The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
| Centering Prayer |
We learn to live with contradictions in our lives
or else we go crazy.
Consider for a moment Science and Religion.
Those who know me well
know that I am a child of the Scientific method.
In other words, if you want me to believe something
prove it to me.
Spare me the anecdotes and testimonials,
I require a higher standard.
With my undergraduate in mathematics
taking a lot of engineering and computer science courses,
coupled with my advanced EMT training and learning from neuroscience researchers at the University of Rochester and around the world,
I demand the rigor of scientific studies
that can be replicated by others,
that are assured of the removal all subjective influence by evaluators,
and that can demonstrate safety and efficacy.
Safe and effective.
That’s the goal, isn’t it?
We want things to work.
And we want them to work safely.
Here is the contradiction:
I’m aware that there is great mystery in the world.
Things happen in the absence of scientific explanation.
People from non-western cultural backgrounds
appear to be in much better acceptance
of this reality than I am.
Our Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers would give an eye roll
with any Western skepticism of Jesus’ miracles
and demand for scientific explanation.
Roman Catholic colleagues would refer the unexplained
to committee for further examination
for Papal consideration and possible sainthood.
Even the faithful in non-Christian traditions
appear to be more comfortable with
experience serving as an equivalent
or even superior
means of discernment
than that of the scientific method.
In late Spring 1964 I was struck by a car
In front of Lincoln Middle School,
The car slammed me into a curb,
breaking my skull.
(That might explain a lot)
Headaches were eased by aspirin
whose methods of efficacy still are not known.
My skull healed without any medical treatment
other than the physician’s directive for my mother to
“wake the boy every hour for the first night.”
I didn’t die.
To me it is a mystery.
In the Spring of 1981 I walked through the doors of
Marsh Chapel on the campus of Boston University
stood in front of a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was swept away by the unexplainable.
An Aldersgate moment, if you will;
Similar to John Wesley’s heart being strangely warmed follow a prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street in London, England.
My mind let go,
I was awash in love,
I experienced the complete acceptance of grace,
and had my inner spiritual polarity reversed.
The direction of my life was changed from becoming a chemical engineer
to becoming a servant of Christ and his Church.
My heart was strangely warmed.
I cannot explain it.
In 2009 I stood on a wind and storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee
(this is an actual photograph, above)
reading the Gospel narrative of Jesus calming the storm.
I looked out to the water, the weather, and the terrain
and commanded wind and the rain to be still
just as Jesus did.
And it became
I cannot rationally or scientifically explain it.
In my life,
I have stopped trying.
I have stopped trying to explain the contradiction of Science and Religion;
the juxtaposition of proof vs faith.
I have become comfortable living with the two
in dynamic tension,
perhaps the two even engaged
in an intimate slow dance
that is the pinnacle of human experience.
For me, this has come with a confidence of faith
grown through maturity and experience.
The God of my experience
Is in control.
I can let go.
Grow comfortable with contradictions
or go crazy.
I choose the former.
Our Gospel lesson for today highlights two apparent contradictions
that has caused encyclical temper tantrums and ecclesiastical melt-downs
in the Church for centuries.
Allow me to lay it out for you
to see for yourselves.
Jesus continues to travel with his disciples on the road
From Galilee, in the north,
to Jerusalem, in the south,
to his eventual passion, death, and resurrection.
Jesus tells them, and,
By extension, he tells us today,
Our hearts follow our treasure.
We are directed to prepare
And remain alert for Christ’s eventual return.
To forgive sins and
To conquer death
Jesus only had to die.
To have our sins forgiven
We must overcome death and be raised into eternal life.
Do you see a common theme here?
Which, fortunately, is the one certainty that lies in each of our future.
The only thing we must do is die.
All the good works in the world are not going to matter one iota.
Be the saint, if you want to,
or be a sewer dwelling rat.
he died for us all.
Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa:
both are in.
Vlad the Impaler and Gandhi the peacemaker:
both are in.
Your bully and your beast;
Yep, they’re in.
Your fellow classmate, teacher, or overbearing boss; in.
Your adversary and your ex;
your tormentor and your evil twin;
they are in, too.
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
This, my beloved, is often referred to as “The Scandal of Grace”.
Love it or leave it.
This is the Good News of God’s grace.
And God’s grace isn’t going away.
Grace never leaves you or me.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is just one example of the contradiction
that turns the thoughtful disciple of Jesus
to the medicine cabinet for a bottle of antacid.
The parable that Jesus tells us this morning
clearly conveys the message to
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.”
The Son of Man is returning at any moment
and we must be prepared.
“Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (12:37-40)
The contradiction is this:
On the one hand, it sounds like our behavior doesn’t matter:
we are simply redeemed and saved by the grace of God
won for us by the cross and the resurrection.
On the other hand, it sounds like our behavior does matter:
We must prepare for the coming of the Son of Man.
In my opinion, and,
In my interpretation of the Gospel,
The answer to the question
– Does Christian behavior matter? –
comes from a confidence of faith
and willingness to live with the contradiction
by dancing with God
and observing the following:
Regarding personal salvation; no, behavior does not matter.
Regarding the salvation of the world and the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God; yes, Christian behavior does matter. A lot.
The answer comes in the opening verses of our Gospel for today.
It is our Father’s good pleasure to have already given us the kingdom,
Like an old car in need of restoration,
now we are being asked to take part in the transformation of the world;
not with the goal of our own personal salvation
but with the goal of God collectively saving humanity.
God has already given us the kingdom,
rendering all our possessions and money useless.
Our treasures might as well be catapulted
to the eternal depths of the Labrea Tar Pits.
Things, property, money lose their power and value
God has already given us everything.
The rest is up to us.
Instead of investing our time and effort in what has no value
invest in the unfailing treasure of heaven.
Give your whole heart to the treasures of heaven
that the earth might be transformed.
Give your whole heart
to bringing the kingdom of God
to the kingdoms of this earth.
A confidence of faith
residing in the certainty of God’s favor;
revealed, lived, died, raised, and ascended in Jesus
gives us the freedom to die to our self.
We don’t need to worry about our final disposition.
We are confident in our redemption and eternal life.
This confidence of faith gives us
the freedom to live for others.
Why reach out to families living with food insecurity in Rush and Henrietta all-the-while serving up lunches at “A Meal and More” in downtown Rochester?
Why should we care about the children and families in our neighborhood supported by the love and Christian values of PromiseLand Childcare?
Why love individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in Monroe and Livingston Counties?
Why maintain a relationship with people dying and the care of their children half a world away in South Africa?
Because we are confident
that God means to transform the world
and make all creation
into God’s eternal kingdom,
just as it is in heaven.
“Do not be afraid,” Jesus assures us.
It is okay to live with apparent contradictions of faith in life.
a life awash in God’s grace
becomes a life of confidence;
following in the example of Jesus
to bring justice, peace, and love to our broken and sin filled world.
This is your Father’s good pleasure
It’s up to you and me
To make it so.