“The Only Constant in Life”

Luke 9:28-36

February 27, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. 

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

| Centering Prayer |

I’m getting my taxes prepared March 25th.

I’m hoping for the best

But bracing for the worst.

It reaffirms one of many axioms of life to be true:

The only certainty in life is death and taxes!

Luke’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus

Reminds me of two additional axioms of life and faith:

The only absolute in life is the absolute love of God.

And, the only constant in life is the constant state of change.

Transfiguration, by definition is

“a complete change

In form or appearance

Into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” (Google Dictionary)

Something in Jesus changes.

Physically he changes.

Visually he changes.

The trajectory of his purpose, motive, and methods change.

I boldly suggest that the arc of God’s intervention in salvation history changes.

The Gospel invites us to keep pace with this change.

Are we up to the task?

Since Christmas, we have been following Jesus

Almost exclusively traveling throughout Galilee,

His hometown province in northern Israel.

Jesus launched his ministry of preaching, teaching, exorcism, and healing.

We remember how the ministry of Jesus began,

With his baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We recall Jesus calling his first disciples from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

He orients them, instructs them, and prepares them to become apostles.

To this day, the Church draws heavily from Jesus’ Galilean ministry

To prepare people for a life of discipleship.

This is Christianity 101.

Word of mouth

Is the highest form of evangelism.

The presence and actions of Jesus draws a crowd.

Of course it would:

The world is in search of healing.

Just look at our long list of prayer concerns.

The world longs to learn the Word,

The truth about God,

Not some rigid fundamentalist rant.

A diverse crowd assembles,

Drawn like metal filings to a magnet.

The crowd included Jews and Gentiles,

Dark skinned, mixed race Samaritans from the South and

Caucasian, worldly Greeks from the North.

All surged to touch him, that they may be healed.

All crowded closes to hear and learn from Jesus.

Jesus ministered to every last one of them.

Jesus was preaching from the barrel,

Teaching his familiar Beatitudes.

Jesus preached truth.

What he taught was explosive, revolutionary, a complete reversal of the world’s order.

What Jesus taught reveals the details

Of a loving and gracious God,

Deeply invested in life and relationships.

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

The mountain air was charged with electrons.

All that was needed was

A divine touch.

The moment was electric.

Jesus makes the pivot

In dazzling light.

Once the ozone cleared,

God’s arc of salvation history would begin to play out:





Followed by, as so eloquently described in the Gospel of Luke / Acts,

The coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of

The Spirit led, empowered Church.

To prepare for the monumental changes that Jesus enacts,

He takes Peter, James, and John on a prayer retreat.

They go to a near-by mountain top.

Being on top of a mountain frames the perception that one is near God.

Lisa, our in-house real estate agent would affirm the importance of

Location! Location! Location!

Good call, Jesus.

Just like all mountain top experiences in life,

One can not live at the peek for long:

Mountain tops are barren, windswept, and devoid of water.

The air is thin.

Mountain tops are cold, often overcast, and rushed:

One has to get down from the mountain before daylight is lost.

Jesus prays.

Peter, James, and John claim they were “just resting their eyes.”

Actually, they peek.

Reminiscent of a burning bush,

God’s presence is made known

When the appearance of his face changed

And his cloths became dazzling white.


The whole manifestation of God in Jesus Christ his Son,

Confirms to a world languishing in sin and brokenness

That something new is in the making.

Epiphany! God with us, doing something new!

Moses appears before their eyes;

The first prototype sent by God

On a mission

To deliver to the world the gift of Law,

That the world might be saved from sin.

God desires the world to be saved from sin.

But as each successive wave of judges

Attempted to rule as God’s representatives,

Each judge sunk deeper into corruption, sin, and death.

(See the Biblical book of Judges)

Elijah appears before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.

Elijah is the forerunner,

Historically the next divine initiative

To warn the world of their sin

And to call the sinful to repentance.

The prophetic age used chosen individuals

To serve as God’s spokespersons

That the world may be saved by the repentance of sin.

