“Our Values”

Romans 12: 9-21

August 30, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Romans 12: 9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


In our epistle for today,

the apostle Paul correlates

to the work and words of Jesus

as found in the Gospels.

Paul’s words are an echo to the Sermon on the Mount,

the Beatitudes,

the large and expansive texts

when Jesus prepares his followers

for his eventual absence.

In short, Paul, today, is staking the claim

for a more greatly defined

Christian ethic and morality.

Romans 12:9-21.

Bookmark your Bible.

These are our values.

The Law could only take us so far.

The Law defines the playing field within which

the faithful know

we can act

with a reliable assurance

that our behavior is in bounds,

that our behavior is righteous.

Jesus brings the faithful to a new, elevated level of righteousness.

Kill your neighbor; obviously, that is outside the field,

and deemed, unrighteous.

Treat your neighbor poorly, however,

or with disrespect;

and one still would have been okay,

as long as they abided by the letter of the Law.

Our God of grace wants more.

Jesus wants more.

The apostle Paul

was willing and able to

serve it up on a platter in this,

his letter to first century Christians living in Rome.

Jesus leaves the old Jewish Law in place.

The playing field of Law remains, on which he builds.

Jesus spends a lifetime of ministry

Creating an environment of Christian values;

The marks of a true Christian.

By word and deed,

Jesus describes our values and how our values should be used in mission and ministry.   

Like a stadium makeover or renovation,

many improvements to the old fence and field needed to be made.

What about the last, the lost, the least?

Jesus reached out to them,

much to the chagrin of the Jewish authorities.

What about the diseased, the unclean, the blind, and the lame?

Jesus cured their disease,

made them clean,

gave them sight,

and made them walk.

Sometimes Jesus even performed miracles on the Sabbath!

That wasn’t work.

Jesus performed merciful, loving acts of a merciful and loving God!

Jesus is God.

Jesus is

One and the same God

Who created all things,

One and the same God

Who created the Sabbath.

Paul, today,

makes a summary response to the Gospels

for the benefit of his church in Rome,

and for the benefit of the Church universal

(with a capital “C”)

(capital “C” includes both you and me).

It is in our interest to pay attention.

The words of the Apostle Paul

reflect the Gospel,

the Good News of Jesus Christ, and

clearly define our Christian values.

“Let love be genuine,” Paul begins.

Each of us believe

we are experts at being able to read the intent of others.

Paul is speaking for himself.

He is saying,

Make my motives pure.

Make your motives pure.

Let love be the only motive to define our relationship.

This may sound simple,

but, in practice, it is hard to do.

Love is easily adulterated or corrupted.

It is hard to weed out competing temptations.

“What can you do for me?”

invades our thinking

as soon as we reach out in love to another.

The love of Christ can expect no reward,

because we don’t own it.

We merely pass it on.

The Christian life serves only as a pass-through,

A channel for the love of God to flow into the world.

The only reward is

A stronger faith and deeper relationships with our neighbors.

When that is made strong,

affection naturally follows.

Hate evil.

It is the only thing Christians are allowed to hate.

Evil is anything that separates us from God.

The byproduct of evil is sin.

Evil is personified by those who wield violence for personal gain.

Evil is given life when greed is allowed to be undisciplined.

Evil replicates with division, hatred, and oppression.

Evil crushes others, feeds on destruction, and behaves without conscience.

Evil is an intoxicating drink,

when once tasted,

plants the seeds of addiction and dependency,

far more insidious than drugs or alcohol.

Evil never fully goes away.

Evil becomes the chronic illness,

that, at best, can be managed,

but at worst, can never be satisfied


Like locus in a tree

It kills the host.


hold fast to what is good,

Paul tells us.

This is what is good:

being so concerned,

so involved,

so immersed in the work of the Spirit and the lives of others,

that needs can be anticipated long before they present,

and those needs can be addressed,

long before they spin out of control into problems.

People have a need to be treated with respect;

so it is good to show them honor.

People need to be treated with fairness and equality;

so do not be haughty,

as if you are better,

more deserving,

or smarter than you are.

People have a need for the basics of life:

food, shelter, and clothing.

So, if it is at all possible to extend a helping hand

to those without food, shelter, or clothing …

to meet their needs,

the world will be in a much better place.

“Live peaceably with all.”

