“Blessed are the Saints”

Matthew 5:1-12 and Revelation 7:9-17

November 1, 2020 – All Saint’s Sunday

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


The Christian calendar always recognizes

The first day of November as All Saint’s Day.

This is a day to pause and remember our Christian loved ones,

Who have left this mortal life,

And who now benefit from the gift of eternal life

In the presence of God.

Few anticipated salvation and eternal life more than John of Patmos,

The author of the apocalyptic book of Revelation.

Revelation is the last book of the Bible.

John of Patmos, like other late first century Christians,

Suffered persecution, tribulation, exile, and martyrdom

During the Roman rule of Domitian, from 81 to 96 AD.

John was exiled by Rome to an island in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece.

On this island, named Patmos,

John experienced visions from God about the future-

Death, divine judgment, and eternal life.

His colorful descriptions of these visions

Paint a heaven with the Lord upon the throne,

Surrounded by every saint

Ever to live, and die, and be resurrected into eternal life.

John describes the cloud of saints as

Those “who have come out of the great ordeal.”

(Revelation 7:14)

Indeed, life is a great ordeal.

Beginning with the miracle of conception,

Life is given and guided by the hand of our Divine Creator,

The same author of the universe,

The one who makes each of us in his own image.

God is at the wheel and

We are along for the ride.

And what a ride it is!

Each of us have very different life trajectories,

Yet, there are some events and ideals that all Christians hold in common.

1. Every disciple of Jesus Christ

Has first been chosen by almighty God

To come to the baptismal waters

And become united in baptism.

By our common baptism we are united

With Jesus,

With every Christian who has come before us,

With every Christian now living, and

With every future Christian God will be calling to the water.

Baptism unites us,

Levels the playing field,

And forever marks us

Undeniably as Jesus’ own.

Remember the baptism of your loved ones.

Remember your baptism.

And be thankful.

2. To live is to stand with both feet firmly planted on this earth.

All Christians share the fact that we were, or are, human.

We are united by our hunger and our thirst.

We are united by scorching heat and blowing snow.

We are united by our love and our grief,

Evident by the tears in our eyes.

And together,

Jesus leads us to the springs of the water of life.

(Revelation 7:17)

Living according to the will of God

Is living a life that is blessed.

Blessed doesn’t mean charmed or privileged.

To receive God’s blessing means that God approves

Of righteous effort and behavior.

God approves,

His Son assures us in his Sermon on the Mount,

Of those who are poor in spirit.

God approves of those who mourn.

God approves of the meek.

God approves of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God approves of those who are merciful, pure in heart, and who work for peace.

God approves for those chose to follow God

When it would be easier not to,

And as a result, end up on the receiving end of persecution.

Christians are united by God’s blessings and grace,

Not only in God’s present approval,

But also in God’s future promise.

Those who live in God’s present approval

Are promised the kingdom of heaven,

Are promised God’s comfort,

Are promised to inherit the earth.

Those who are blessed today

Will be filled tomorrow.

Those who grant mercy

Will receive God’s mercy.

Those whom God approves will see God’s face,

Will be forever called and known as God’s own children,

And will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Today’s approval

Results in eternal grace.

Remember how God has blessed our beloved saints,

Whom we remember this day.

Rest assured God’s promise is fulfilled.

Give thanks for God’s blessings in your life

And look forward to receiving His future promise.

3. Every disciple of Jesus Christ

Endures the fury of temptation to violate God’s laws and will.

John of Patmos writes

“These are they

who have come out of the great ordeal;

They have washed their robes

and made them white

In the blood of the Lamb.”

(Revelation 7:14)

Everyone sins.

The saints we remember today

Have sinned.

We share with them and with each other the Devil’s fire,

Attempting to navigate this mortal life through Daniel’s furnace,

Walking the valley in the shadow of death.

As we are united by our temptation and sin,

So, too are we united by our Lord’s grace;

His forgiveness

Through his crucifixion.

We ask John, “How can blood wash clean a white robe?”

When that blood is Jesus’ own blood

And we stand in the soiled robe of sin.

We are unified in our petition to be cleansed.

And we are united in God’s mercy and grace

With the gift that Jesus gives to each of us.

By his death,

We are washed clean.

Remember no more

The sins of those who have now died in the Lord.

Forget their trials, temptations, and sins.