God desires the world to be saved from sin.

Moses and Elijah together with Jesus;

The Messiah,

The circle of salvation is completed.

God steps directly onto the world stage

In the person of Jesus Christ.

Moses, Elijah, and now Jesus.

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

It’s happening right before our eyes.

Luke is the only account of the Transfiguration to reports the content of their conversation:

“They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure,

When he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (9:31)

Already, Luke is one step ahead.

In hindsight, our Gospel author tells us that

God’s unfolding plan was never to stop

With death and resurrection.

God intended to send the gift of the Holy Spirit

To guide and empower us post-ascension,

After Jesus left with the promise to return.

God completely ignores Peter’s offer to Jesus

To draw out this moment of Epiphany.

The Lord doesn’t play fetch when it comes to

Our will, petitions, or prayers.

The Lord always acts

In God’s own time

In God’s own ways

According to God’s greater plans.

Note to self: playing fetch with God

Ends with a discouraged, shallow faith,

Feelings like you’re being ignored, and

Becoming ultimately frustrated.

I’d suggest that

Telling God what to do

Is irreverent, at best,

Idolatrous, at worst.

God doesn’t fetch.

God speaks from a cloud

With familiar, often repeated words,

“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (9:35b)

Reminiscent of his baptism,

Jesus emerges into the newest era of life

With the same divine words that ushered in his first calling.

Jesus is clearly identified to Peter, John, and James

Who he is: God’s son, the anticipated Messiah, and

By what authority Jesus has license to act.

When Jesus speaks,

God is doing the talking.

When Jesus speaks,

God is doing the talking.

Better pay close attention.

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

Jesus is transfigured from a teaching, preaching, healing, ministering Son of God

To a more beautiful, spiritual state.

Jesus is transfigured into

God on a mission

To bring redemption and salvation into the world;

God on a mission

To send the Holy Spirit to guide and develop

God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

Individual salvation breaks open a new divine reality;

That God intends to save the collective whole

God intends to save the world.

God doesn’t exclude.

God leaves no one behind.

Nothing can separate you or me

From the love of God

Through Jesus Christ.

This change in God’s approach

Is dramatically revealed this coming week.

The Church likewise pivots from Epiphany to Lent.

The Ash Wednesday worship experience

Hits us with startling, mortal abruptness:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

Spoken as ashes are imposed.

Yet, the anxiety of change is tempered

By the enduring axiom of God’s





A living, breathing, resilient Church

Must be willing to pivot when God pivots.

The Church has endured much change down through the centuries.

Early apostles gathered to deal with how to fund the spread of Christianity.

Early Church leaders divided into East and West over beliefs, rule, and the wording of creeds.

Our Western Church divided again over the abuses of clergy and distorted doctrines.

Our Protestant heritage is marked with change

As there has been further division into denominations.

There will certainly be future divisions.

Will we pivot with God

Or will we cling to our former ways

And want to return to Egypt?

In our Wesleyan heritage

Change took place over issues of slavery,

The Sunday School movement, and

The Social Gospel movement.

Attendance and participation has ebbed and flowed,

Sometimes dramatically.

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

United Methodist are teetering on the precipice of change.

At the last United Methodist General Conference

We decided to stay the course,

To exclude our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

How’d that work out?

Everyone lost.

The issue is a growing theological fist fight since 1976

(and before).

We are good at kicking the can four years down the road

until our next General Conference.  

The Church will continue to lose

Until the decision is made

Collectively and individually

To boldly go where God is calling:

Unified by Christ.

An end to the fight.

A peaceable separation.


God always shows up.

The mercy and love of God is with those who are hurt

Even as the future remains clouded in a fog of mystery.

If only answers came easily.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus reassures on numerous occasions.

Do not be afraid of change.

Do not be afraid of adapting to change.

Change is coming from both within and from outside

The Church of Jesus Christ.

