“Potter and Clay”

Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-37

November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


Welcome to Advent;

A season of watching,


For our Savior’s return.

During this time of intense, expectant waiting,

The nature and character of God is revealed

With clarity unlike few other times of the year.

God is revealed.


More than the final book of the Bible,

More than an end-time promises,

God is revealed as an active dance partner in the human divine relationship.

The prophet Isaiah reports of a spiritual nostalgia in a devastated people.

Remember when?

Remember when the Lord forgave our inequity,

Warmed the heart of Cyrus the Great, and

Returned us to our promised land?


God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

But now, the world has turned into smoldering destruction.


Built up; beat down.

Built up; beat down.

The people of Israel had seen their land re-conquered,

Their rebuilt Temple destroyed,

Their lives in ruins.

Our ancestors felt as if God was hiding his face.

O God, they cried.

Our God, who ripped open the heavens and

Showed your face to Moses,

Where are you now?

Now, our world feels like it has turned into smoldering destruction.

Remember 39 weeks ago?

Yes, I’ve been counting the weeks.

Our spiritual nostalgia

Forgets imperfections and

Enhances grandeur

That may or may not have been real.

Church life back in early March was great, predictable, sustainable.

Spiritual life was simplified;

Occasional attendance,

Prayer before a meal,

Catching up over coffee or casserole, and

Dropping an Abraham into the basket.

Now, we’ve been shut down.

We feel broken down,

And when we look around

There is a whole lot of darkness.

Where is your face, O Lord?

It’s like we’ve been abandoned,

Just like Israel. 


God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

The nature and character of God is revealed during Advent.


Like Israel,

Our hope is grounded in God’s revealed nature and character.

God is our father, Isaiah proclaims,

The father of creation,

Who created us as children,

Each of us created as a nearly perfect copy of God.

God planted within us

Mustard seed sized faith,

Tended and nurtured,

Watered and fed.

God has gifted us

The love of a Savior and

The power of a Spirit filled breath.

Our creative and loving parent

Raises us as children into spiritual maturity,

In a relationship bonded by life, love, goodness, pity, and compassion;

Qualities of every good mother and father.

The Lord is our Father,

The prophet Isaiah proclaims,

As a potter and

We as clay.

We are the clay.

The Father forms us.

Shapes us.

Builds us up.

Breaks us down.

Working us.

Freeing us from every imperfection.

We are the work of his hands.

We become who God shapes us to be.


God is our creator.

God nurtures and grows,

Forms and shapes us according to need and will.

The nature and character of God is revealed during Advent.


This past Thursday,

We pushed ourselves away from the Thanksgiving table

Full of food

And content with life …



Some of us.

Well, all right. Who are we kidding?

There might be some who can be painted into a Norman Rockwell painting,

But many of us

Are worn out,

Fighting depression,

Dealing with dysfunctional families,

Agonizing over broken relationships,

Resisting addictions and abuse,

Wrestling with uncertainty and anxiety,

And are near the end of our rope with

Undeniable, unresolved, unrelenting, overwhelming grief.

We are …

… I am …

FIGHTING to stay afloat,

For fear that if we stop fighting,

We might slip beneath the waves.

A new prescription does not save us.

A promotion or raise doesn’t save us.

Divorce, walking out, or walking away doesn’t save us.

Shopping, overdosing on chocolate, or a day at the spa doesn’t save us.

A new degree, diploma, or award doesn’t save us.

Spending a day this past week in class with clergy colleagues from across New York State

Affirms the fact that

Being ordained doesn’t save us.

Every one of us are treading water.

The garbage still has to be taken out to the curb.

During this period spanning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year

Emotions fluctuate widely between blessings and curse

And everywhere in-between.

If only we had a God

That was great enough

To rend the heavens

And come down to save us.

If only we had a God

That was powerful enough

To darken the sun, extinguish the moon, shake the stars out of the heavens

And come down to save us.

If only the Son of Man would come in clouds

With power and glory;

Certainly we would be saved!

It’s Advent, people!

God did it before,

And God’s going to do it again!

Just as God saved our ancestors from Egyptian captivity and Babylonian exile,

Just as Jesus was born and died to save us from our sins,

So, too, will Christ come again

To save us from this lousy state of affairs we’ve in.

We’ve fallen

– literally and figuratively –

And we can’t get up!

Not without the help of a Savior.

Not without the power of the only One who can move heaven and earth.

