“What is Expected of Me?”

Luke 17:5-10

October 2, 2022

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

| Centering Prayer |

“What is expected of me?”

This is a good question to ask when contemplating any new endeavor:

Applying to college.

Serving on a board.

Interviewing for a job.

Betrothal to be married.

Having a baby.

It is better to “look before you leap”

To have the facts up front

And to plan accordingly.

If one wants to be a disciple

Jesus is right up front about his expectations:

The investment is great, like building a tower

And, more risky, like going to war. (Luke 14)

Time is short and confidence is waning.

Though the disciples have no foreknowledge of impending crucifixion,

Jesus does.

The closer and closer they travel to Jerusalem

The exponential increase in danger

Is giving the disciples cause to lose confidence in the message,

To second guess the cause,

To question the strategy.

The stakes are high;

The consequences may be death.

Our gospel lesson for this morning is the 

Final two of 4 sayings of Jesus.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples;

Soon to be apostles.

He had completed his extensive teaching about money and wealth.

His words are most probably recorded in hindsight: post resurrection / ascension.

Scholars suggest these sayings are probably

Piecemealed together from throughout his ministry.

They are drawing close to his final destination: Jerusalem.

His purpose is simple and straightforward:

To teach the disciples what to do and how to do it after he leaves.

Clear expectations are a solid foundation

Upon which confidence can be built.

Indeed, like the disciples of old,

There is much for us to glean from today’s gospel.

First, Luke reports: It is better to have a millstone hung around your neck

and you tossed into the ocean

Than to cause a little one to stumble.

Secondly, Jesus teaches: If another sins,

Rebuke them first,

Then you must forgive them.

Like the patron at a fast-food joint who responds “Super size me!”

The disciples respond “Increase our faith!”

As if faith was a commodity

And more is always better.

What I think they are saying is “Make us adequate.”

Because right now, we aren’t feeling like we are adequate;

We don’t have what it takes.

We’re failing.

(Yes, the disciples were feeling just like us).

The mustard seed is smallest known seed at the time of Christ;

Smaller than a grain of sand.

In contrast is the mulberry tree,

Also known as a sycamore tree.

It has an extensive root structure

Supporting a massive tree, short but wide.

Faith the size of a mustard seed

Is sufficient to command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and thrown into the sea

“and it would obey you.”

Jesus’ response is an indirect affirmation of the faith they already have.

Jesus’ response is also an invitation to live and act in that faith.

With faith, quality is more important than quantity.

Faith equal in size to a mustard seed can do the impossible.

The Second of the two sayings has no modern day analogy.

It cannot be related to our employee / employer mentality.

Jesus is using the social reality of slavery in his times

(despicable in our modern setting) as a metaphor

To communicate a deeper truth.

This is master and slave relationship.

A slave works all day for the master in the field.

The slave comes in at dinnertime.

It is expected the slave will prepare the meal.

The slave should not expect reward for working in the fields all day;

And shouldn’t expect to rest and dine at the table with the master.

The slave’s time and efforts belong to the master.

Even a slave’s extra effort already belongs to the master.

Which tells us

There is no point of fulfilled duty.

Therefore, the slave has no claim on the master.

The relationship is not service = reward.

The relationship requires

quiet obedience.

What are we to benefit from today’s gospel?

How are these words of Jesus meant to change us?

I count five practical applications for our lives today.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

Don’t expect faith to remove the lump in your breast

(although, God is certainly able).

Expect a surgeon to remove the lump in your breast.

Expect God to walk with you,

guide and comfort you,

throughout your life.

Faith isn’t a magic show of healing:

people walking out of wheelchairs,

being slain in the spirit,

or speaking in tongues.

Faith isn’t a miraculous flood of post-pandemic people back to church, everyone eager to join, witness, and offer their abilities for servant leadership.

God cannot be controlled to do our bidding.

God does not play fetch.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

We pray “Thine will be done.”

We cannot expect Thine will to be done

until we give up OUR will;

until each of us give up my will.

To cooperate with God requires that we seek

God’s input into our every decision.

When is the last time we asked the question of ourselves,

“What does God want me to do right here, right now?”

To cooperate with God means that

We are constantly in dialogue with God

through prayer and meditation,

continual repentance,

by bathing in the scriptures,

by listening to our conscience and feelings,

by listening for the Spirit to speak through others.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith.

Just as with his 12 disciples, so too with us:

God affirms the faith we’ve already been given.

God invites us to live and work in the faith we have.

When we do, our faith will be increased.

The young John Wesley was taught “Preach faith until you have it. Once you have it, you will preach faith.”

There is no excuse for “I’m not strong enough,”

“I’ve never done that before,”

“I don’t think I can.”

The faith you already have, that brought you to worship today,

is strong enough to accomplish the seemingly impossible,

to do what ever God is calling you to do.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

If we are willing servants of God…

If we are discerning the will of God…

Then there is nothing that cannot be done!

Nothing is impossible with God.

God created all there was, all that is, and will create all that ever will be.

God’s power, reach, and thoroughness are unbounded; unrestricted.

If in faith we call something to God’s attention, God will respond.