To believe in a relational God and

to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior,

It is helpful to be aware of how God responds to the needs of the world.

Jesus changed at his transfiguration.

God changes to meet the needs of a needy world.

To keep in relationship with God,

We, too, must be willing to adjust course.

We, too, must be willing to leave the familiar Galilee behind

And journey with Jesus to Jerusalem,

To the cross and

To the tomb.

To keep moving towards Jesus,

We must move.

We must allow God to transfigure us.

Transfiguration is hard.

It requires us to give up the old, familiar, comfortable ways.

It forces us to trust in the Lord,

That the new and uncharted path down which we are being led,

Is indeed, the will and way of the Lord.

Transfiguration is frightening.

I don’t know what the new me will look like

Or where God will be calling me.

Transfiguration is uncertainty.

Through all the whirlwind of change

One thing remains firm, solid, and absolute:

The love of God.

God loves you.

God loves all children.

God created.

God continues to create.

Nothing stays the same.

Indeed, the only constant in life is change.

Jesus changed right before the eyes of his closest disciples.

He changed from being a preacher and miracle worker

Into Messiah, God’s chosen,

Redeemer and Savior of the world.

Jesus changes from life, to death, to resurrection, to Holy Spirit.

So too are we called to change;

To draw closer in our journey with Jesus Christ,

To respond to God’s evolving plan,

Bringing His kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Are you up to the challenge?


“Do Unto Others”

Luke 6:27-38

February 20, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 6:27-38

“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

| Centering Prayer |

I’ve finally found a political party that I can support.

No. It’s not the Democrats.

Neither is it the Republicans.

Though I have a lot of Libertarian leanings, it is not the Libertarian party, either.

Socialist? Nope.

Communists? Heavens to Betsy, NO!

My politic is the Gospel.

I’d invite you to join me

In making the Gospel your politic, too.

I invite you to place Jesus Christ front and center in your life.

The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ.

With Jesus as the top priority,

All other concerns of the world are transformed and

Fall into place in God’s order:










All must be reconsidered and reprioritized.

All have their foundations rocked and upset by Good News.

All take their place in a supportive role for the priority:

The ministry, message, and promise of Jesus Christ.



Many individuals who decide to follow Jesus

Will look for a black-and-white list of rules to live by:

A Christian direction manual.

For many the Bible becomes this book of rules to be followed.

The Ten Commandment and the Beatitudes,

This Sermon on the Plain, as found in Luke,

Can be stripped down to bare bones

And reduced to a bulleted list.

These are the laws to live by.

These are the approved behaviors for Christian living.

Rules can only take you so far.

The problem with following a simple list of rules

Is that it stunts the growth of faith

And inhibits spiritual development.

Biblical inconsistencies undermine a fundamentalist belief.

We get stuck in the quagmire of righteousness and judgment.

Judgment and fear become the quicksand of a dead-end, failed faith.

When we become followers of rules

Instead of followers of Jesus

Rules become the new idolatry.

The Good News of Jesus Christ,

His mercy and grace,

Is drowned out by the noise of schism, inquisition, exorcism, and death.

Come with me, if you dare,

And let us discern Gospel more deeply.

Keep the rules, yes,

But let us draw a little bit closer to Jesus, if you dare.



Many Christians will experience

Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain

And say to ourselves, “Oh, boy.”

“I’m not worthy.”

“I don’t love enough.”

“I’m miserly and don’t like sharing.”

“I’m not merciful to others.”

“I’m way too judgmental of others.”

Others will say to themselves, “Yep, that’s me.”

“I try to love everyone.”

“I’m generous.”

“I’m merciful.”

“I try to be non-judgmental.”

“I try to forgive.”

Jesus is calling this diverse crowd of followers,

Gathered on the coastal plain,

Straining to hear his words and to be healed by his touch,

To ask themselves

“Am I living up to God’s expectations?”

“Am I living up to God’s expectations?”

You and me;

How are we doing?

Are we living up to God’s expectations

As outlined and taught by Jesus?