Not without the love of God that knows no end.

The time is nigh, and soon will be.

The time is ripe, and approaching ever more quickly.

Watch for signs of light signifying our Savior’s return.

Stay alert and awake,

Watching for our Lord’s coming again.


What then is revealed about God in this season of waiting?

God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

God is our creator, our heavenly Father.

God nurtures and grows us,

Forms and shapes us according to need and will.

We are promised

Christ is coming again.

It’s a promise the Lord intends to keep.

When he comes

The face of the Lord will be revealed.

Since we can’t save ourselves,

Christ is coming to save us

From drowning,

Into a new creation.




“Faith v Works”

November 22, 2020, Christ the King

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.


Heaven is to grace

What Hell is to judgment.

As followers of Jesus,

Believing that Jesus

Assumed all our sins

On the cross,

We’ve become comfortably acculturated

With grace as the staple diet

Of organized Protestant Christian faith.

Believe in Jesus

And be saved.

Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life.

Follow him and be saved.


Count me in.

Sprinkle me with water and

Teach me the secret handshake.

Case closed.

Go home and enjoy the other six and a half days of the week.

The great reformer, Martin Luther, proclaimed

We are judged by faith alone,

And on this article alone he wrote, “the Church stands or falls.”

(Martin Luther, 1537, Smalkald Articles)

John Wesley brought laser focus to God’s grace.

For Wesley, grace is prevenient:

Given by God before we knew we needed it.

Grace is justifying:

We are forgiven of our sins

Simply because we believe.

Grace is sanctifying:

Replacing our imperfections

With the perfect love of God.

The second chapter of Ephesians defines the Protestant, Methodist experience:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

Sola Fide, pronounced So-la Fee-day:

the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, and

Sola Gratia, pronounced So-la Grat-e-a,

The doctrine of Salvation by grace

Defines the chasm that

Separates us from our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers.

Through a uniquely Protestant world view 

We have come to know

A graceful God

That carefully considers a resume built on faith,

Without taking into consideration works, good or bad.

Our Protestant heritage teaches us that belief leads to reward:

Believe in Jesus Christ.

Your sins are forgiven, and off you go to heaven.

Zippidee do dah.


The reality of sin

Is like the thin strata of smoke from a wood fire

Wisping through the neighborhood.

The smoke just hangs in the air on cold, quiet mornings.


Without wind it seeps in everywhere,

Distorting sight and delivering a signature smell.

There are consequences for sinful behavior that are important to acknowledge,

And the Gospel of Matthew holds our feet to the fire.

Judgment is the consequence of sin.

We, Hushpuppy wearing, grace toting Protestants,

Find ourselves in an uneasy position wrestling with judgment

With the close of this liturgical year.

(Today is called Reign of Christ, or, Christ the King.

Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent,

The Gospel of Mark will take Matthew’s place,

And a new liturgical year will begin.)

Christ is our king! We joyfully proclaim.

Matthew reports the king holds each of us accountable for our behavior.

Jesus plays the judgment card in spades.

Today, Jesus and judgment are addressed with uncomfortable transparency.

This 25th chapter of Matthew is

A real slice of humble pie

To grace believing Protestants.

Two weeks ago we heard of the

Unfortunate, unprepared bridesmaids

Waiting for the delayed bridegroom to arrive.

They waited with insufficient lamp oil.

As a result of their behavior

They were shut out


Of the wedding reception,

With Divine judgment we’ve not heard before.

The Master’s voice snaps from behind the closed door:

“Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” (25:12)


Wait! We respond.

“I do not know you”?

That is not the God I know, I protest.

Heaven is to grace

What Hell is to judgment.

Last Sunday,

Our distress mounted with the Parable of the Talents.

We squirmed anxiously in our seats

When the Master

Belittles and berates the servant who buried his talent

Instead of investing it like the other two.

“You wicked and lazy slave!”

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one with the ten.”

“As for this worthless slave,

throw him into the outer darkness,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (25:26, 28, 30)


Wait! We respond.

I don’t know that god.

This visual is more like a Soviet gulag

Then a sermon from Jesus.

Heaven is to grace

What Hell is to judgment.


500 years ago we parted ways

with the Roman Catholic preoccupation with Works Righteousness.

Fear, intimidation, and inquisition were used to oppress the faithful.

