“Rescued from Impossible Bondage”

Mark 1:21-28

January 31, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

| Centering Prayer |

It is so easy to dwell on the negative impact of the pandemic and

Completely overlook some of the positive benefits.

We’ve learned that science is able to accelerate vaccine development.

Thank you, Lord, for all those working to vaccinate the world.

May the knowledge and practice employed today

Benefit future generations tomorrow.

We’ve learned that social distancing, mask wearing, and attention to cleanliness

All contribute to lowering the risk of disease transmission.

Thank you, Lord, for everyone making their contribution to reduce everyone’s risk of illness and disease and keep each other safe.

Because of these commonsense precautions

It is reported that even influenza transmission is down this year over last.

Who would have imagined a year ago:

  • A dedicated effort to sanitize the sanctuary and meeting spaces after every use?
  • That I’d be sanitizing my office desk, chairs, door, and switches after every visit?
  • That handwashing instructions would be in every bathroom and hand sanitizer gel would be on every shelf or counter?

Generations have known that “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

While this exact phrase is not found in the Bible,

The importance of cleanliness is clearly expressed.

Judaism at the time of Jesus emphasized purity and cleanliness.

Think actual dirt conflated with spiritual dirt.

Think polluted water, contaminated food, and e coli.  

Think temptation, sin, evil; both personal and corporate, both intentional and unintentional.

All of us become dirty periodically.

Wash your hands after you use the bathroom.

A little soap, water, and scrubbing and presto: you’re clean!

Confess your sins during worship, repent, and ask God for forgiveness.

Repeat weekly.

Boom! you are clean!

Judaism had a way to make people clean.

Before one could enter the Temple to make an animal sacrifice and tithe,

The faithful were required to bathe in one of dozens of public baths,

Usually at a price.

(Image us having a dozen bath tubs at the church entrance

With the expectation that

All who enter are required to

Pay an established fee and take a dip!)

Ideally, the faithful emerged from the ceremonial bath physically clean.

But, what about becoming spiritually clean?

Sacrificing a bird or lamb on the altar cleansed the faithful of their sins.

Jews called the cleansing of impurity “atonement.”

It was believed that atonement also prevented God from leaving the Temple.

(For Christians, Jesus Christ himself becomes the atonement.

He is the atoning sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins,

Reconciling us with God.)

Being made clean was a process, both actual and symbolic,

That cleaned the body and the soul.

Jesus was newly on the job,

When an unnamed man with an unclean spirit

Interrupted Jesus, who was

Teaching with authority

Astounding the crowds

In the synagogue

At Capernaum

On the Sabbath.

There is a lot of material here to unpack;

Too much for one setting.

What draws my attention is “unclean spirit.”

What does “unclean spirit” mean?

Does it mean this man was possessed by a demon or demons?

Did he have a medical condition that religious leaders would have judged him unclean?

I’ve wondered a lot this week about the meaning of “unclean spirit.”

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about people today with “unclean spirits.”

I’m asking myself, what makes me unclean?

πνεῦμα Ακάθαρτος

(pneuma ak-a-thar-tos)

In the Greek New Testament

πνεῦμα comes first.

In English it is pneuma,

Meaning breath, human spirit, soul, tempter or disposition of the soul, separate from the body.

Ακάθαρτος comes next,

Modifying what comes before it.

In English it is akathartos (ak-a-thar-tos)

Meaning unclean, impure, filthy, defilement, of evil spirits, lewd.

(With thanks to the “Interlinear Greek-English New Testament”)

Put them together and the meaning becomes crystal clear.

This man’s soul was filthy, rotten dirty to the core.

Perhaps Mark doesn’t identify him by name to spare him from future embarrassment.

Anger and rage defined his character.  

He was obsessed with evil memories and thoughts.

His heart was at war with God.

As a result, he was at war with others and at war with the world.

The man with the unclean spirit was trapped in impossible bondage.

He was a slave to sin,

Incapable of saving himself.

He was fighting the very one who had the ability to save him.