It’s nearly impossible to talk about enemies

Without militaristic testosterone laden bravado.

Talking about those who hate and curse you

Brings up painful memories of being bullied and humiliated.

Speaking about those who abuse you

Will be different for survivors of sexual abuse or rape

Than it is for those who’ve never been assaulted.

Abuse opens pandora’s box of pain and trauma.


Can’t be an all-or-nothing proposition.

If it was,

Every one of us would come up short.

Love comes from God.

God’s expectation is that disciples of Christ

Are called to spread this love throughout every area of life,

Like smoothing cement from a concrete pour into every area of the form,

Or spreading icing completely covering a cake.

We are called to spread God’s love into every human relationship,

Starting with the easy,

Eventually smoothing love into the most

Painful, shameful, hurtful, broken areas of life.

Loving the easy makes it easier to love the less-than-easy.

Loving the less-than-easy makes it easier to love the hard.

Loving the hard makes it easier to love the enemy,

Those who hate and curse you,

Even those who’ve scared you with the shame of abuse.

Are we living up to God’s expectations, as Jesus taught?

Let’s talk about mercy.

How merciful are we towards others in this world?

Do we do good to those who are less fortunate than we are?

Are we generous,

to a fault?

Are we generous,

until it hurts?

Do we work to bring relief to those imprisoned by barriers and circumstances beyond their control?

Are we committed to serve, rather than being served?

Are we all in

Righting injustice and ending oppression?

Like love, mercy is an essential, core characteristic

Of our loving God,

Placed on display for all the world to see,

In the life and actions of Jesus.

How can you and I expand our capacity for mercy?

How can we expand our capacity for mercy?

The first place to start is to get off the couch,

Get out of the sanctuary,

Roll up the sleeves and get our hands dirty in the mission field.



Take a meal, deliver a meal.

Sort, sew, pack, and send.

Muck out, rebuild, and do it in the name of Jesus.

That is the intersection of mercy and love.


What’s at stake?

There is more.

The expanse and depth of the Gospel politic knows no end.

I continue to discover more

Every day I immerse myself in the Good News.

Let’s examine what is at stake here.

For Jesus the stakes weren’t simply

If people believed him or not.

The stakes of the Gospel ended up getting him murdered.

Jesus was crucified because of the Good News,

Because the norms of this world are upset.

The Gospel is revolutionary.

The primary sign of what is at stake in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Is when the world pushes back;

When resistance rears its ugly head.

Resistance is always a sign of God’s presence, work, and will.

The hometown congregation threw Jesus out of the Synagogue.

Jesus was criticized by authorities for healing on the Sabbath and

Violating numerous other Jewish Laws.

Jesus upset cash flow, the Temple treasury, and angered the Finance Team.

Organized religion pushed back, using Rome as their blunt instrument.

Arrest, suffering, trial, humiliation, and death was intended

To put Jesus into the tomb

and keep him there,

once and for all.

We all know that’s not how it ended.

God always triumphs over resistance.

Good News proclaims redemption and salvation.

Good News paints a picture for what living in God’s kingdom looks like.

Our partnership with God and with one another

Is at stake moving forward

In our faithful effort to discern and follow God’s will,

As we engage in the sacred task of kingdom building.

Do unto others:

How we treat others


How we treat others

Dives to the core of the Christian experience

And maturing faith.

God’s kingdom is a land at peace,

Where love and mercy abide,

Where judgment is replaced by acceptance and inclusion.

Expect resistance in our work of kingdom building,

Even as Jesus was resisted.





Thus it is with Luke’s sermon on the plain.

Jesus invites us to grow deep,

To mature beyond living by rules.

Jesus invites us to grow deep,

To explore, develop, and mature our faith.

Jesus invites us to grow deep,

To come into God’s season

In God’s due time.


“Blessings and Woes on the Plain”

Luke 6:17-26

13 February 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 6:17-26

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

| Centering Prayer |

A friend and colleague of mine

Was telling me about a lunchtime conversation

She had with the highly acclaimed professor

of preaching and worship, Fred Craddock.