Sometimes not the way we desire.

Sometimes with miraculous outcomes.

Sometimes in ways unseen by us or in our lifetime.

Sometimes with something all together different,

but always better.

5) The faithful disciple is called to carry out the will of the master

Without expectation of praise.

Many would agree

We are honored, appreciated, celebrated, awarded, and thanked too much in our world today.

Trophy cases have run out of room, walls have too many plaques on them, files overflow with letters of accolades.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to live in quiet, humble obedience.

Our time and labor belongs to Jesus.

There is no way we can do enough,

let alone do more than our share.

There never comes a time when we can say,

“I’ve done my part. Time for someone else to take over.”

There never comes an earthly time when our service is completed

and we can sit down and be served.

God gives us grace, not reward.

It is only by God’s grace that we can live a life of service for our master, Jesus Christ.

It is only by God’s grace that we can give our lives and labors to Christ and his church.

It is only by God’s grace that we have been saved by faith;

Faith first planted within us,

Prevenient grace,

When our Lord breathed life into our soul.

Our gospel is about faith.

It serves to build self-confidence

Not in what we can achieve,

But in what God has already given us.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith, but in the quality of your faithfulness.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

5) The faithful disciple carries out the will of the master without expectation of praise.

May we go forth with joyful, yet quiet, humble obedience.


“The Rich Man and Lazarus”

Luke 16:19-31

Proper 21C, September 25, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 16:19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 

The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 

He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

| Centering Prayer |

Our Gospel lesson for this morning provides options;

We like choice, don’t we?

There are opportunities for the faithful Christian to make choices.

On the one hand,

It would be fully understandable for one to examine these words of Jesus

Through the lens of personal, eternal salvation

And believe that it is the intent of Jesus

and the point of Luke

That this is a parable about heaven

and the eternal disposition of the soul.

Does death deliver us to our eternal fate?

The apostle Paul suggest

that the hope for life resides on in the resurrection

(see 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians).

Is this a parable meant to convey essential truth about heaven and hell, and what happens to you after you die?

On the other hand,

If we pay attention to Luke’s context,

From which we’ve been reading these past few Sundays,

We recognize that this parable follows the passage of:

The Widow’s coin,

The Prodigal’s inheritance,

And the Dishonest Manager’s handling of debt.

Is there a trend here?

(yes, of course there is)

Luke has been talking about money, treasures, and riches.

So why wouldn’t he be continuing the theme here?

This is parable of Jesus,

a fictional story created by Jesus,

about a broken man named Lazarus

and a rich man, commonly known as Di-ves.

This parable is a capstone in Luke,

a pinnacle of successive stories Jesus uses

to teach about the dangers of wealth.

When we experience this story,

consider these words echoing in the background:

+ Mary declaring her praise of God in the first chapter of Luke:

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly.”

+ When we experience this story,

consider a discreet, angry voice in the third chapter of Luke,

John the Baptist warning

“God is able from these stones

to raise up children to Abraham,”

and “the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

+ When we experience this story,

consider the voice of Jesus

who just taught in the sixth chapter of Luke

that “the kingdom of God belongs to the poor and the hungry,

but woe to those who are rich and who are full.”

Eternal life?

Dangers of wealth?


The curious will note

This is the only parable Jesus creates

where he includes a name: Lazarus.

Jesus makes the story personal and intimate.

Jesus casts the Lazarus as someone who was disgusting.

It gives the parable a sense of familiarity, doesn’t it?

We all know someone who makes us sick.

The master storyteller

Tells his tale that

Lazarus was a despised man,

who threw himself at the gate of a rich man,

or was dumped there

(as the Greek suggests)

so that he might beg;

perhaps even obtain some of the wasted bread

used to clean dirty fingers.

(They didn’t have paper napkins at the time)

He was covered with sores.

Lazarus was seen.

He was known.

He was identified.

He was so weak,

he couldn’t prevent the dogs from licking his sores.

Jesus’ audience of rich Pharisees

probably were saying to themselves,

what did he do to deserve this?

for it was believed that hardships

where caused by God

as a result of unrighteous behavior.

Who sinned?

What was the sin that God punished with such a response?

Lazarus dies.

Did he die of starvation? disease? infection? or did the dogs …?

Premature death is just one of the consequences of being poor.


Angels came,

gathered him up,

and carried him to Abraham.

There, Lazarus completes eternity in the bosom of Abraham.

Throughout this parable,

Lazarus is never spoken to,

and he never speaks.

The lowly is lifted up.

Then there is the rich man, Di-ves.

This is really a parable about him.

He lives a pampered life,

dressed like royalty in purple robes and fine linen,

feasting sumptuously every day,

using bread to wipe his greasy fingers

and throwing it on the floor.

The rich Pharisees probably thought he was blessed by God,

because of his accumulated excess.

Wealth is a sign of God’s approval, isn’t it?

And the rich man had more wealth than he could shake a stick at.

Wealthy often see wealth as a sign of God’s blessing.

The poor?

Not so much.

The rich man probably thought he had been blessed abundantly.

He overlooked the fact that Lazarus was begging at his gate.