The problem with having an unclean spirit

Is there isn’t any room for the Holy Spirit.

For God to enter in,

The dirt needs to get hoed out.

Living with or accommodating an unclean spirit is not sustainable.

Quality of life suffers.

Families and communities suffer.

Truth suffers.

Fear, intimidation, and threats of violence becomes the new normal.

Paranoia flows like mighty rivers where the righteousness of Amos once did.

Time eventually runs out.

Raging people are at risk of ending up prematurely dead,

Emotionally dead, spiritually dead, even physically dead

Due to a heart attack, stroke, revenge, or karma.

“All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” Jesus observed.

(Matthew 26:52)

Jesus rescues this unnamed man from his impossible bondage

Created and imposed on him by his unclean spirit.

“Be silent, and come out of him!” Jesus rebuked.

Jesus rebuked not the man, but his unclean spirit.


All that was unclean about that man’s spirit

Submitted to the command and authority of Jesus.

Jesus silenced it.

Jesus exorcized it.

Out it came.

Jesus won.

All the dirt.

All the sin.

Everything came out,

Making room for the Holy Spirit to fill the void.

The point to be made

Is that Jesus, and only Jesus,

Has the ability to exercise and destroy unclean spirits.

Christ alone breaks the chains of sin and death.

Christ alone rescues us from impossible bondage.

Christ alone can save us.

Jesus wins.

Each of us harbor unclean spirits from time to time.

Think of it as a sliding scale between zero and ten.

We oscillate somewhere between wholly sinful and complete perfection.

Dwelling too long or too deep

In impurity, defilement, and filth

Hardens one and

Makes it more difficult to break out,

To break the will of the unclean spirit.

Don’t allow yourself to become a chronic case of anger, rage, or obsession.

Resolve to break free of every unclean spirit,

Great and small, in your life.

Some, you may be able to break free on your own.

There may be some sins or impurities in your life so great that

It becomes impossible to free yourself.

That’s why we have a Savior.

Ask Jesus to rescue you from the impossible bondage of sin and death.

And he will.

Allow the Holy Spirit to replace the impurity that once polluted you,

To take up residence,

To abide in your life.

The benefits?

Peace replaces the war that raged in your heart.

Love overcomes hate.

Faith wins over fear.

I invite each of us to self-reflection,

To ask, “what defiles me?”

“What makes me unclean?”

“What does damage to God?”

I think of messages of hypocrisy,

Such as road rage perpetrated by a driver of a car covered with Christian bumper stickers.

I think of inconsistency between what is said and what is done,

Such as the leader of a morality caucus being caught in a moral scandal.

I think of the athlete who thanks God for a good game on Sunday

Only to be arrested for illegal behavior on Monday.

I think of renouncing racism on one day and

Not challenging a racist comment the next.

Are there places in my life of inconsistency or hypocrisy

That need to be exercised?

“What makes me unclean that needs to be exercised out of me?”

I think of the seven deadly sins;

Behaviors or feelings that inspire further sin.








There is much to be considered here.

I temper what I can,

And ask Jesus to help with the rest.

In my experience

Jesus rescues me when I’ve been caught in impossible bondage

Just as he rescued the man in the Capernaum synagogue.

I just need to ask him for the help.

What do you say?  

Can you ask Jesus for help?

Will you allow Christ to rescue you, too?


“The Price of Discipleship”

Mark 1:14-20

24 January 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

| Centering Prayer |

Jesus crossed a boundary

And I’m quite certain

Zebedee was not a happy camper.

I mean, what father in their right mind would be?

Walt Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci is a wonderful read.

As you probably know

Leonardo was a famous painter, inventor, and scientist;

Born in the village of Vinci, outside of Florence, Italy

In 1452,

He died in 1519,

502 years ago

At the age of 67.

Leonardo was truly a renaissance man,

Gifted with curiosity and imagination.

He was born out of wedlock,

The son of Piero da Vinci,

A local notary.