Jesus has; and so, too, should we.

Confess the name of Jesus.

Claim him as your Lord and Savior.

And receive the forgiveness of your every sin.

4. Lastly, every disciple of Christ

Living in this kingdom

Can expect to be united with every other disciple

Living in the heavenly kingdom,

Standing before the throne

Worshipping God, singing


Blessings and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving

And honor and power and might

Be to our God

Forever and ever!


(Revelation 7:12)

We will join with our beloved saints who have preceded us

In God’s eternal kingdom.

Jesus assures us that he’s prepared our place.

He’s given us his Holy Spirit to guide us there.

And Jesus has promised us

That we will be united with his saints around the throne.

There will be no sin,

No temptation,

No broken relationships;

Because each of us will be standing in a span clean robe,

Newly washed.

Wesley called this perfection.

John calls this God’s heavenly banquet.

Jesus promised us that he is looking forward to greeting each of us,

Soon face to face. 

Hold tight to the memories our saints have given us;

Especially their witness and strength of faith.

Allow God to use these memories to guide and direct

Our own journey through this great ordeal.

Give thanks to God

For sharing with us for a time our beloved saints.

Give thanks to God for receiving each of them home.

And give thanks to God for our promise,

Our inheritance,

That one day,

We, too, will be welcomed home.


“Hear O Israel”

Matthew 22:34-46, October 25, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 22:34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


Put away your fluffy felt board Jesus,

Because the conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities

These past few Sundays have been high stakes, high drama, public confrontations.

They challenge his authority.

Jesus dishes it right back,

Exposing their lies, fraud, hypocrisy, and sin for all the world to see.

It is helpful to recognize the Gospel lessons of the past few weeks

Would fit better if proclaimed during Holy Week,

Instead of at the end of the liturgical year.

Every October / November

Gospel readings

Focus on the high stakes encounters between Jesus and the authorities

Between his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Sunday

And his tragic death on the cross on Friday. 

Let there be no mistake:

Jesus came to Jerusalem to die and rise again.

He didn’t come to celebrate the Passover

Only to return home the following week

Like all the rest of the happy campers.

Jesus came to Jerusalem to provoke a people

From accepting the status quo to taking action,

To wake them from a mindless, sleepy faith

To an active, growing, relational faith

In a loving God.

Jesus was seeking conversion.

Jesus calls, trains, and deploys disciples

To witness their faith,

To spread the Gospel, and

To bring forgiveness and salvation to a yearning world.

So, this is where we are at today:

Jesus had entered Jerusalem,

Marched up to the Temple,

Overturned the money changers tables,

And faced off with religious and secular authorities

In a revolving door, tag team effort of entrapment.

They questioned his authority to teach.

Jesus taught them parables that

Indicted organized religion

And individual greed.

The parable of two sons, wicked tenants, the wedding banquet

Upended tables of power, authority, and what it means to live faithfully.

Last week, Jesus was questioned about paying taxes and tithing

Allowing him to reset people’s assumptions about faith.

Today, Jesus had silenced the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection,

Leaving the path clear for the Pharisees

To tag in and make one last attempt

At going for the pin.

A lay leader of the Temple,

A lawyer, by trade,

Asks Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Every Jew would have known the answer to this question,

Just as every American knows George Washington was our first president.

He isn’t testing Jesus’ knowledge.

He is testing Jesus’ methods.

He is probing to see if Jesus has the wear-with-all

To debate in their high powered, elite academic circles.

Are you worthy, Jesus?

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

The answer is so basic to faith

Every Jewish child is taught to pray

By starting out with reciting this Law,

Called the Shema (from the first word, Hear, as it is in Hebrew).

This is Shema

Word for word right out of the Torah, our Old Testament, Deut. 6:4-5

“Hear O Israel: the Lord thy God is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

What was so astonishing was the fact that Jesus didn’t stop there.

He continued on by attaching to the Shema

A previously unrelated law from Leviticus 19:18, 34

Merging these two ideals into one-

“and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Never before had these Laws been brought together;

United by Jesus to provide the pivotal point

For God and Humankind’s Salvation History. 

Not only does Jesus make this addendum,

But he invites them to debate other aspects of the law.

Let’s talk Messiah, people.

The Gospel of Matthew begins with lineage from David to Jesus

And here,

Jesus quiets his critics

With the unanswerable,

How can King David have the Messiah,

The Son of God,

In his lineage?