Like their Pharisaic forefathers fifteen hundred years earlier,

Sacred texts had been codified into

Onerous and inflexible Church doctrines

Frightening the masses into submission

In the shadow of the sword or guillotine.

The laundry list justifying Works Righteousness

– the central belief that the guilty are judged

and the guiltless are deemed righteous –

has been long cited by scripture:

Hebrew scripture, New Testament Epistles, even directly from the lips of Jesus in the Gospels.

For example,

Matthew 5:20 Jesus says,

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness

surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,

you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The list justifying Works Righteousness equals

The list justifying Sola Fide and Sola Gratia.

Are we forgiven and saved by

what we do, or,

Are we forgiven and saved by

what we believe?

What are we to believe?

Like many things in life

Faith v works are not mutually exclusive.

I’d suggest faith v works are mutually dependent.

Looking back over my history of preaching on this passage,

I’ve noticed a personal, evolving belief.

Early in my pastoral ministry,

I hammered home Sola fide and Sola Gratia

Like every good Protestant preacher is expected to do.

I employed every Lutheran and Wesleyan doctrine I could lay my hands on;

Sadly, I must admit,

To the neglect of Works Righteousness.

“What we believe leads to good works,

But good works do not lead to belief,”

I was often quoted to say.

Yet, as I’ve aged

The more I believe in

The value of a carefully balanced, mutually dependent approach:

We can no more neglect scripture because it doesn’t meet our needs

Then we can elevate selected scripture to support our position.

Belief in Jesus is essential.

What is also essential is

Doing the work of Jesus.

One leads to the other;

Does it really matter which comes first?

Personal behavior is important, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25.

It is our Christian obligation to feed hungry people,

To give water to those who thirst,

And to welcome strangers with hospitality.

Failure to do so is equivalent to choosing our own promised judgment.

It is our Christian responsibility to cloth those who need clothing,

To take care of the sick,

To visit the condemned in prison.

Failure to do so will result in our King casting us out into eternal fire.

Be forewarned.

It is our obligation,

Not because we fear judgment,

But because Jesus engaged in good works, outreach, and ministry.

And we should follow his example.

It is our obligation,

Because our good works points the world straight to Jesus.

Our good works bring attention to God.

Our good works bring praise and glory to God.

God loves the last, the least, the lost, the poor, the disposed, the widow, and the orphaned.

And so, too, should we.

Doing so, is God’s greatest glory.

And places the Lord front and center

In the spotlight of the world’s stage.

This is a week of Thanksgiving.

Let us safely gather around

Our pandemically subdued Thanksgiving tables.

Mourn not what is lost this holiday.

Give thanks for what has been found.

Close your eyes and

With every ounce of your imagination

Taste and see the abundance of our gracious and loving God.

Remember to give thanks over the food and the hands that prepared it.

It is appropriate to thank God for the abundant grace and love

That has flooded our lives.

Giving thanks is a sign of our faith and belief.

Give thanks to God for planting a mustard seed size faith in us before we were born.

Thank God for nurturing our faith,

Justifying our faith, and

Sanctifying our faith.

Our Gospel lesson for today suggests that we boldly take one additional step:

Transform the blessing of your table

Into works of righteousness in the streets.

Don’t expect the government to feed the hungry;

It is our responsibility to make certain our neighbors are fed.

Charities can only do so much.

It is our Christian obligation to care for the sick and visit people in jail.

Let us make it our Thanksgiving vow

To go one step further,

In charitable works of ministry.

Go one step further

In the name of Jesus Christ

Then we have ever gone before.

Then, and only then,

Our Thanksgiving tables will be complete.


“Joy or Weeping?”

Matthew 25:14-30

November 15, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


Thank you for your financial commitment to the mission and ministry of our parish and for promptly returning your completed Pledge Card.

What may appear to be the perfect ending to our annual Stewardship Drive

The parable Jesus serves up for us today is a lot more complex.

The obvious and easy question is,

What are you doing with what you are given?

Are you making what God has given you greater for the Lord’s benefit?

Or, are you hiding away your time, talent, and treasures

Hoping to skate through life on the cheap?

What are you doing?

This is a good starting place.

Is faith so shallow it only requires going through the motions?

… show up for worship (as little as possible)?

… drop an Andrew Jackson or a check into the basket when prompted?

… purchase some baked goods to “support” Promise Land or our South Africa missions?