In those days and in that time,

A notary functioned much like a para-legal in a modern-day law office.

He wasn’t a full-fledged lawyer;

But, he was empowered with considerable legal responsibility.

Notaries were held in high esteem in Italian renaissance culture.

Proud fathers passed on their training and professional credentials

From generation to generation.

Piero was at least a fourth-generation notary.

Notaries belonged to guilds,

Who maintained very strict morality requirements.

Because of this,

The out-of-wedlock son, Leonardo,

Was freed from the expectation of

Training for a profession in the law.

The guild simply wouldn’t allow it.

The expectation was that the profession was to be bequeathed to a legitimate heir.

The call, apprenticeship, and profession of notary

Would eventually fall upon Leonardo’s yet-to-be-born, legitimate half-brother.

Leonardo was freed up for other, more worthwhile endeavors.

From father to son,

Expectations have ebbed and flowed for centuries.

I recall from my youth

The time when I first spoke with my father

About the possibility of being called to ordained ministry.

I was in my second year at Clarkson, studying engineering.

I loved the science, math, and computer programming.

Yet, there was something more to life,

Still unexplored,

That led me to question

God’s will for my future.

Dad was a second career United Methodist pastor.

When I broached the subject with him

I remember him shifting in his chair, pausing,

Frowning, and furrowing his bushy eyebrows.

Then he began to explain to me how difficult it can be

To be an ordained pastor.

It was as if he was trying to talk me out of it.

I gave it time.

We talked about it on several occasions.

He couldn’t dissuade me.

Then, something broke.

He shared with me about his wonderful seminary experience

At Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Dad encouraged me to immediately apply.

I recall vividly my astonishment at his near instant flip-flop.

I said to him “but, dad, I need to make my own way.”

(A comment my own son has said to me).

“Yep. I understand,” he admitted.

A son needs to make his own way.

From father to son,

Expectations have ebbed and flowed for centuries.

We can only imagine the conversation in the boat that day

Following a night of fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Zebedee and his two sons, James and John,

Were mending their nets.

It was a routine every morning;

Repair the rips and tears from the previous evening.

Depending on the time of year and amount of overcast,

It could have been blazing hot or bone chilling cool.

If it was anything like a recently excavated first century fishing boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee,

Zebedee, James, and John would have been

Mending, working, cleaning, and carrying on

In a boat dragged on shore

That was 27 feet long and nearly 8 feet wide;

A considerable boat, indeed.

The boat represented the family business,

The primary capital investment,

Passed on from father to son,

From generation to generation.

Small talk and idle conversation

Was interrupted by an approaching stranger.

Jesus appeared to know them

Even though there is no evidence

That any of the three had ever met him.

The invitation “Follow me”

Shattered generational expectations

With revolutionary thunder.

The world would never be the same.

A new reality was at hand.

Zebedee was one who learned early on in Christ’s ministry

That Incarnation comes at a price.

Undoubtedly, he would have been thinking

“Where in ‘Honor thy mother and father’ does the Ten Commandments

Allow honorable sons to go tramping off

With the first stranger who says ‘Follow me’”?

Zebedee was left in a lurch!

He had nets to mend,

Fish to catch,

Bills to pay,

A business to run,

A family to feed!

And his two sons up and leaves him?

Zebedee wasn’t the first to bear the weight of God incarnate.

The Gospel of Matthew reported the slaughter of the innocents;

Certainly their grief filled parents would have understood

That Incarnation comes at a price.

Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt until Herod’s death

And it was safe to return home.

Certainly they understood

That the Incarnation of Jesus Christ comes at a price.

The Gospel of Mark,

In which we will spend considerable time over the course of this next year,

Paints a less than rosy picture of what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus.

The job description isn’t at all attractive.

The pay positively stinks, and

The pay is usually non-existent!

When Jesus calls the twelve on the mountain top in the third chapter of Mark,

His call is three-fold:

1. To remain with him.

2. To go out and preach.

3. And take his authority and cast out demons.

(Mark 3:14-15)

The first two requirements for discipleship are straight forward.