People have a need for peace;

to be left in peace,

and to live in peace with neighbors.

Allow our Christian lives

to permeate with peacemaking,

bridge building,

problem solving,

so that we can all live in peace together.

Peace is only stable

when everyone gets a fair shake.

Until families and friends of color get a fair deal,

There is no peace.

There will be no peace.

Until families and neighbors who identify themselves as LGBTQ are treated equally and respectfully,

There is no peace.

There will be no peace.

Until neighbors with disabilities are fully included and have a voice at the table,

There is no peace.

There will be no peace.

Even in an absence of violence,

Hearts often remain at war.

What to do?

Whenever there is a lack of peace,

Start looking for a lack of justice.

Start there.

Resist evil.

Solve the problems of injustice and oppression,

create equal opportunity for everyone,

and allow peace to return to our land.

Practice hospitality,

the apostle Paul teaches us.

Hospitality is a primary concern

of Bishop Robert Schnase in his book

Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation.


Bishop Schnase describes radical hospitality

as hospitality that exceeds expectations

and goes the second mile.

It means we offer the absolute utmost of our abilities,

our creativity

and ourselves,

all the while offering the gracious invitation to others

to welcome Jesus Christ into their lives.

In a world

that encourages competition

for the title of “Number 1”

it is a radical invitation to claim the second spot as our own.

It takes a strong and confident Christian

to routinely place the needs of others before the self.

Take the me,



and I

out of every conversation and occasion.

Humbly ask,

“what can be done for you?”

“Never avenge yourselves, …

If your enemies are hungry, feed them;

If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

Paul makes special effort

to single out those who do us evil.

It is a sad reality:

we can’t force people to behave.

We live in a dangerous world,

and it has been this way since the fall in the Garden of Eden.

There are others who would do us harm,

just because they can;

shoot us down

or bludgeon us with a rock,

just as Cain did to Abel.

There are those in this world

who will knock us down,

beat us up,

steal our last dime,

leave us in a ditch half dead,

spit on our body,

and skip away whistling a happy tune.

We cannot overcome evil with evil.

Killing others who kill us

leaves us with a planet filled with graves

and survivors bent on revenge.

Suicide bombers that are killed by drone, cruise missile or bullet

only breed more suicide bombers.

Violence begets violence.

Injustice voids the peace.

Oppression stokes the fire of revenge. 

We see it clearly when it comes to us,

when we are the victims.

It becomes hazy and a lot less clear

when it is done by us,

or on our behalf,

out of anger or in retaliation.

Jesus, and Paul, teach us a better way: overcome evil with good.

The strong show strength when using restraint,

in dealing with enemies.

Compassion towards those who would hate and hurt you

always results in a better outcome,

than overwhelming force.

Didn’t we learn this on the playground in elementary school?

Haven’t we heard this message

for years in Sunday school, Bible study, and worship?

Often when promises are made to get tough on crime,

what is really intended is to come down heavy on punishment.

This isn’t working on ways of overcoming evil with good,

like eliminating the conditions that breeds crime and violence

– poverty, discrimination, injustice, oppression, unemployment, lousy education, and barriers to health care and basic human services.

Overcoming evil with good isn’t a liberal agenda.

It isn’t democratic or republican.

It’s not conservative, socialist, or anything else, for that matter.

Overcoming evil with good is a Christian agenda.

It is our belief, because

Overcoming evil with good is one of our most precious values.

Overcoming evil with good is our value, because it is Christ’s value.

Political attempts to overcome evil with good rarely work out well.

Think Vietnam, the war on drugs, or the war on terror.

The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions

(Or so I’ve heard).

With both party conventions safely behind us,

The warning is equally shared:

Political promises are as smooth and slimy

as snakes in the grass.

Overcome evil with good by spending time, talent, and treasure

With neighbors who need you most;

people like those Jesus associated with.

Make yourself the one who reaches out to the stranger,

the visitor,

the sojourner,

the widow,

the orphan,

and invite them to become your friend.

Be the spinner of harmony

and the practitioner of peace.

Associate with the lowly.

Ease suffering.

Give hope.

Empower and encourage.

Once self-sustainable,

Set God’s people free and move on to address the next need.

Dearly beloved, friends, family, and neighbors:

listen to these words of the Apostle Paul, as found in Romans 12.