She asked if it was ever acceptable to preach the same sermon

As one delivered in a prior parish.

Professor Craddock replied with a smile,

“If it was good enough to preach it the first time,

It should be good enough to deliver it a second.”

Indeed, I have found

Gospel truth is eternal.

The core, raw exegesis never changes.

Update the context,

Modify the message to fit the life stories of the audience,

Draw out the essential truth,

Make the challenge, and

I’m good to go

For another Sunday in the pulpit.

My message today is original this week,

Though Jesus’s sermon probably wasn’t.

Like every good preacher,

Like circuit riders of old,

We suspect Jesus had a number of good sermons

That he would update,

Modify to fit the audience and circumstances,

And reuse.

The Sermon on the Plane is one of them.

The Gospel of Luke reports

The Beatitudes, or blessings,

Were delivered to

Both his disciples and

A multitude of people.

The crowd is diverse,

Mostly Jews from Judea and Jerusalem and

Gentiles from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

A modified version of Jesus’s Beatitudes

is found in Matthew, chapter 5.

There, Jesus retreats from the crowds,

Went up a mountain, and

Taught only his disciples.

Instead of the four blessings

Delivered in Luke,

Jesus uses the private, intimate setting of a mountain top

To expand his blessings to nine.

Two different settings.

Two different audiences.

The same, essential Gospel truth.

A few thoughts.

1. What brings you to Jesus?

Last Sunday I asked if someone was

Sent by God,

To fish for you,

Catch you, and

Reel you in,

and land you at the feet of Jesus.

A good fisherman can do that.

Yet, the Gospel of Luke today

Paints a more complete palate of

What motivated individuals

From all kinds of backgrounds

To travel great distances

To place themselves

On that flat plane

In a crowd

Surrounding Jesus.

Some came to hear him preach.

– Luke 6:18

They longed for the Word,

Christ’s essential truth,

God’s message and will

For the transformation of the world.

Some were sick

And came to be healed of their diseases.

– Luke 6:18

The sick gathered,

Despite social quarantine laws,

Because they believed Jesus could heal them.

Others were troubled with unclean spirits.

– Luke 6:18

Troubled emotionally?

As in having a mental health crisis?

Or having a chronic mental illness?


Or being possessed by unclean spirits?

As in having evil taking up residence,

Abiding in you

In place of Christ and his love

Abiding in you?

What brings you to Jesus?

The eternal truth of the Gospel?

Oh, how I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

And I hope you share my enthusiasm.

Are you sick? Like with an illness or disease?

Jesus can heal you,

According to God’s will.

You won’t get what you don’t ask for.

Make the spiritual trek.

Place yourself in the crowd.

Ask to be healed.

Christ heals to bring laser focused attention

To God’s love and compassion.

Those healed are expected to witness,

To testify

To the world what Christ,

The Great Physician,

Has done.

Are you troubled with unclean thoughts or spirits?

Touch Jesus

For power comes out of him.

Be cleansed.

Be healed.

Touching Jesus today

Implies an intimate relationship

With the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ,

The Church,

Is here to love and support you

And lead you to healing.

2. “Blessed are you who are poor,

For yours is the kingdom of God.”

– Luke 6:20

Simply put,

Economic status

matters to God.

God has given humankind sufficient abundance

That poverty should not exist.

Not now.

Not ever.


Where there is poverty

There are wealthy individuals withholding

Shares they are not entitled to.

Guilty as charged.

Lord forgive me.

But! I protest, attempting to plead my case,

Jesus means “poor in spirit!”

Not today.

Different sermon.

Different location.

Different audience.


Jesus is talking wealth and poverty,

The rich and the poor.

Jesus is talking about stewardship,

Our efforts to use the gifts God has given us

To eliminate poverty wherever it exists,

Both in the City of Rochester and rural Livingstone County,

In the hills of Guatemala,

In Palestinian camps,

and in the villages of distant South Africa.