It’s the third that catches my attention.

The cost of the Incarnation for our Lord’s new disciples

Was to be an exorcist!

Who’s up for a good case of exorcism?

This is your chance to look the devil directly in the eye,

Call out Beelzebul by name,

And cast Satan out of every possessed Tom, Dick, and Harry

Spitting up pea soup and jerking with eye-rolling seizures.

Any volunteers?

The line forms here.

Not many applicants?

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ comes at a price.

There is a cost to discipleship.

It’s not free.

Neither is it cheap.

The faint of heart need not apply.

Still early on in Jesus’ ministry

His own mother and brothers call Jesus home.

You can understand their concern, can’t you?

You know how gossip spreads.

Word travels through small towns.
Jesus was preaching, teaching, healing, exorcising demons.

He was tramping around the countryside,

Attracting crowds and crowds and crowds of

Seekers, the curious, and the desperate.

Jesus hears that his family is calling him home.

“Who are my mother and brothers?” Jesus asks

“And looking at those who sat around him, he said,

‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 

Whoever does the will of God

is my brother and sister and mother.’”

(Mark 3:34-35)

So much for family values!

The price of discipleship depresses the value of the biological family

And inflates the value of those who do the will of God.

Those who do the will of God are considered by Jesus to be his family.

It’s no wonder Jesus’ own flesh and blood

Are whipped up in homicidal rage and

Attempt to throw him off a cliff.

(Luke 4:29)


God in the flesh,

Comes to the world,

Paying a price for our redemption and our salvation.

At the same time,

The world has a price to pay

To become his disciples,

To discern His will,

And to follow in His ways.

It’s evident that Jesus wants followers even more than believers.

Belief and faith will come later.

“Follow me,” is our Lord’s invitation today.

The price to pay for following Jesus is more than

Dropping your nets and

Leaving behind your dad, family business, and expected inheritance.

The price to pay for following Jesus is more than

Disappointing your biological father and mother.

The price to pay for following Jesus is

First, deny yourself.

Second, take up your cross.

Then, come and follow me.

(Mark 8:34)

Following Jesus, God Incarnate, comes at a price.

We see over the next three years of Jesus’ ministry,

Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension

The disciples struggle to come to terms

With paying the price of discipleship.

The disciples of Jesus live in denial,

Wanting to shout down Jesus’ promise of suffering,

Substituting in their own delusions of grandeur –

That one-day Jesus would ascend the throne.

Peter names Jesus as the Son of Man in one breath

Only to deny ever knowing him nearly a fortnight later.

When confronted with the call of Jesus to come and follow him,

To hang your hat on his Incarnation,

To assemble in line with this thing called “Christianity,”

It is important to enter discipleship with eyes wide open.

There is a new reality at hand.

Life as you and I used to know

Will be no more.

God has turned the world upside down.

God isn’t afraid of crossing boundaries;

In fact, at the very moment of conversion,

The Lord begins to make a habit of crossing boundaries.

Christ enters your life,

Turns over your tables,

And tramps mud all over your beautiful new carpets.

The emotional swell at the concluding verse of “Here I Am, Lord”

Has barely started to wane,

When the new reality of the price that must be paid

Is laid out in spades:

“You want me to do WHAT?”

“You have got to be kidding!”

“Jesus, you’ve got to be out of your ever-living tree!”

Yes, Jesus wants us to be his recruiters,

To bring to him new candidates for discipleship.

Jesus expects us

To teach his new disciples everything,


Everything we’ve ever learned about Him;

And, yes, Jesus wants us to pay for it, too.

Yes, Jesus wants to teach you and me about radical hospitality.

Jesus expects us to open our homes and our church

And to practice hospitality that knows no bounds.

Unlock the doors and

Open the cupboards,

Set the table and start cooking!

Clean the carpets,

Make the bed,

Tidy up and make necessary repairs.

Open the curtains,

Let the sun shine in,

And welcome the world to

Enter into God’s grace.