They endure, not because of his eloquence or stature.

They endure beyond the centuries

and across cultures

because these words convey

the values of Jesus Christ.

These are the values of the Christian.

Make them your values,

even as I pledge to make them mine.



Matthew 16:13-20

23 August 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church


Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.


It’s pretty apparent.

People do not agree on who Jesus is.

I have Muslim friends who consider Jesus as a great prophet.

Many of my Jewish friends think of Jesus as a wise rabbi,

While a few others think of him as a failed Messiah.

I have some friends who claim they are not people of faith,

Who think of Jesus as a wise, but mortal man.

I have many friends who are afraid of Jesus, as if the next Corona Virus might turn you into a Jesus freak.

I have a lot of friends who just don’t know what to believe about Jesus.

Even among my Christian friends and colleagues

There is a diversity of views about who and what Jesus is.

Church councils, conferences, and enclaves for generations

Have been debating if Jesus is fully human or fully divine,

Born of a virgin,

Expected to imminently return,

The nature of is imminence and his transcendence,

The substance of His body and blood in our Sacrament,

And His role in the Church today.

The aperture set by ordination boards varies by time and membership.

Clergy candidates must possess beliefs that can pass through the opening.

While there may be some debate on the periphery in the United Methodist Church,

Core beliefs about Jesus never change.

At the risk of sounding overly self-centered

Today’s debate in much of the American Church,

In both the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant house, isn’t about doctrine or theology.

Debate about Jesus around the kitchen table is about the question

“What makes Jesus relevant to my life today?”

If we have difficulty stating clearly and concisely who and what Jesus is,

There should be little mystery why

His disciples failed to come up with an answer to His question,

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (16:13)

The best they could do is to come up with a list of historical prophets.

They even hedge that bet by saying, “Some say …”

But, others say …

And still others …”

Holy non-committal, Batman!

Indeed, much of the world doesn’t know who Jesus is

Or what to do with Him.

The Gospel of Matthew runs this fine line

Of embracing the world

That is conflicted and contested

With the identity and nature of Jesus Christ.

Thirty-five years ago

Cynthia and I traveled to Caesarea Philippi.

Hopefully, my memory will serve us well … that and Wikipedia!

It is important to paint the picture of the environment

Where Jesus intentionally led his disciples

And initiated this Gospel discussion.

Caesarea Philippi is an ancient city,

Built in the third century BC by the Greeks as a center of cultic paganism.

Merriam Webster defines a pagan as a person who worships many gods or goddesses or the earth or nature … a person who is not religious or whose religion is not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

Pagan worship ran deep in ancient Assyrians people.

At Caesarea Philippi, they are known to have worshipped the pagan god named ‘Ba-al’.

It is located approximately twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

It lies on the southwestern base of Mount Hermon west of the modern-day Golan Heights.

It would have taken Jesus two days to lead his disciples

From Capernaum on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee

To Caesarea Philippi.

A two-day walk is a journey made with intention.

Jesus wants to lead the conversation about his identity specifically

At Caesarea Philippi, in an environment surrounded by paganism.

A spring gushes forth from caves in the mountain at Caesarea Philippi

Forming one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River.

Here, the Greeks dedicated shrines to the pagan god of Pan,

and related deities.

On the walls of the cave behind Jesus

Are carvings of Pan, the god of the wild, shepherds, music, and the companion of nymphs.

Pan is depicted as sporting hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat.

Behind Jesus were even more ancient carvings of Ba-al,

The pagan god associated with storms and fertility.

Sculpted icons and symbols in the rock walls around Jesus

Created a Mount Rushmore type environment from which Jesus spoke.

From the mouth of this cave, on center stage,

Set before numerous and diverse symbols of pagan worship,

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (16:15)

At least the disciples were smart enough to choose a list of dead or ascended prophets …

… John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Good thing no one pointed to Pan or Ba-al and say, “You’re that guy.”

That would have been bad!

Jesus brought his disciples to the Mount Rushmore of the pagan world

To make a statement,

Not only about identity,

But also about how one comes to know Him and relate to Him,

Beginning that day, moving forward.

Jesus isn’t a stone-cold monument to a distant, transcendent god.

Jesus is the living, breathing, loving, personal, caring God.

Jesus is an ever-present companion on life’s tumultuous journey.