God brings joy and perfect happiness to the poor

And future woes to those of us who are rich

Who are unwilling or uncaring to share the wealth.

“What’s in your wallet?” the television commercial asks.

Jesus is standing you and me straight up

Looking us right in the eye

Asking, “what are you doing

with what’s in your wallet?”

3. “Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.”

– Luke 6:21

Food matters to God.

Google reports that 800 million people

Live every day with food insecurity,

Without reliable access to

a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

That’s one in ten of the 7.9 billion people in the world.

According to data published by the United Nations

The number of people who did not get adequate nutrition last year increased to 2.4 billion.

That’s 30% of the world.

The cause?

The UN cites

COVID, climate change, and conflict.

At the same time

Between 2000 and 2019

The world’s production of primary crops increased by 53%

According to ReliefWeb

Hitting a record high of 9.4 billion tonnes in 2019.

Food supply is increasing.

At the same time so is hunger.

What’s the deal?

The deal is you and me.

We waste food.

We hoard food.

Inflation and transportation costs

Disproportionately impact the poor.

Poverty and hunger are insidious reflections

Of our failure to act.

Woe to us

Who don’t need to check prices in the supermarket,

Whose refrigerator needs emptied of rotted or expired food,

Who have failed to support our local food pantry or soup kitchen

With gifts of food, money, or volunteer efforts.

You and I may not be able to solve world hunger,

But we can have a huge impact eliminating hunger right here in our community.

4. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

– Luke 6:21

Jesus recognizes the fact that sorrow is one unfortunate characteristic of life,

Whether sorrow is due to death and grief,

Losses, such as employment or divorce,

Anxiety or depression,

Incarceration or hospitalization,

Regret or shame,

Natural disaster or just dumb luck. 

Sorrow is real.

Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t shield one from sorrow or misfortune.

Each of us are one breath or one heartbeat away from catastrophe.

If you haven’t yet wept with sorrow,

Brace yourself.

Woe to you if you’re laughing now

for you will mourn and weep,

Jesus promises.

At the same time,

Jesus makes the point that God’s blessings go to the sorrowful,

For sorrow is not God’s intended goal for humankind.

The Lord wants us to live in joy!

Joy today and joy tomorrow!

Joy is the gladness of heart

that comes in knowing God,

Abiding in Christ, and

Being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Think of angelic joy coming to shepherds and

To the virgin Mary when told she was to carry and deliver God’s son.

Think of the joy of a wedding feast and an unending flow of wine!

Think of

Christ’s promise of a lifetime of joy to his disciples and

Of the early Church living in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Joy is identified by Paul

As one of the fruits of the Spirit.

It is God’s intent

that you be filled with joy.

5. My final thought is on the fourth blessing

Jesus offers:

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”

Luke 6:22

It has taken a lifetime for me to learn

That being liked isn’t a goal or quality of my journey of faith.

Most everyone likes to be liked.

I like to be liked.

But my discipleship does not depend on what other people think about me.

Taking up a cross and following Jesus

Is going to lead to crossed sticks at times,

Sometimes even with people you love.

Discipleship depends on discerning the will of God

And faithfully fulfilling God’s will

as a servant leader.

Jesus and the Gospel is revolutionary.

God’s love and grace is counter-cultural.

As a Christian it means that

(as was promised at our baptismal waters)

We must work to

Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,

Reject the evil powers of this world,

And to repent of our sin.

This leads to those who personify evil and behave wickedly

to hate us and our God.

So be it.

The United Methodist version of our baptismal vows continue

To identify why discipleship may make you and me the targets of hatred.

It reads

“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you

To resist evil, injustice, and oppression

In whatever forms they present themselves?”

That’s going to make evil people angry.

Standing up to injustice may win you Christian allies,

But it’s also going to upset those who thrive on the status quo.

Ending oppression isn’t going to be popular with the oppressors of this world.

So be it.

Our Savior’s response?