Anticipate the need.

Meet the need.

Exceed the need.

Do so, without being asked, and on our own dime.

Yes, Jesus wants us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

Yes, away the sword,

Reject violence and oppression where ever they present themselves,

And to only follow Him.

Learn and practice His ways of non-violence.

Speak up and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.

Take a stand and make a stand.

Do it in the name of Jesus.

Be willing to pay the price,

And when the bill comes due,

Pick up the tab.

Yes, Jesus wants us to gather every Sabbath day,

To be with Him,

To proclaim His Word,

To celebrate His Sacrament.

Others may laugh and ridicule us.

“We’ve got better things to do Sunday mornings,” they may chide.

So be it.

Let our Savior’s love shine through

our smile,

our gentleness,

our grace,

our every response.

Sometimes I wonder if any sane person,

Who knew the true cost of discipleship before being called

Would still step forward and say, “Here I am, Lord.”

It amazes me that people answer the call.

It amazes me that people are willing to drop their nets and still follow Jesus.

The fact that new disciples are answering the call everyday

Convinces me

Of God’s continued presence,

Of God’s active participation,

And of God’s absolute power of conviction.

God isn’t afraid of upsetting the apple cart,

Stepping on toes, or

Ruffling a few tailfeathers.

Once the Lord calls you, there is no letting go.

Once the Lord claims you, you are transformed into

God’s forever.

Incarnation comes at a price.

Once we answer the call,

The price must be paid.

Are you with me?

Let’s do this together.


“Stand Up, Step Up”

14th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr Celebration for the Henrietta and Rush Communities

January 14, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor, Rush United Methodist Church

(Centering Silence)

Thank you to the leaders of the Interracial Clergy Council, the Town of Henrietta, and the Rush-Henrietta Central School District for the privilege to speak at this wonderful celebration. I am humbled. When asked two months ago, I felt terribly unqualified. This has led me into a season of reflection, discernment, and prayer about race, equality, and justice.

I invite you to ask of yourselves the same questions I have been asking myself recently:

  • Where have I come from and how has God shaped me in my cultural development?
  • What is my role today; to march? To preach? To teach, or, pray from the sidelines?
  • Where am I called to right the wrong of racial inequality for a better world tomorrow?

Over the years, I’ve learned and grown in cultural competency. Some growth has been painful. Other times I’ve been gob-smacked with an unforgettable insight. I’m a work in progress; so be patient with me and accept my forgiveness when I sin. I’ve tried to make every cultural growth experience an opportunity to make new friends.

Born white, living in a white environment, I remember the day Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated. I went outside, stood facing the garage and wept. As a first grader, I was perceptive enough to know that the man who had gifted the world with the beautiful “I Have a Dream” speech before the Lincoln Memorial, the one who insisted on non-violence always, everywhere, without exception, was the one silenced by the violence of a gunshot, the angry voice of bigotry.  

I began to realize that the world is not squared with what was being taught in Sunday School class.

A few years later, I found myself at Summer church camp in a cabin with intercity kids. Other than the college age counselor, we were the only Caucasians in the room. Not only was this my first exposure to people of color, I was the minority. I slept on the hat rack in the cabin because I was afraid to sleep on my bunk. I experienced five days of racial fear, simply due to my own ignorance and lack of exposure to cultural diversity. I cannot comprehend living a lifetime of fear simply because of the color of your skin, the way one talks, or a person’s family background.

“Comfort my people,” the Lord instructs the prophet Isaiah. “Do not be afraid!” an angel of the Lord tells Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a middle school student, I remember the difficulty reconciling in my mind the reality of cultural inequality with God’s desire for people to not live in fear. Treat people justly and people live without fear.

College was just as white to me as public school. Where were people of color? I saw them on the evening news fighting the war in Vietnam. White commanders got interviewed. Black soldiers took orders and got shot up. The question in my teenaged mind was as black and white as the daily newspaper: why? Regrettably, the obvious injustice was a dis-incentive for me to serve in the military.