“I’ll tell you what,

Burying my talents

Saves me a lot of time and effort when I have better things to do, and

Burying my talents

Saves me a ton of money that would otherwise be wasted on the church.

Why tithe if I don’t have to?

Sunday’s are meant for sleeping in.

Maybe I can

Just put a lid on this Jesus talk and

Hope it all works out in the end.”

(End Sarcasm)

What are you doing?

Perhaps there is something deeper, quietly stirring in your soul.

Instead of waiting for a personal or family crisis to kick faith into gear

Perhaps now is the time to make some investments

Into personal faith development.

The timing couldn’t be better as travel restrictions and

Stay at home requests increase.

If you’re going to put in 45 minutes on the treadmill,

How about 45 minutes in exercising your spiritual life?

Pray, and learn about prayer.

Study scripture, and experience God working through scripture in your life.

Learn about the early Church, martyrs, leaders, and thinkers.

Engage in missional outreach by making neighbors into friends.

Grow that circle of friends bigger, and

Love every one of them as if each is your long-lost child.

What are you doing? Jesus is asking those who follow him,

Knowing full well that he would soon

Suffer, die, resurrect, and ascend into heaven

With the promise to return

At some unknown and unknowable future date and time.

The choice is yours.

How are you going to spend your time and money waiting for me to return? Jesus is asking.

Are you flying economy class …

Faith on the half-shell?

Or, is it time to upgrade with

an investment in personal spiritual development?

What are you doing? Is a good place to start, but

There is more here ripe for discovery.

1. First, when Jesus is talking about Talents,

He’s talking about money;

Cold hard cash.

Jesus is not talking about God-given abilities, gifts or graces.

The definition of “talents” expanded beyond money to include abilities, gifts, and graces in old English during the middle ages.

One Talent equaled 6,000 Denarius.

A Denarius is the daily wage.

So, one Talent is worth 6,000 days of work.

In today’s terms,

At a modest annual income of $40,000 per year

1 Talent would equal $600,000.

That’s a lot of money to bury in the back yard.

Likewise, 2 Talents = $1.2 million.

5 Talents = $3 million. 

The example Jesus uses in the Parable of the Talents

Is one of hyperbole;

Excessive, over-the-top abundance.

Jesus isn’t using for his example a couple of bucks, or

A couple hundred, or even

A couple thousand dollars.

Jesus is talking millions.

In this parable Jesus personifies God as the Master.

Jesus is quite intentionally composing a character of his heavenly Father.

God is incredibly trusting, giving great stewardship responsibility,

Each according to their ability. (25:15)

The least abled was entrusted with $600,000!

Our God is one of abundant, amazing grace.

Jesus characterizes God as kind and generous, who is enormously thankful.

“Well done, good and trustworthy servant; You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (25:21)

I’d call that

Getting a bonus and receiving a  promotion,

Earned for work well-done.

Jesus fills his character palate by describing God as being positive and joyous.

“Enter into the joy of your master,” the master grants his faithful servants. (25:21)

In other words, God invites the productive, the fruitful, the faithful into God’s own joy.

There is no hint here of a God who is harsh, rash, or vindictive.

I wonder where that assumption came from?

2. The foil for the parable is the servant who buried the talent and waited for his master’s return.

Why did he bury it and wait?

Why didn’t he take the initiative and invest the one talent like the other two?

He reveals his motive when asked:

“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” (25:24-25)

He was afraid.

He was afraid of his master.

The servant who buried his one talent

Assumed the master to be a harsh man.


Based on what?

The parable already established the master as being generous, kind, grateful, thankful, and full of joy.

Nary a hint of evidence exists to lead one to believe the master was a harsh man.

Jesus reveals in this parable that

False assumptions lead to poor decisions which leads to disastrous outcomes,

Especially when we are naturally biased to do the least amount of effort to just get by.   

He was afraid.

Fear is a lousy motivator.

Fear of aging boosts sales of anti-wrinkle Aveeno and man boosting Nugenix.

Fear of torture makes people confess to both the truth and falsehoods.

Fear of hell and damnation has been a staple of some Christian communities for centuries, creating untold harm to God’s beautifully created human condition.

Fear that leads to paralysis results in Divine anger and judgment.

“you wicked and lazy slave!” = an accurate observation of the servant’s effort.

“you knew, did you?” = you think you’re so smart?

“I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?” = you calling the Lord a thief? (25:26)

“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness”

Not the inner darkness.

“Throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (25:30)

Looking for a fair trial?

Don’t anger the Judge with false accusations.

That right there

Is the judgment of an angry God.




Worthless effort.

Believing we are smarter than everyone else.

Making false accusations.

These are the behaviors Jesus warns his disciples about in this age

As we await his promised return.

3. There are two possible outcomes for those entrusted with the master’s wealth:

An invitation into the joy of the master, or,

Being thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The judgment of the master is pre-determined, pre-established, and all are forewarned.

Our final outcome is completely dependent on the choices we make.

We choose the judgment we receive.

In other words, we are responsible for our choices and actions.

I know responsibility is a dirty word to many in this day and age.

Yet, Jesus takes the unpopular stance of holding his disciples

Accountable and responsible for our actions.

Each of us are held accountable by the Master.

These are the questions for my own accountable discipleship:

– Are the words I choose consistent with the grace and love of Jesus Christ?

– Are my efforts worthy or commensurate with His suffering on the cross?

– Is my love for God and neighbor an accurate, proportional reflection of God’s love for me?

I err, just like everyone else.

Yet, I firmly believe that all failures are forgiven for all those baptized and clothed in Christ.

In the long view, critical self-reflection helps keeps my spiritual journey on the right trajectory.

Faith without actions is dead, the Apostle Paul reminds us.

Satisfaction with the status quo stinks like a week-old dead fish.

Until Christ promised return and His kingdom is fully established on earth as it is in heaven,

There is work to be done,

Here in Rush,

In Monroe and Livingston Counties,

In the United States, and

Around the world.

Faithfulness is not merely obedience to God’s direction,

But also to how we use this in between time until Jesus returns.

Living, growing, vibrant faith smells as sweetly as a vase full of Spring flowers.

Living faith, motivates each of us to take initiative and risks.

To those of greater ability, greater effort and risks are expected.

You think you’re so smart?

The master expects you to dedicate more of your intelligence to the benefit of the kingdom.

You think you’re so affluent?

The master expects you to contribute more of your wealth for the benefit of the kingdom.

You think you are so naturally gifted?

The master expects you to contribute more hours of productivity than everyone else for the benefit of the kingdom.

The Master expects results.

God trusts us with everything …

All the jewels of Creation.

God holds nothing back.

God expects us to perform and expects results.

The choices we make determine our judgment.

So what choices will you make?

What are you doing?

Make informed decisions.

Make the right choices.

Get to work in the mission field.

Make disciples. Love God. Love neighbors.

Make progress.

Show results.

And you will

Enter into the joy of the master.


“Staying Awake”

Matthew 25:1-13

November 8, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 25:1-13

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


So this is how it is all going to play out.

Jesus tells us the Temple will be destroyed.

It was.

Jesus tells us there will be false prophets who claim to be the Messiah.

There were.

He tells us there would be wars, famines, and earthquakes.

Yep. There has been. And they are still taking place.

Jesus warned of persecutions.

Those who follow Jesus and live by his truth will be hated, persecuted, and killed.

Indeed, the history of Christianity has been written by the blood of martyrs and saints.

Read all about it in the 24th chapter of Matthew.

It’s a downright depressing message.

If this is all there was on the recruiting poster

No one would inquire further.

Efforts at disciple making would become futile.

Even the rank-and-file faithful would begin to turn on each other and,

As Jesus said, “the love of many will grow cold.” (24:12)

On the eve of his arrest, trial, and persecution

Jesus tells us

This is how it is going to play out.

Why tell us this? I have to ask.

Why the discouraging message?

It’s occurred to me

The Jesus we want is not the Jesus we are given.

We want a gentle Jesus, meek and mild,

Born a vulnerable baby,

A smart and curious youth,

An adult shepherd tending his sheep.

Instead, the Gospel reveals a Jesus who addresses the social injustices of his day,

Who divides families and allows a rich young ruler to just walk away.

It is almost as if confrontation and revolution are coded in his DNA.

The Jesus we get confronts demons and devils and overcomes them all.

He challenges the authority of religious leaders and smashes their money changing tables.

The Jesus we get is willing to prune the vine to increase the yield.

Jesus loves the world, at the same time, his standards of judgement are set so impossibly high that every one of us fall short of his glory.

The temptation I have

Is to believe life plays itself out like a well written obituary,

That death is the final chapter,

And memories are swept away with the eons of time.