This is a vitally important lesson Jesus taught His disciples.

It is just as important for us to learn today.

Simon Peter steps up to the challenge

With his short, succinct, persuasive elevator pitch:

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (16:16)

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner people.

The winning ticket is punched by Peter in a pagan cave at Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus correctly observes that flesh did not reveal his identity.

In other words,

It wasn’t the pagans,

The Romans or the Greeks,

Who revealed to Peter who Jesus is.

It was our Father in heaven. (16:17)

Peter’s statement of faith is based on

A personal encounter with Jesus

And with a living, contextual, and relevant heavenly Father.

This essential truth from this Gospel passage

Clearly marks the lines of responsibility when it comes

To establishing and implementing

God’s policy manual

For leading a Christian life.

We disciples,

Are charged with introducing people to Jesus,

Creating the personal encounter with Christ.

That’s it.

We do the introduction.

Then get out of the way.

God does the rest.

We disciples provide the foundation

Upon which God will build.

It is through that introduction,

Through our clear, concise, succinct elevator pitch,

That God finds a way to enter the lives of others.

God finds a way to nest into their contextual setting.

God finds a way for everyone

To be discipled and educated in the ways of Jesus,

That Christ may become relevant in the spiritual life and journey

Of every called and claimed Christian.

This is our pitch.

This is our song.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

We introduce people to Jesus.

Trust that God will do the rest.

Do not worry about our Jewish or Islamic friends;

God’s promise to our Jewish and Islamic sisters and brothers,

As is God’s promise to us, remains strong and true.

Jesus does not break that which God has vowed by sacred covenant.

Rather, Jesus comes as a living God to the Christian Church.

Our God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, desires an authentic relationship

With each of us individually,

And with us corporately, as His Body, as His Church.

Peter is likened to a rock,

Petra, in the Greek,

And upon this petra foundation,

Christ will build his ekklesia,

Jesus will build his Church.

Peter is rock strong.

Jesus is Church strong.

Many of you are social media animals.

You’re all over it like hyenas on roadkill.

I’m encouraging you to use the hashtag #ChurchStrong.

If you don’t know how to use hashtags in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram,

Ask a friend, or ask your grandchildren.

They’ll show you how.

Drop in the hashtag #ChurchStrong as you talk about

The Gospel passage and today’s message in social media.

Doing so will allow us to search #ChurchStrong,

Read each other’s replies,

And witness to the world

That we follow Jesus,

As built upon Peter, the rock.

Let me start the conversation

About what makes #ChurchStrong,

And I look forward to reading from you this afternoon and in the coming days

Your thoughts, your beliefs,

About what makes Church Strong.

1. #ChurchStrong

A Church strong foundation comes when we

Live an honest, authentic life.

Live humbly.

Live righteously.

Follow the rules.

Nothing undermines the Christian message or the messenger more than hypocrisy.

Purge hypocrisy right out of your life.

2. #ChurchStong

A Church strong foundation comes when we

Love God.

Love neighbors.

Lead with your heart.

Be kind in every circumstance,

Especially when the spiritual forces of wickedness attack you.

Be passionate in your love of God and neighbors.

Few things undermine the integrity of the Christian life than casual indifference.

3. #ChurchStrong

A Church strong foundation comes when we

Speak and act with conviction.

Make a commitment and keep it.

Introduce a friend to Jesus and let God warm their heart.

Study together with others, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Testify how God is at work in your life

And celebrate how God is at work in the lives of others.

Take a stand for

That which is just, honorable, and true.

4. #ChurchStrong

A Church strong foundation comes when we

Praise God.

Praise God in your waking and when you go to sleep.

Praise God in your prayers and in your devotions.

Praise God in your work and in your relaxation.

Praise God at home and together in weekly worship.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Never stop praising God.

5. #ChurchStrong

A Church strong foundation comes when we

Grow confident in being the people God has called us to be.

It doesn’t mean big, or rich, or powerful by any measures of this world.

Being Church Strong doesn’t mean taking a seat at the head table,

But giving up your VIP seat for someone else.

Being Church Strong means being the compassionate hands of Jesus

Reaching out to the last, the least, the lost, the left behind of this world.

Being Church Strong means encouraging all to become servant leaders for the transformation of the world.