Martin Luther King, Jr came back into my life. I found myself standing before his statue outside the doors of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, where he earned his doctorate. As I read his inspiring words from the pedestal, I came to an awareness that God was also calling me into ordained ministry. Thank you, Doctor King.

I moved to Dayton, Ohio, for seminary. It was a cultural wake up call. White people lived on the East side. Black people lived on the West. The seminary was on the West side of town. Crime and cops were everywhere. You could cut the racial tension with a knife. I was afraid every time I left my apartment or campus. Fear was chronic. Fear was pervasive. This was not the way God intended for people to live.

I interned at a large community mental health agency staffed by people of diversity. One of my supervisors was a woman of color with a doctoral degree in psychology. She patiently taught and shaped me for three years. What a saint! Co-workers were gay, straight, brown, white, tall, short, and everything in between … just like the people we served. Even the agency’s Board of Directors were diverse. They looked like the staff and the community. I learned that it takes a diversity of people to serve a diverse community.

I was exposed to cliental who, through no fault of their own, were born with the wrong DNA, in the wrong place, or in the wrong circumstance, leaving them fighting chronic mental illness and addiction problems every waking day.

Life isn’t fair. But injustice isn’t a license to be judgmental. People are more than a diagnosis, treatment history, or the number of suicide attempts, I was taught. Broad brush assumptions were nearly always wrong and led to poor outcomes.

Treat once another with respect. Respect becomes the open door into people’s lives. Every person has a name. Everyone has a story. “Listen and learn, Todd. Listen and learn.”

Dayton, Ohio, taught me something else. I observed that even in the poorest neighborhoods, there were community leaders who stood up, spoke out, and led efforts to create positive change. These shining stars were often women of color. Most were women of faith. These were the change agents who made for great collaborators and strong community leaders. All led with love, and in return, were dearly loved. Too bad we don’t ordain, promote, or elect more women of color.   

20 years of pastoring in lily white communities set me culturally backwards. I resented attending required competency training for clergy. I thought I knew it all. Unless challenged, I failed to thrive. I grew crusty and blind to injustice and oppression happening right in front of my eyes. I left racism unchallenged. I preached Gospel, but skirted common narratives of race, exclusion, or injustice.

You can’t preach about the Good Samaritan if you don’t address the issue of race.

The only way for me to grow in cultural competence is to force myself out of my safe, comfortable suburban neighborhood into a culturally diverse setting. I went on mission trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala, fearful at first, growing more comfortable with each return. Service to others became my classroom for deepening empathy and understanding. Serve and grow! It is better than the alternative!

God blessed me with another mentor and friend named Ralph; a decorated Vietnam veteran, retired Kodak executive, and head of the Deacon Board of a large, historically black Baptist church. I was passionate to collaborate. Nothing I could do would even get me an introduction with the pastor.

“We need what you have to offer,” my friend confessed to me one day over lunch. “You just can’t deliver it.”

“Why?” I asked dumbfounded.

“A black church will listen to a black deacon, but not a white preacher.”

That day, we teamed up to deliver cross-cultural education. He would recruit and teach in black churches. I would do the same in white congregations. I’d be his cheerleader in the back pew. And Ralph became mine. We even expanded our educational opportunities to members of Spanish and Russian speaking communities.

I learned that collaboration requires investment in skills and talents, and, investment in relationships. Ralph remains one of my closest friends.

Last year I was privileged to attend Shane Wiegand’s excellent seminar “History of Segregation and Racist Policy in Greater Rochester.” The Rush Henrietta School District is blessed to have Shane as a teacher. I was stunned to learn of local practices of red lining real estate; about racial, exclusionary covenants written into property deeds; and mortgage inequalities for veterans of World War Two that have resulted in wealth in some families and poverty in others.

Wow! I was stunned. I learned you are never too old to learn and grow in cultural competence. The time is always right to rethink racism.