Outmatched, outwitted, outplayed

The Pharisees scurried away.

Jesus is the lone survivor.

And they did not dare ask him any more questions.

Love God;

Love neighbors.

It is as simple as that.

Most of us today appreciate

The simplicity of this statement on the surface

But, if you are like me,

This simplicity leads me to ponder more deeply

“What does it mean to love God?”

“What does it mean to love neighbors?”


Hear, O Israel,

Love the Lord your God.

Love, in this use, is not emotional or romantic.

Love isn’t all talk.

Love God with action!

Open your heart and allow the Holy Spirit of God to sweep you away!

Jump to the front of the line, eager for baptism,

Being named once and for all time

As a disciple of Jesus.

Fall in love with Jesus and show your love for him every day.

Act like you are in love.

Fall on your knees and seek God’s repentance and forgiveness for past sins.

Return to those you have harmed, and make it right.

Serve the Lord full time.

Pray, study, discern, act

Fulfilling God’s will for you and your life.

Attend worship and give God praise and thanks.

Open, jump, fall, return, serve, attend

These are action words,

Because loving God means actions speak louder than words.


Hear, O Israel

Love your neighbors as yourself.

What does it mean to love our neighbors?

Every Hebrew scholar worth their weight

Will follow the Reece’s Pieces trail

Jesus leaves for us to follow back to Leviticus 19.

Here we find insight to what Jesus means

When he tells us to love our neighbors.

First, our neighbors are our kin and our clan.

Hear these words

“You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

– Leviticus 19:17-18

No problem we say to ourselves.

I love my family;

Blood is thicker than water, after all.

I love my friends;

We’ve got each other’s back.

I love my church;

After all, we all get along.


This pastor must observe:

“In what delusional world do we think we live?!!!”

Life is full of dysfunctional families, broken friendships, and conflict laden churches!

Love is action!

Therefore, to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must

Welcome one another with generous hospitality;

Anticipate every need;

Fulfill every need, then go the extra mile.

Loving means to

Purify every motive;

Share every burden;

Overlook every fault.


Encourages all;

Blesses all;

Celebrates all.

Welcome, anticipate, fulfill, purify, share, overlook, encourage, bless, and celebrate …

Are the actions of love

This is the will of Jesus.

Good Hebrew scholars don’t end here.

This nineteenth chapter of Leviticus continues

“You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

– Leviticus 19:32-34

Loving our neighbor

Means we love the alien in our midst.

Jesus did not have Star Trek in mind!

Aliens are travelers from other lands,

People beyond our own family and clans.

Jesus is asking us to love people beyond our circle of safety and security;

People we don’t know and have never met.

Who are these neighbors Jesus is calling us to love?



Unemployed and underemployed.



People with different abilities.

Those suffering from illness or disease.

People who are guilty and incarcerated.

People immigrating to our land.

Loving them means more than naming them.

Reach out.


Meet new people.

Make new friends.


Get to know the waitress who waits on you,

The receptionist who welcomes you to the doctor’s office,

And the grocery store employee who

Helps you locate that one item on the grocery list you just can’t find.

Draw up your inner courage,

Place your trust that the Spirit will support you.

Live beyond yourself,

Placing the needs of someone else before your own.

Seek out new stories

And make the intentional effort to sit on your own.

Make yourself curious about the rest of the world,

Learn how it works,

And how God has knit us all together.

Loving our neighbors means living for others more than living for ourselves.

Dearly beloved sisters and brothers,

Reach up to God with praise, thanksgiving, and love.

Branch out to our neighbors in love,

Both near and far,

Both kin and stranger alike.

Grow the trust within

That God’s hand is at work in your life.

Be confident.

God will protect,

God will provide for

Those who are doing God’s will.

What are you doing to

Love God and love your neighbors?

What more can you do?

The time to start is now.


“Conflicting Loyalties”

Matthew 22:15-22

October 18, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.


The preacher’s dilemma for today is

How does one preach about traps

Without falling into one?

Our dilemma in experiencing this Gospel text is

How far are you and I willing to walk with Jesus

Up Calvary’s hill

– the Via Dolorosa –

With him to his crucifixion?