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven!”

Yes, the world will know that we are Christians by our love.

Let the world will also see us crazy Christians leaping around with joyful abandonment!

What brings you to Jesus?

For me,

It isn’t the thought or hope of a perfect life.

For me,

It is the blessings of discipleship,

The satisfaction and joy of serving on behalf

Of an all loving, gracious God.

May you also be so blessed.


“The Call”

Luke 5:1-11

February 6, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

| Centering Prayer |


They left behind the largest catch of their life

Just to follow Jesus.

Not that the fishing bug ever left them.

They returned for a one day outing after the resurrection

Where Jesus found them, shared breakfast on the beach, and questioned Peter’s love.

What would cause a person

To leave everything behind …

Family, job, hometown, home, everything …

To follow Jesus and

Transition from catching fish to catching people?


The fishermen

Had their pump primed

By what they heard:

Jesus teaching the crowd

While they quietly listened as they washed their nets?

Almost certainly,

It was the supernatural miracle

That pushed them over the edge …

At Jesus’ command

Both boats were filled with fish

Such that they began to sink.

Holy mackerel!

Recognizing the fact that Simon Peter

Found himself as an active participant

In the miraculous whirlwind of God’s direct intervention at the hand of Jesus,

He self-consciously drops in submission

Like a sack of potatoes.

“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Simon Peter, Luke 5:8)


That wasn’t going to cut it.

Past sin doesn’t disqualify anyone.

No one gets washed out due to prior history, criminal record, or past sins.

The only thing that qualifies a person for discipleship

Is being chosen by God.

God present.

God at work.

God overcomes every obstacle,

Overlooks every transgression,

To bring God’s chosen into discipleship.

That’s how discipleship works.

A few thoughts.

1. You and I didn’t choose to follow Jesus.

God called you and me,

Just as God called James, John, and Simon Peter.

We don’t make disciples of Jesus.

God does.

Our role is to catch people,

Teach them,

Lead them,

Invite them

Into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

God’s role is to convert that individual into a disciple of Jesus.

My call began

When the Lord warmed my parent’s heart,

Leading them to bring me to my baptismal waters.

I was an infant and don’t remember my initiation into Christianity.

I do reaffirm the vows they made on my behalf at every subsequent baptism.

God’s call to follow Jesus evolves over time,

At least, it has with me.

In my experience

The call is new every day.

That’s a heavy responsibility.

The first conscious memory of my call

Came when I answered an altar call by Billy Glass,

A traveling evangelist.

I was probably about three years of age.

I knelt.

Hands were laid on my head.

I cried, and said, “Yes, Lord. I believe.”

After church during Christmas 1965

I walked past the Pastor’s Office

And saw H. K. Gaiser taking off his robe.

He saw me and invited me in.

He asked if I had a Bible.

I did not.

I hadn’t gone to kindergarten and had not yet learned to read.

He gave me this Gideons New Testament, with Psalms and Proverbs.

I was three and a half years old.

God was at work

Leading others to fish for me.

My parents.

Billy Glass.

Reverend Gaiser.

In the congregation today are two types of people:

Those who have already answered the call

And those who will.

If you’ve answered the call

And take following Jesus seriously

Reflect on how God called you.

Who did God use to catch you?

Tell God, “Thank you!”

How were you brought to acceptance of God’s invitation?

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

That moment when you responded like Isaiah, saying,

“Here am I; send me!”

Your sins were forgiven, and eternal life began,

Brought to you without personal cost

By the selfless death and resurrection of Jesus.

That’s some

Amazing grace,

Amazing love,

Right there.

My question to you is this:

What are you doing to catch others,

To reel them into God’s presence,

So God can do His conversion thing?

If you are one of those who have yet to answer the call,

What are you waiting for?

2. Past sin didn’t disqualify Peter,

And it isn’t disqualifying you, either.

Growing up a preacher’s kid,

I sowed my share of wild oats.

I attended church because I had to, but I had no idea why.