One last time I’d like to touch base with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In seminary I had read and wrote a paper on his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Wow! It was a game changer. At the time I thought it was worthy of addition as a new book of the Bible. Time passed. Memory faded the fullness of its power, conviction and intent, condemnation and brutal honesty. All that I could remember decades later is, “it was good. I ought to revisit it someday.”

What a blessing to reread Doctor King’s letter. He paints a portrait of America stained by injustice in need of a thorough cleansing. He called white moderates and clergy colleagues accountable for inaction or outright resistance to overturning injustice.

“Wait” is only an excuse to do nothing. He calls for non-violent activism to overturn unjust laws. He cites scholars and authors through the ages with brilliance. Dr. King describes how the oppressor objectifies the oppressed, decades before the “Me Too” movement.  Dr. King speaks the poetic words of the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? he challenges. Is your faith community simply “a recorder of ideas and principles of popular opinion”? Or is it “a thermostat that transforms the mores of society”? Be the change that God is calling you to be.

The goal of America in April 1963 was freedom. The protests this past Summer reminds us that the goal remains the same nearly six decades later. Our nation and our quality of life declines and dies with complacent inactivity whenever and where ever injustice remains.

In July I led an online class titled “Imagine No Racism” for my parish. I’m no expert. But I’m daring enough to host the conversation. And I just might learn something new, too.

I’ve grown, and continue to grow. I’ve fallen short and even regressed. For this, I repent, sought forgiveness, and tried to make progress once again. Friends, I’m living proof that if I am able to take two steps forward with only one step back, you can, too.

Stand up. Step up. Speak up. The direction we need to be headed is UP! Raise every mountain. Fill every valley. Pave a road upward, that all may be free. For freedom is “the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God.”


(All quotations are from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963)

“Come and See”

John 1:43-51

January 17, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 1:43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

| Centering Prayer |

He started with the Detroit Lions, but finished with the Cleveland Browns.

Now, a traveling evangelist,

It was as if

Billy Glass was speaking directly to me.

Jesus Christ was his Lord.

He invited me to come and see,

To make Jesus my Lord, too.

It didn’t matter that I was a preschool aged child.

I joined the crowd of people

Flowing to the altar in that outdoor amphitheater

Where I answered to call to follow Jesus.

A confession of Christ’s identity

With a simple, straight-forward invitation,

Was all it took to claim me as a disciple.

John the Baptist had his own disciples.

When he saw Jesus walk by

He speaks to his followers,

“Look, here is the Lamb of God!”


Look. Redirect your attention.

Lamb. A sacrificial animal

Believed to take away, or atone, a person of their sins.

John the Baptist witnessed to Christ,

The God of atonement.

John’s descriptive identification of Jesus was all it took

For two of his disciples to immediately decide

To terminate their discipleship of John

And to begin to follow Jesus.

A simple confession of Christ’s identity

Was all it took to make disciples.

Jesus asks the two un-named disciples

“What are you looking for?”

“Where are you staying?” they asked.

“Come and see.”

Come: follow me, and

See: observe. Take it all in.

They followed Jesus to where he was staying

And abided with him until late afternoon.

Come and see became for them

An offer to see Christ

With the eyes of faith.

(The New Interpreters Bible)

One of these two is identified as Andrew.

Andrew tells his brother, Simon, saying

“We have found the Messiah.”

Simon comes to meet Jesus.

Jesus immediately names him Cephas,

Translated as Peter, and

The rest is history.

A simple confession of Christ’s identity

Was all it took to make a disciple.

There seems to be a common thread here.

The call narrative of Christ’s first three disciples (1:35-42)

Immediately precedes our Gospel lesson today:

The call of Philip and Nathanael. (1:4351)


Rush, New York?




Hometown is as comfortable as well-worn bedroom slippers.

For Andrew, Peter, and Philip

Their hometown was Bethsaida,

A small, lake-side village on the Sea of Galilee.

It was little more than a crossroad,

An intersection for travelers from

One of the four points of the compass.

They probably grew up together,

Climbed the same trees and fished the same hotspots out on the lake.