Verbal blows had been exchanged

In our Lord’s confrontation with Jewish leaders:

First the Chief Priests and elders of the people,

Then Pharisees joined the party,

In today’s continuous text, the Herodians are added to the interrogation.

Next Sunday, some Sadducees will join the brawl.  

This high intensity challenge of Jesus’ authority in the Temple

Would within a few hours

Result in Jesus’ arrest, trial, abuse, crucifixion, and death.

Civil authority was clashing with kingdom authority.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows

Kind of like this diverse gathering of Jewish leaders

Conspiring to trap Jesus.

The Chief Priest and their family ran the Temple.

Sadducees were leaders of a sect that did not believe in the resurrection.

Pharisees were righteous and well-educated lay people.

The Herodians were Jews loyal to Rome (their occupiers).

Leaders, followers, and collaborators;  

United for one common purpose –

To trap Jesus,

To destroy Jesus,

To remove Jesus from the playing field,

To erase every memory and aspiration he created.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Pharisees and Herodians working together would have been as likely as

Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer agreeing on a new Supreme Court nominee.

I try to keep my politics out of preaching.

The Gospel is my politics.

That is the way I like to keep it.

Get Jesus in trouble with Rome

And they’d crucify him.

Trap Jesus by getting him in trouble with the populist,

And a lynch mob would take care of business.

Blood was in the water,

And it drew every variety of shark in for the kill.

Civil authority clashing with kingdom authority.

As we celebrate the 503 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this month,

It is good to remember Martin Luther

Who understood this titanic clash as being between

Civil righteousness and Spiritual righteousness.

Civil righteousness is compliance with civil law.

We construct a system to organize ourselves.

We refine the system.

And we are held accountable for adhering to the system.

Civil righteousness is demonstrated by how lawfully we act in society.

Spiritual righteousness, however, regards our relationship with God.

Spiritual righteousness is not determined by our actions

But is demonstrated by God’s love in Jesus Christ.

The contrast is between our dual citizenship:

We are citizens of both the state and citizens of heaven.

(Thanks to Erick J. Thompson, as found at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3450)

Jesus replies,

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22:21)

This appeals deeply to those of us who’s cultural DNA

Is rooted in the western, American experience.

In fact, we are so fond of it, most are content to linger too long,

To become too acculturated to this initial Gospel point of view

That we become reluctant to walk with Jesus

Any further than the first station of the cross.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads.

The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause,

As first imagined by Roger Williams in 1644,

Create a dualistic world separated by a wall,

Between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”

(Roger Williams, 1644)

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22:21)

Pay your taxes.

Pay your tithe.

A tithe is a gift to the Temple

(in modern times, to support the Church)

To support operations.

According to Leviticus 27:30

A tithe is to be calculated as 10% of your annual produce or income.

According to Proverbs 3:9

The tithe is not only 10%

But it should be the first fruits of all your crops as well.

To live a Biblical life one has to strive for the tithe.

Pay your taxes.

Pay your tithe.

Our Lord’s adversaries must have been writhing in anguish.

Their conspiracy failed.

Their trap failed to close.

I suspect some of us are writhing in anguish right now,

Doing the mental arithmetic of our own income and contributions to the Church.  

No pressure.

Jesus is carrying his cross all the way up to Calvary,

Beyond this initial, first stop.

Many of us would just as soon linger, lounge, and reside.

Come with me.

Exit your comfort zone and let us continue the journey with Jesus.

Every thoughtful, contemplative Christian

Can recognize the fact that the world isn’t black and white.

Despite our founding father’s best intent,

There are necessary intersections between church and state.

The wall separating the two is assailed

When we call for and work for civil justice;

Whether it is advocating for human rights,

Healthcare reform,

Gender equality,

Protecting the environment,

Or Black Lives Matter.

The wall separating civil righteousness and spiritual righteousness is assailed when the state elevates

Patriotism above faith,

Economic winners over losers,

The will of the powerful few over the powerless many.

Do we, as Jesus followers,

As people seeking spiritual righteousness

Stay quiet in the civil realm?

This journey with Jesus from the Temple mount to Calvary

Opens our eyes to the conflicting loyalties

Between Rome and Jerusalem,

Between Washington, Albany, and our congregation.

Some of our Christian sisters and brothers find these conflicting loyalties

Easier to reconcile than others.

Some will swear to never swear an oath,

Vow never to bear arms,

Join in million-man protests,

Even chain themselves to the doors of Capitol Hill.