I did some things that would probably land me in jail today.

Out from under my parent’s thumb,

My first two years of college were out of control.

It was a college chaplain

Who stood me up,

Looked me straight in the eye, and asked,

“Todd. What are you doing with your life?

Where are you going?”

He was fishing.

Where was my life headed?

Where is your life headed?

I didn’t know,

But my spiritual antenna tingled,

calling me to attention.

I swerved to avoid the ditch.

I drove a carload full of fraternity brothers to Boston to cheer on our college hockey team.

Between games I visited a friend and fellow “preacher’s kid.”

She was a graduate student at Boston University and gave me a tour of the seminary.

Exiting the door of the chapel

I stood before the Martin Luther King memorial statue

And knew immediately where God’s call was leading me.

I was called to be a pastor,

A spiritual leader of congregations,

Just like my father,

Just like James and John, and Simon Peter who went before me.

Most individuals caught by disciples,

Called and converted by God,

Do not go on to become pastors.

Only some of us do.

As the Apostle Paul recognized

The trajectory of one’s call

Is defined by the spiritual gifts that God gives

And the disciple develops

For the common good

Throughout their life.

Are you called to pastoral ministry?

If you’re wondering, come see me.

Perhaps you’re given the gift of wisdom

And your call is to teach;

In the classroom, in Sunday school, in your writing, or in the coffee shop.

Perhaps you’ve been given the gift of healing

And your call is to the clinic, the bedside, the operating table, the back of an ambulance.

Where is God’s call for you? And

What are you doing to develop that call,

Learn, grow, maximize the talents God has already given you?

Answering the call

Is an ongoing process of discernment.

Ask God these questions:

Who is God calling me to become?

What does God want me to do?

Where is God sending me?

When and what’s the time frame? Because timing is everything.

How am I going to overcome every obstacle and ensure success?

Why me?

Why not me?

Though I answered the call to ordained ministry forty years ago,

I’m still answering God’s call for my life

Every single day.

What are you doing today

To discern and

Answer God’s call for your life?

3. Fishing for people and

Reeling them into God’s house

Is our common, equal responsibility.

The student,

The ditch digger,

The welder, plumber, and electrician,

The car salesperson,

The drive-through window employee who takes your order,

Are all called to fish for new disciples of Jesus.

The retiree,

The educator,

The preacher,

The healer,

The lawyer,

The programmer,

The prisoner and their guard,

Even the politician (pun, yes even the politician)

Are all called to fish for new disciples of Jesus.

If we are fishing,

But God isn’t catching.

That’s on us.

One does not just walk into Dick’s Sporting Goods,

Buy a rod and reel,

Stop by the bait store,

And immediately start filling up the cooler.

One must be taught to fish.

Teaching how to fish is done by those who have experience at successful fishing.

There are many different ways to achieve the same success.

There’s fly fishing (the only true kind of fishing, pun),

Bass fishing,

Downrigger fishing from a boat, and

There’s pulling copper.

(You can tell I’m a child of upstate New York)

Likewise, when fishing for people to become disciples of Jesus

There are many different techniques.

Learn what’s successful.

Do that.

Learn what isn’t successful.

Don’t do that.

Fish smarter, not harder or longer.

Use past experience to make improvements in future efforts.

In my experience,

What brings people to Jesus?

A lot of things:

A desire to turn life around.

A need for relationship and love.

Being broken.

A need for forgiveness.

The quest for eternal life.

A desire for sobriety.

Recognition that you’re in over your head.


Longing for meaning.

Searching for redemption.

Spiritual curiosity.

That’s the kind of tackle that

Has brought me success.

What brings you success? or

What’s it going to take to bring you to Jesus?

Prevenient grace is

That mustard seed size of grace that God planted in your life

Before you knew it was there or that it was needed to grow into something greater.

You and I didn’t supply it.

God already primed your pump.

Put the effort in.

Fish for people.

Bring people to Jesus.

Leave the rest up to God.