If you’re not on the cleanup crew

You’re not called to be a leader.

Church of Peter,

Be #ChurchStrong!

Body of Christ,

Testify to who Jesus is:

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Tell the world why God has sent us His Son:

Just like Peter had a personal encounter with Jesus,

God would like to have a personal, loving relationship with you, too.

Be #ChurchStrong! Amen.

“Words Matter”

A Pastoral Message for Sunday, August 16, 2020

Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.



“It is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” (Matthew 15:10)

Words matter.

When we speak, we make choices;

Which word to use

To match the emphasis of our choice

For the audience we intend.

We make choices all the time when we speak.

So choose carefully.

Choose wisely.

One who is vile and vulgar in one setting

May choose to be

Polite and proper in another.

Others are remarkably consistent;

Always polite and well spoken

Or endlessly provocative and inflammatory.

(Those are the ones I block on social media)

Most of us live someplace in-between.

Words matter.

Words matter.

This is why I write out every sermon, word for word.

I’m very careful about my word choices.

Is it right?

Does it convey the thought,

The spirit,

The intent of what God is saying through me?

Does it bring laser focus upon that which God intends

Or does it distract,

And should be, therefore, discarded?

Four years ago

I faced a significant challenge

When Pastor Juan invited me to preach

At his church in Tecpan, Guatemala.

His congregation spoke Spanish, with bits and pieces of Mayan.

Pastor Juan asked me the night before!

It was only by God’s grace

And the support of prayer

That the extemporaneous words I chose

Were culturally sensitive,

Historically sound,

Politically neutral,

Adequately translated,  

And, yet, still capable of allowing

The truth of the Gospel to be communicated.

Try threading that needle!

Words matter.

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18)

Our baptism is when God

Calls us and grants us an identity as “Christian.”

There’s no going back on our part,

Because it is God who is doing the calling and naming.

You and I have been named.

We’ve been forever labeled,

Branded like a Texas steer.

Our name is “Christian”.

We are a people who God has chosen

To be disciples of His Son, Jesus Christ.

At our baptism

Three promises are made.

Promises are made by us directly,

Or, if we were baptized as infants or children,

Promises we personally confirm at our Confirmation.

These three promises have remained remarkably consistent

Over the course of two-thousand years;

Ever since the ascension of Jesus

And our Apostolic beginning.

Words matter.

Do you …

“Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,

Reject the evil powers of this world,

And repent of your sin?”

Friends, let us not be naïve.

Neither let me beat around the bush.

In recent memory

Evil sent children of God to the gas chambers.

Evil segregates people by skin color.

Evil stakes the claim that some are more deserving

Or of greater value than others.

Evil hates, hurts, steals the rights of others.

Evil is quick to blame others for personal dissatisfaction.

Evil distorts truth by attempting to create moral equivalences, half-truths, and outright lies.

Evil is quick to resort to violence.

Jesus names evil:

“Evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19)

The spiritual forces of wickedness

And the evil powers of this world

Are causing us to writhe like we are passing a kidney stone.

We find ourselves in a whirlwind of wickedness.

The Devil is personified by torch bearing hatemongers

And by those who stand silently to the side,

Failing to use our baptismal voice

To renounce wickedness and evil.

Words matter.

At our baptism

This affirmation was made by us, or on our behalf:

Do you …

“Resist evil, injustice, and oppression

In whatever forms they present themselves?”

I do.

Do you?

The word “Resist” has taken on a political nuance in recent years.

It is used by some with an agenda.

But “resist” is a politically neutral word

When the politically reality of this world can successfully

Establish and maintain

Freedom, equality, justice, and liberty for all.

“Resist” becomes energized

When leaders and principalities of this world

Take away freedoms,

Endorse inequality,

Deny and withhold justice,

Imprison liberty.

Then every baptized Christian,

By our vows,

Is called to resist.


Not just for our sake,

But for our neighbor’s sake, too;

Less we break our baptismal vows with our God.

Jesus learned the lesson of resistance

When he came across a Canaanite woman.

When he failed to grant her request for mercy,

She schooled him.

She schooled him hard.

This Canaanite woman “resisted”

Jesus’ rejection:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel …

… It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:24-27)

Now, there, …

That, there is resistance.

There is resistance that speaks of greater faith!

