December 24, 2021
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
| Centering Prayer |
Intentional violations and
Unintentional violations of
God’s will or law.
Christ is come
Just as you have been redeemed
You might redeem another.
Is at work
In your mind
And in your heart
To bring absolution and forgiveness
To one who has sinned against you.
Who are you being called to forgive and redeem this Christmas Eve?
It was 6:00 am,
April 15, 1986
When my Plectron went off
Waking Cynthia and me.
The distinctive tones for our Fire Department dropped,
Followed by the familiar voice of the county fire dispatcher,
and the sound of the village siren beginning to spool up.
“Barn fire” I heard
As I threw on my coveralls and pulled on my boots.
The farm was identified by the family name.
I didn’t have to wait to hear the address.
The farm family was one of my church families.
In the pre-dawn hour
I ran across the street,
Through two back lots
And was first to the fire station.
Towering black smoke was already evident to the south.
I jumped in the driver seat of our 1972 Ford cab over pumper.
I was new, still wet behind the ears,
Recently completed “Pump Operator’s School.”
Fortunately, Bill, my church Lay Leader,
And a far more experienced volunteer jumped into the passenger seat.
“You got this, Todd,” he encouraged.
Off we sped,
Besting 20 miles per hour uphill,
Lights and siren in all its glory.
Departments across the county and in neighboring counties
Were being dispatched to provide tankers and water
Even before I arrived first in at the fire scene.
Volunteers arrived in private cars and pickups
Dawned protective equipment
Ran into the burning barn to save cattle and equipment.
I set about priming the pump,
And charging them with water.
I only had 1,000 gallons.
Enough to last seconds once the water began to flow.
“Put the wet stuff on the red stuff,”
As they say.
A portable pond appeared, set up, and I connected my hard suction
To quench the thirst of my voracious pump.
A parade of tankers appeared arriving on the road
Dumping thousands of gallons at a time
Trying to keep up.
It wasn’t to be.
The Fire Chief,
The Chairperson of my Board of Trustees,
came over to me with a replacement pump operator.
“Pastor,” he said as he looked and pointed at the family home across the road,
“I think you’re more needed over there.”
“Come in, pastor,” I was welcomed
In response to my knock on the door.
At the dinning room table sat the family,
Mom, Dad, son, and daughter.
Also sitting at the table
Was a sheriff deputy,
A good United Methodist from a neighboring parish.
The mood was grim.
The sheriff’s questions were gentle but direct.
I could see where this was going.
The boy, I’m guessing eight years of age, or so,
Came round to explain.
The prior evening,
He and some friends were playing in the barn,
Making little fires,
But quickly putting them out.
Or so they thought.
The realization that he had burnt down his daddy’s barn
Quickly flashed across his face.
Cheeks drained of color.
His eyes filled with tears
And he ran to his room crying.
We sat there
In the long silence
When dad cleared his throat.
“I never told anyone,
And deputy, I hope you can forgive me,
But when I was my son’s age
I accidently burned down one of my daddy’s barns.”
We could still hear the sobs coming from the boy’s bedroom.
“Dad,” I began
Covering my inexperience with whatever confidence I could find,
“The one who needs to hear your story is in his bedroom crying.”
“He needs to be redeemed by his father.”
Vulnerable unlike any time before
Redeems his son,
In an act of love
That first came to the world
With the birth of the baby Jesus.
The Creator of all things,
Born an infant,
Dependent on the love of a human mother and betrothed father.
God’s love incarnate,
In the flesh,
Comes to the world,
Not to condemn the world for our sins,
But that all the world might be redeemed and saved.
That is God’s amazing grace,
Unmerited, unlimited love.
I leave you with the question I earlier asked:
Just as our Heavenly Father
Sent his Son to redeem and save the world,
Just as a farming father
Redeemed his 8-year-old son
With his own confession and forgiveness,
is God working through you
to redeem and save this Christmas?
Christ will come again, we boldly proclaim!
When he does, what will he find?
Our transgressors bitter and alienated?
Ourselves stubbornly dug in
Refusing to apologize
For the transgression
We’ve used to hurt others?
When Christ returns
Will he find people hungry and homeless
While we are full and cocooned inside our safe, warm, houses?
When Christ returns
Will he find us divided by racism, oppression, injustice?
Will he find a world of violence and inequality?
Will he find mercy missing in action
Surrounded by unnecessary suffering and pain?
The baby Jesus
Is God’s invitation
To you and me,
To swallow our pride,
Get over ourselves,
Roll up our sleeves,
And make right
all the wrongs in our life …
wrongs we’ve committed and
those committed against us.
Christ’s birth is God’s effort to redeem the world,
A reminder that
each of us
have a necessary role to play
as his disciples.
Beloved, the ball is in your court.
The Lord is working you hard.
Who will you redeem?
Who will you save?