Others will see no conflict in running for office

Espousing Judaic-Christian values,

Cite scripture from the stump,

Even erect monuments to the Ten Commandments in a court rooms.

Those from opposite sides often vilify each other.

The rest of us are somewhere in-between,

With our heads spinning in a bog

Filled with fake news, social media, and 24-hour news channels,

All being stirred by the Devil himself.

I can’t speak for you, but

I wonder all the time about

My conflicting loyalties between Caesar and God.

And I suspect you do, too.

Jesus stumbles,

Takes a knee under the weight of the cross,

As he ascends his earthly triumph.

Our epistle lesson encourages us to continue with Christ;

To stretch our spiritual canvas.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians

We are reminded of the expanse of humanity;

The need for the Word to go beyond Jerusalem,

Not only in Macedonia and Achaia,

But to the entire world.

The Good News of Jesus Christ comes personally, privately, and by individual re-birth,

Signed, signified and eternally sealed by our baptism.

At the same time,

The Good News of Jesus Christ comes collectively, corporately, and to all of Creation,

By means of the Body of Christ, known as the Church.

Paul does not stop here.

Paul stretches us further.

The God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ,

The God of Creation and re-creation,

Is the same God that loves us so much,

Individually, collectively, and without exception,

That He gives us His Holy Spirit,

That we can become an example to all believers,

To prepare ourselves for Jesus to return,

And for Him to rescue us from the wrath that is coming.

(I Thessalonians 1:1-10)

From before time to beyond the end of time.

Our God is our God.

From the individual to all of humanity,

From the private to the corporate,

Our God is our God.

And all is of God.

In the clash of civil authority and kingdom authority,

In the clash of Caesar and God,

When Jesus wisely proclaims,

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22:21)

Jesus is running the table.

Everything is of God.

Everything is God’s.

Even Caesar.

So, in the end,

In the wrath that is to come?

Even that which is rendered to the state

Returns to the Lord, who first gave it.

Everything returns to God.

Elegant, don’t you agree?

Yeah, Jesus is that way.

Jesus is pretty awesome, in my book.

As one enters through the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,

You turn right,

Pass through a door way

Up a stone stairway; winding, crooked, and steep.

You are not yet to the top of Calvary, but near the end.

The way of the cross is nearly fully revealed.

“Show me the coin used for the tax,” Jesus commanded.

“And they brought him a denarius.” (22:19)

Interesting fact about the Temple economy,

When you look into the books of organized religion,

Both then and today,

There is much to be revealed.

Pilgrims coming into town to make their yearly visit would

Make their annual animal sacrifice to God.

They would also be required to make a once a year contribution,

Their tithe,  

To the unpopular poll tax.

Who likes paying taxes?

Pilgrims would come with their local script or currency,

Most commonly, but not always, Roman denarius.

Currency would be exchanged into Jewish shekels at usury rates.

The Temple currency exchangers were shaking the people down.

This made the commoners,

The people in the pews

Seethe with anger.

Every Jewish pilgrim in the Temple

Would only possess shekels.

Only shekels.

So, were did the denarius come from?

Pharisees and Herodians are exposed for their hypocrisy.

It gets better.

The Roman denarius sported an image of Caesar

Together with the slogan,

Augusti Filius August Pontifex Maximus 

Which means

“Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest”

(Boring, Eugene, Matthew – MarkThe New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, volume 8 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 420.)

Whose head?

Whose title?

Of course,

A righteous Jew was forbidden from

Worshipping another god,

Or sporting an idolatrous image of a god,

Especially right there in the Temple courtyard.

Let’s be clear,

It’s never a good idea to break the Ten Commandments.

It’s really bad when you do it right there in the Temple!

Yet, the Temple authorities had no trouble

Presenting Jesus with a denarius

Sporting a graven image.

In the clash between civil righteousness and spiritual righteousness,

At the intersection of life and faith,

Loyalties are conflicted.

This once seemingly familiar Gospel narrative

Now presents itself worthy to start a revolution,

Tossing some money changing tables,

Just like the world has been tossed upside down.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.

This newly plowed ground

Drives us to the foot of the cross

And begs each of us to inquire about the conflicting loyalties in each of our lives.

What are yours?

What are the conflicting loyalties in your life? and

How do you justify the choices you make?