They probably attended the same school and synagogue.

Possibly, Andrew and his brother Peter

Could have been Philip’s cousin.

Jesus comes to their hometown Bethsaida

From the lower Jordan valley

On his way to Cana, further north,

Where he and his mother had been

Invited to a wedding and reception.

Jesus finds Philip.

It is as if Jesus seeks him out.

It makes me wonder why Jesus chose Philip in the first place.

Ask yourself.

Did Jesus seek you out, or,

Did you find him, or,

Perhaps a combination of both?

Why you? Why me?

Why did Jesus choose us to be his disciples?

Jesus wastes no time.

No introduction.

No small talk about the weather.

He doesn’t ask.

Jesus straight-up bluntly tells Philip,

“Follow me.”

For Philip

The call to follow Jesus

Came as a command.

Perhaps some people can’t take a hint.

Whatever the reason,

Philip makes three.

He goes to Nathanael.

Who is Nathanael?

Brother? Friend? Relative of Philip?

We don’t know.

It makes simple sense to

First approach those closest to you.

Confess Jesus Christ.

Make them his disciples, too.

Philips confession to Nathanael is as straight-up as his call.

“We …” he begins.

(Jesus obviously introduced Philip to Andrew and Peter)

Here is the set up:

“We have found him about whom Moses in the law

And also the prophets wrote.”

Philip did see.

He took it all in and came to conclusion:

Think Messiah: God. Promise.

Think identification: “Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Think Nazareth: Blue collar. Construction. Manual labor.

You’ve got to be kidding.

The anticipated Messiah is a common stone mason or carpenter?

Philip takes the words right out of Jesus’ mouth,

“Come and see.”

Sometimes I don’t have the words,

Or the words come with great difficulty,

Or the words I use aren’t exactly the best words

And meaning or intent are obscured.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Come and see,

Jesus invited.

Come and see,

Philip urged Nathanael.

The Messiah language wasn’t working.

The Old Testament symbology of the fig tree didn’t cut it.

Moses in the law and the writings of the prophets

Covered too much territory.

Come and see.

Come is the invitation,

Best received when it comes from someone

That is known, trusted, loved.

Come is an action verb;

There is nothing passive about it.

In the Great Commission

Jesus instructs us to go and make disciples.

One disciple brings another to Jesus,

Who, in turn, brings others to Jesus.

Each disciple is charged to make the invitation:

Come and see.

See is the identification that results in conversion.

It isn’t your or my responsibility to convict or convert another;

God’s got that.

When one is placed in the presence of Christ,

Taught everything about Jesus that there is to teach,

Baptized by water and the Spirit,

Like the birthing of a baby,

A new follower of Jesus

Comes, sees, and believes.

A new disciple

Begins the journey.

The story of discipleship is incomplete

Until our witness,

Our invitation,

Brings others to Jesus Christ.

Some of us are curious.

That curiosity is a seed of faith planted by God.

Others of us have been invited,

But still find themselves sitting on the fence.

Not taking a position is to take a position.

Others have responded to the invitation to come, and

Now find themselves in the presence of Jesus

Soaking him all in,

Being filled with God’s Spirit and grace,

Primed for conversion into discipleship,

Ready to be shot out of the starting gate on the journey of faith.

Come and see.

Trust God’s process.

Answer the call.

Most of us, however, find ourselves on the journey;

Already convicted, converted, baptized, and

Someplace in-between baptism and eternal life.

It is our charge

To bring the next generation to meet Jesus.

It is our charge

To teach them all that Jesus has taught us.

Then trust.

Leave the rest up to God.

In my experience

Practice makes perfect.

It will be a bit awkward with the first couple of people.

In time, your words and actions will build confidence,

In yourself and in the invitation.

Dearly beloved

Make the invitation.

Keep making the invitation.

Don’t ever stop making the invitation.

“Come and see,” Jesus invited.

“Come and see,” Philip asked Nathanael.

“Come and see,” is the invitation you can use, too.