“Woman, great is your faith,” Jesus relents,

“Let it be done for you as you wish.” (15:28)


Evil, injustice, and oppression.

This is our vow.

Our words matter to God.

Words matter.

The third promise that is made by us, or on our behalf, at our baptism is this:

Do you …

“Confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,

Put your whole trust in his grace,

And promise to serve him as your Lord …?”

Many of us equate serving Christ

As loving our neighbor.

I do.

When I go on mission trips,

I make friends.

I love neighbors.

I do so serving Christ.

When I support local ministries,

Food pantries, campus ministries, chaplaincy, and other similar efforts,

I do so as a fulfillment of my baptismal vow to serve Christ.

Serving Christ can be, and should be, more than doing the work of Christ.

Serving Christ should also include speaking up

And speaking out on behalf of Christ.

By our baptismal vows we are called to advocate

For Christ,

For the Gospel;

The message of grace and love,

Forgiveness and salvation,

And for the emergence of Christ’s kingdom;

Where peace and justice reign and God is glorified.

Advocating for Christ

Is hard.

It’s intimidating.

Even I struggle to speak up and speak loud

For fear of offending or crossing political boundaries.


By our baptismal vows,

We must speak up and speak out for Christ.

Words matter.

When we rise to claim the resistance of our baptismal call,

Do so boldly;

With the conviction that Jesus Christ is right by our side.

Don’t worry about the words, we are assured.

The Holy Spirit will give us words.

Do not be filled with anxiety about those that leave, we are assured,

Even Jesus regretfully allowed some to walk away.

Serving the Lord, Jesus Christ,

Requires that we speak up, speak out, and speak loud,

To open hearts to

All people,

All ages,

All nations,

All nations,

All races.

All means all.

Words matter.

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18)

When Christ fills your heart,

The words you choose

Are words given to you directly from Jesus.

Keep your eyes

And your heart

On Jesus.

At the same time, use your voice.

Speak up and advocate for Christ.

Resist all that is evil, unjust, and oppressive.

Resist wickedness and the evil powers of this world.

Let us not sit idly on the sidelines.

God’s kingdom is at stake.

Our baptismal vows are on the line.

Words matter.

Choose your words wisely.


“Peter and the Sea”

Matthew 14:22-33

9 August 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Finally, Jesus caught a break.

The crowds were fed, so he dismissed them.

His disciples were done collecting the leftovers.

The kitchen was closed.

Jesus put them in a boat and might have told them as they pushed off from shore,

“Thanks for your help cleaning up.

I’ll catch up with you later.”

Imagine the conversation in the boat:

“Wow! 5,000 people, plus women and children. That was the biggest crowd yet.”

“Whoa! Did you see what Jesus did?”

“Completely healed; like the broken arm set itself; a miracle right before my very eyes!”

“The demon leapt right out of him!”

“Unbelievable! I saw that, too!”

“All that food left over? There were 12 extra baskets! He fed everyone with nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Imagine the conversation Peter was having with himself.

Peter might have remembered Jesus inviting him

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” (4:19)

“5,000 people, plus women and children.

Yep. Fishing had been good today.”

The setting sun.

The smell of the sea.

The lapping of waves.

Seagulls circling overhead.

The rocking boat was familiar to Peter, the fisherman.

Peter and the sea were one.

The gentle afternoon wind accelerated with dusk.

The sun set and the wind and seas rose.

The increasing storm

Might of reminded Peter of the not-too-recent past

When Jesus,

In a boat just like this one,

Was woke from sleep by his frightened disciples.

He stilled the storm and

Saved all their lives from drowning.

“Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Jesus asked them. (8:26)

Little faith.

Perhaps Peter was searching for something more than just ‘little.’

Finally, Jesus could get some personal time in this desolate place to pray.

Prayer, spending time alone with the Lord, listening, discerning,

Is a way forward when trying to sort out family issues and broken relationships.

Remember? Jesus had just been rejected by his family in Nazareth.

Family or relationship problems?

Turn to God in prayer.

Setting aside the world and focusing on God in prayer

Is a way forward when working through,

Pushing through,

Wading through,

Death, grief, and mourning.

Remember? Jesus had just received news that Herod Antipas had murdered his cousin, John.

Suffering through the pain and loss of a loved one?

Turn to God in prayer.

Jesus ascended a mountain to pray.