What sacrifices (yes, I said sacrifices) need to be made to place Christ first?

Like carrying around a few denarius in our pockets,

Or a few Abe Lincoln’s in our wallets and purses,

What idolatrous commitments do we make?

How are we complicit in the larger sins of the world?

How is Christ calling you and I to respond?


Jesus is asking us to re-examine the choices we make

Whether or not to let our kids play Sunday morning Pop Warner football

Or cheer for the team.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Jesus is much more serious than simply

Challenging us to a mundane conflicting loyalty.

His sacrifice nailed him to a cross

and dropped that cross into a hole,

complete with a flesh tearing, bone breaking jolt at the bottom.

That’s his sacrifice for you.

What are you willing to sacrifice for Jesus?


“Many Called, Few Chosen”

Matthew 22:1-14

October 11, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”


This parable

Causes me to remember my defiant adolescence.

With hair down to my shoulders,

Sporting rose colored glasses,

I’d turn off my loud rock and roll,

Come bounding down the parsonage stairs

Burst into the kitchen

And ask dad for the keys to the car.

Inevitably, my mother would turn away from

The dishes in the sink or dinner on the stove.

She would take a look at my outrageous tee shirt or clothing, and say

“You’re going out looking like that?”

“Yeppers, mom. Catch you on the flip side of life.”

And off I’d go,

Acting as if there was no accountability, …

… Knowing full well that there was.

This parable is the third in a row.

It is important to be reminded that

Jesus is confronting the Temple authorities,

The Chief Priests, Pharisees, and leaders of the people.

The confrontation in Matthew 21 and 22 is explosive,

Extremely dangerous, and potentially violent.

For contextual reasons,

It is important to remember that this confrontation

Is taking place in the final days of Jesus’ life.

Try to imagine this confrontation taking place

During the early days of Holy Week;

Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

Just remember,

Jesus only has hours to live,

Share a final meal with his disciples,

Wash their feet,

Be arrested and tried and condemned,

And be crucified.

Time is short.

If ever there was a moment

To clearly and concisely communicate to the world

What the Kingdom of God looks like,

It was now.

Characteristics of God’s Kingdom have been revealed by Jesus

Throughout this high-stake confrontation in Matthew 21 and 22.

This is what we have learned so far:

  • Jesus’ authority comes from God, his heavenly Father.
  • God’s Kingdom is inclusive.
  • Those who do the will of God, in spite of past sins, will go first into the Kingdom.
  • God seeks justice and righteousness.
  • God’s Kingdom is given to those who bear fruit.

Today, Jesus turns up the gain,

Amps it up, and

Takes this confrontation over the top.

It isn’t pleasant.

This isn’t the Christmas baby Jesus

Or the gentle Jesus, meek and mild, with children sitting on his lap surrounded by cute little lambs.

That’s the Jesus we want,

But that isn’t the Jesus we get.

This is our Jesus,

At the height of his ministry,

Fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father.

He is filled with disciplined, righteous anger

Confronting authority,

Speaking truth to power.

The environment is teetering on the edge of explosive violence.

Why is Jesus whacking the hornets’ nest?

Jesus confronts Temple authorities

To expand our comprehension of the Kingdom of God.

There is more to learn and his time is short.

This parable causes us to ask

What kind of power does God exercise?

And how does God exercise it?

A closer look.

The King interacts on three occasions with four different players.

1. The first player the king engages is the royal elite.

These are the ones who would not come,

Despite two personal invitations.

What kind of person in royal circles declines an invitation from the king?

They owe their status and influence to their proximity to the throne.

Why wouldn’t they come,

Unless they, themselves had reason to believe

They would be called to accountability?

Had they become so smug that they had nothing to fear?

But those who believed and acted as if they were first in the kingdom,

… The A listers …

… The Primadonnas …

Didn’t really know their king and

They didn’t want to be held accountable by him.

(Sounds to me like the Chief Priest, Pharisees, and the elders of the people)

The king’s response is proportional:

First, he decides to send a second invitation.

When even the second invitation is mocked …

Made lite by some,

Ignored by others, and

Flaunted by still others,

They seize the king’s slaves,

Mistreat some and kill others,

Then, and only then, the king resorts to judgment.

Judgment rains down.

He “destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (22:7)

There is a price to be paid for rejecting the king.