I must not yield to this temptation,

And neither should you.

The temptation I have

Is to become so engaged in the pragmatic struggles of life,

… education, career, marriage, health, …

That I lose sight of the justifying, saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Yield not to temptation

And I won’t either.

It is possible to be given

both the cold, hard truth

and the promise of hope at the same time.

Jesus does it in spades.

Eternity has no end.

Eternal life never plays out.

Resurrection is the promise of a loving God

Who seeks to pull us through the suffering of these times

Into an eternal age when Christ returns

And his kingdom is established on earth as it is in heaven.

Today’s parable of the ten bridesmaids

Gives us a road map for discipleship,

To keep us strong and endure

As long as it takes.

Jesus tells us

Be patient,

Be prepared,

Stay awake, and

Trim your lamp.

1. First,

Be patient.

The groom is delayed. (25:5)

We haven’t somehow missed the coming of Christ.

He promised to return.

He just hasn’t arrived for us yet.

Thus, we proclaim, “Christ will come again.”

Maybe in our lifetime, maybe not.

God’s time is not our time.

Christ will come some time in eternity.

Patience is an acquired skill that can be learned and

A spiritual discipline that can be practice.

It would be instantly gratifying to know exactly when Christ returns,

The day, the hour,

Because we could goof off until the last moment, then

Straighten up and

Polish our crown.

But no one knows, or can know, the day nor the hour,

Jesus teaches. (25:13)

It’s a foolish waste of time to try to figure it out;

Time that could be better spent

Being prepared.

2. Which brings us to the second point: Be prepared.

In this parable

Prepared bridesmaids

Bring a lamp,

Sufficient oil, and

A means to trim the flame.

There is nothing passive about preparation.

Just ask a Boy Scout, a Fire Chief, or an Army General.

Being prepared for the return of Jesus requires us

To make active preparations to meet him face-to-face.

Because one day we will.

Learn to walk like Jesus.

Learn to talk like Jesus.

Learn to act like Jesus.

Being prepared means making haste

To love and to be loved,

To forgive and to be forgiven,

To build God’s kingdom,

To anticipate the return of Christ.

3. Stay awake.

No one knows the day or hour.

Take note:

10 out of 10 bridesmaids fall asleep,

Both the wise and foolish.

Which is to say,

We all need our rest.

But when you rest, post a watch.

We are dependent on one another to maintain vigilant watch,

To watch and wait,

To sound the alert when the bridegroom returns,

To wake every resting soul.

Individual effort doesn’t cut it.

Being Church is a team sport.

Discipleship requires a group effort,

A body, a community,

To work round the clock and around the world,

To work and to wait patiently for Christ’s return.

4. Lastly, Jesus tells us with this parable to

Trim your lamp; because we are in it for the long haul.

One trims a lamp to conserve fuel.

The trade off is that the lamp gives off less light.

The sacrifice is worth it, Jesus tells us,

Because endurance is also an important spiritual discipline

To be learned and practiced.

There are no days off when it comes to discipleship.

There is no vacation to eat, drink, and be merry.

There is no retirement to rest on your laurels.

Being patient, prepared, and alert means every follower of Jesus

Must be willing to conserve and endure until he returns.

This includes the practice of good stewardship,

Maintaining healthy, moral and ethical boundaries, and

Living a life of love, for both God and neighbor.

It appears terribly uncaring and un-God like

For the wise bridesmaids to not share their lamp oil, and

For the bridegroom to shut the door to the wedding banquet

in the face of the foolish bridesmaids.

But note this,

Both circumstances are reversible.

Neither are permanent.

Oil was purchased, abet late; but, purchased none the less.

Good move, ladies.

You’ve made the first step towards redemption.

It remains possible for the foolish bridesmaids

To come to know the bridegroom in the future,

To one day be welcomed into the wedding banquet.

A wedding banquet wasn’t a 7 until midnight affair

Like they are nowadays.

Wedding celebrations were weeks on end, and then some.

The Lord makes it possible for the wine to hold out for ever.

Even if initially shut out,

Prepare yourself.

Keep knocking at God’s door.


do not look at this world …

… with all its problems and faults …

And become discouraged or lose heart.

Know Christ’s promise to be true.

He will return.

Christ is coming again.

Until that unknowable day or hour,

Be patient.

Be prepared.

Settle in for the long haul.

For the Lord’s kingdom is eternal.