He climbed right to the top;

Where he could look out over the expanse of the Sea of Galilee

13 miles long, north to south,

8 miles wide, east to west.

Jesus knew from his Jewish upbringing and education

The God of creation,

Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

Often came calling on a mountain top.

Jesus could see it all from the pinnacle,

Memories of his outreach, ministry, and healing

Were folded into the small villages, roads, and fields below in his view.

He could see it all from the peek,

Where one could be closest to God.





Put it all together.

Searching for meaning in life?

Trying to put it all together?

Climb a mountain.

Turn to God in prayer.

As evening fell

Jesus gazed down to the sea below.

Being a native Galilean,

He would have known the western breeze

Cascading over the high ridge,

Sweeping down,

Accelerating across the water,

Meant for a rough ride,

A true storm for the east side of the lake.

The eastern shore;

Right were Jesus knew the disciples would be in their boat.

Refreshed by prayer,

Restored by quiet time with the Lord,

Healed by the merciful grace of God’s hand and presence,

Jesus discerned what he was meant to do next.

His quick-to-answer-the-call disciples,

Were slow to comprehend what

They had experienced in Jesus’ presence.

Now they were in danger of sinking, drowning, and losing it all.

Jesus descends the mountain and

walks on water

to save disciples of little faith

from the storm.

Allow this Gospel truth to wash over you for a moment.

This is mercy.

This is God’s grace.

Jesus comes to disciples of little faith

And saves us from the storm.

What is your storm?

Where is your heart boiling over in anger?

What is threatening you life? Your soul?

Fight the fear of ghosts, prior failures, and immediate dangers.

Jesus is approaching.

“Take heart,” he assures.

“It is I,” he identifies himself.

“Do not be afraid.” Jesus commands.

The heart you have is sufficient.

Little faith doesn’t mean no faith.

Little faith is sufficient

To get someone out of the boat,

To meet Jesus halfway,

To walk on water and for

The raging storms of life to be stilled.

What makes Peter different from his eleven colleagues

Is that he wanted to go to where Jesus was.

He wanted to answer the Lord’s invitation to come.

The rest of them must have been content to roll the dice and take their chances.

I have learned like Peter that

Failure is inevitable in life.

I have failed so many things, so many people, so many times.

I can be defeated.

Or, I can learn from it,

Be better because of it.

From personal experience

I know I can trust in Jesus;

He’s not going to let me perish.

Though I might be sinking

I’m still walking on water.

Though I might be going down in defeat

I’m still making my way closer to our Savior.

Jesus comes to disciples of little faith

And saves us from the storm.

Take the little faith you have,

Get out of the boat, and

Make your way to Jesus.

Peter does great

As long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus.

He begins to sink when he notices the strong winds,

Becomes frightened, and

Calls out “Lord, save me!” (14:30)

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus asks

As he reached out his hand and caught Peter. (14:31)

Doubt caused Peter to sink,

Not the distraction of the storm.

Jesus’ response reveals the fact that the

God given little faith,

Freely given to each person in our creation,

Is sufficient to overcome all doubt,

Even when doubt threatens our life.

We, Methodist,

Drawing our theological lineage from John Wesley,

See the world through the eyes of God’s amazing grace.

Prevenient grace …

Pre- meaning before

-Venient meaning God’s intervention …

Means that God gives us all the grace that is necessary,

From the moment of our conception,

Before we know or become aware of needing it.

Prevenient grace is the dollop of “little faith” that Jesus repeats

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

The little faith you have already been given and received

Is sufficient for the living of these days,

As a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, and

For the living of every day in your future.

Your little faith is more than enough to overcome every doubt,

Now or in the future.

Little faith is all that’s necessary to lock hands with Jesus and

To let him pull you to safety. 

Dearly beloved,

It’s almost a given

There are times when you and I will

Find ourselves just like

Peter and the sea.

We will find ourselves swept up in a storm

Fearful for our future,

Fearful even for our very life.

Watch for Jesus to come.

Take whatever faith you have …

You’ve got enough …

Get out of the boat, and

Go where Jesus is.

He will catch you.

Jesus will save you.

In the end,

The wind will cease.

The storm will be stilled.

In the calm that follows,

Worship the Lord.

Worship the Lord, Jesus Christ;

For he is truly, the Son of God.