Yes, there is accountability, Jesus’ parable teaches us.

There is accountability in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The king will not be rejected.

Judgment is decisive.

2. The next two players the king engages are commoners,

Described as both the good and the bad.


A king mixing with mere commoners?

This is over the top!

This is Good News for those who are left out and

Treated with contempt

By the aristocracy.

Both the good and the bad are invited, and they come.

In some respect

This was an offense to the good;

They’d been working in the vineyard since the early morning,

Then along comes those who were hired at an hour before quitting time?

However, they get a free meal out of it;

So why not attend?

Good news is still good news.

It was also good news to the bad people on Main street.

The invitation wasn’t predicated on their behavior or reputation.

The invitation was color blind.

It demonstrates the king’s hope for

Transformation in the present and

The hope for a better future.

This was of greater importance than

Any sin they had committed in the past.

The king believes in redemption,

A second chance.

A wedding hall filled with guests

Would have certainly pleased the king.

The banquet was over the top;

Oxen, fat calves, a royal banquet unlike anyone has ever experienced,

A true feast, where all could gather and eat their fill.

(Much like our communion table)

With this second encounter with both the good and the bad

Jesus’ parable also teaches us that

The king’s grace is inclusive and unconditional.

The invitation to the banquet is extended to everyone.

The king’s grace is abundant,

Rich and overflowing,

Exceeding the expectations and the experience of his people.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

Now that’s some good news!

3. The last player the king engages in this parable

Is the man caught not wearing a wedding robe

In open defiance of the king.

One could possibly title this final portion of the parable

“The Parable of the Wedding Crasher”.

Oh, the king gets his wedding feast,

But he noticed a man who was not wearing a wedding robe.

Again, the king is patient and proportional:

He gives the man who is openly defying him

An opportunity to justify his behavior.

“Friend,” he asks,

“how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” (22:12)

The man is speechless.

Perhaps he is speechless because he had earlier witnessed the king’s wrath.

Judgment had resulted in death.

Perhaps he is speechless because he had witnessed

The mercy the king had shown

By including both the good and the bad at the wedding banquet.

There is plenty in this parable that leaves us speechless.

The King passes judgment,

But notice, again, judgment is limited.

“Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (22:13)

The phrase Jesus uses

“weeping and gnashing of teeth” to pronounce judgment

Has been used three times before in Matthew (8:12, 13:42, 13:50)

And will be used twice again (24:51, 25:30)

Mostly in the context of a parable.

Don’t assume this is a reference to hell.

I’d suggest this is Jesus’ way to simply indicate

Their removal from the banquet at hand.

He doesn’t kill the wedding crasher,

Unlike those who rejected him.

Defiance might get you kicked out,

But it didn’t preclude the possibility of his future return.

O, dear Judas. Rejection of the king leads to death.

But defiance, dear Peter; there remains hope for redemption.

In a powerful way, Jesus reiterated that,

Yes, there is accountability in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The King will not be rejected.

The King will not be mocked.

Judgment may be proportional,

But it is decisive.

The King’s grace is inclusive and unconditional.

The invitation to the banquet is extended to everyone.

The King’s grace seeks the redemption of his people.

The King’s grace is abundant,

Rich and overflowing,

Exceeding the expectations and the experience of his people.

Jesus uses this parable to fill in some of the remaining characteristics

About what life is like in the Kingdom of Heaven.

He tells us a lot about the power of God,

His heavenly Father and our King.

What kind of power does God exercise?

And how is it exercised?

God’s power comes from grace.

God gives everyone a second chance.

God acts with discipline and proportionately.

God includes everyone, the good and the bad.

This is good news because

God has a place in the kingdom,

At the table,

For everyone,

Including both you and me.

God’s power comes from restraint.

Vengeance is the Lord’s, and God’s alone.

There is no place for vengeance in the life of a follower of Jesus.

This is an especially important message to us

As we attempt to navigate life and faith in our turbulent world.

Leave vengeance up to God, knowing that it is only used as a last resort.

God’s greatest desire is for everyone to enter the Kingdom

And to feast at the heavenly feast.

This is good news!

Let there be no misunderstanding.

Don’t believe that we can take advantage of God’s grace.

God cannot be gamed.

Because, Jesus warns us,

God’s power also comes from decisive judgment.

God demands accountability.

Let us conduct ourselves accordingly.