healed, and resurrected every last one.

In place of wondering aimlessly, being misled by false gods, Jesus invites the world into a loving, vibrant relationship with each other and with himself.

Come with me.

Let’s follow Jesus together.

Beloved, the world is ripe for harvest.

There’s more than enough searching people

Ready and waiting for your call,

Your personal invitation

To become a disciple of Jesus.

God has set the stage,

The rest is up to us.


“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.”


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.


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.


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.



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


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


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.


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.