In fact his table and his gate

separated himself from all the riffraff of society.

Have you noticed

that once one has achieved a minimum amount of money

to become self-supportive,

additional wealth only serves

to become additional insulation between the wealthy and the poor?

… and so it was with the Rich man.

Di-ves died and was buried

(notice the contrast to Lazarus,

who was immediately whisked away to the bosom of Abraham).

We must assume

The Rich man didn’t take his wealth with him.

He and his treasure were parted.

The Rich man, Jesus reports, was taken to hell, Hades, as it was called.

He was tormented and in flames.

There wasn’t much he could do.

But he could look up;

far away, in heaven

he could see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham.

He recognized Lazarus!

This privileged millionaire knew Lazarus enough to avoid him on earth, yet he was able to recognize him in heaven.

How convenient.

In the torments and flames of hell,

Di-ves speaks as if Lazarus didn’t exist:

Father Abraham,” he calls,

hoping to play his trump card

(I’m one of your children, a family member, a child of Israel).

“Send Lazarus

to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue;

for I’m in agony in these flames.”

Lazarus is right there.

Yet, Di-ves acts as if he is invisible.

If you don’t see the poor, they must not exist.


He acts with callous disregard.

He acts as if Lazarus is his servant. Or less.

What nerve!


Abraham rebuffs him the first of three times:

“Remember that during your lifetime

you received your good things,

and Lazarus in like manner evil things;

but now he is comforted here,

and you are in agony.”

Di-ves tries a second time: “Father”

(another foolish attempt to play on Abraham’s goodness),

send Lazarus

“to my father’s house-

for I have five brothers-

that he may warn them,

so that they will not also come into this place of torment.”

He still acts with callous disregard.

Lazarus is no errand boy.

The (formerly) rich man doesn’t get it.

Lazarus isn’t a second-class citizen.

He is selfishly looking out for his own family,

not Lazarus, and no one else, either.

Abraham rebuffs him a second time:

“They have Moses and the prophets;

they should listen to them.”


And the prophets.

Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy,

as I’m certain the rich Pharisees knew from childhood:

“Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 15:7)

Consider the prophet, Isaiah, who spoke

“Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cloth them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

“No, Father Abraham,”

Di-ves makes a desperate plead for a third time,

send Lazarus.

“If someone goes to them from the dead,

they will repent.”

Scare them with a ghost.

Consider all those who witness resurrection.

In hind-sight consider

those confronted with the witness of Jesus’ resurrection

who still do not believe.

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets,

neither will they be convinced

even if someone rises from the dead.”

You can be sure,

All who are in Luke’s post-resurrection audience

Get this ironic joke.

Is this a parable about heaven and hell

Or a story about wealth and riches?

Perhaps it is a little bit of both.

It certainly is a warning

We’d all be prudent to heed.

I’m uncertain God is in the hell creating business.

I do know that humankind has gotten pretty good at making our own hell.

We create hell

when we act with callous disregard for human suffering.

We create hell

when we stereotype and marginalize,

when we talk down to people,

when we use phrases “like them.”

We create hell

when we hurt other people,

either intentionally or unintentionally.

We create our own hell

when we act as if we were better than someone else.

We create our own hell

when we allow abundance, wealth or food

to come between us and someone in need.

We create our own hell

when we refuse to forgive and can’t ask for forgiveness.

We create our own hell

when we fail to love.

Hell is everything we believe, say, and do

that separates us from one another and from our God.

Although nothing can separate God from us,

hell is everything we do to separate ourselves from God.

Hell is not created by our loving God.

Hell is created by you and me.

Then when we die,

the hell we’ve created, we are warned,

is fixed,

“so that those who might want to pass from here to you

cannot do so,

and no one can cross from there to us.”

Unquenchable fire.

Gnashing of teeth.

Everlasting torment.

Fire and flames.

The ability to look up into heaven,

Like Di-ves, and see the results of our evil ways.

Yes, these are images we are given of hell;

the hell that is fixed after our death.

These are images that Jesus gives to us.

They serve as a warning.

It is wise to heed them.

So look to the needs of others,

Those right at our doorstep.

Look to our neighbors in need beyond the horizon.

Restore the broken.

Heal the sick.

Feed the hungry.

Welcome one; welcome all.

Make friends,

Be friends,

Live as friends,

as neighbors,

peaceably in God’s kingdom.

Make hell into a fading memory

That slowly, but surely, fades to black.


“The Prudent Use of Wealth”

Luke 16:1-13

September 18, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 16:1-13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’

Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’

So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly;

for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

| Centering Prayer |

Our Gospel passage for this morning

is a parable

followed by three declarative applications.

It is traditionally titled “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.”

While true, the manager was squandering his master’s property,

Naming him dishonest can misdirect the faithful from the points Jesus is attempting to make with his audience.

What is his point?

Context is important.

Here are some observations.

1. First, Jesus is in his final weeks before his

Arrest, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.

It’s crunch time.

He is on the road,

Traveling from Galilee in the north

To Jerusalem in the south.

The closer to Jerusalem,

The larger the crowds.

Luke reports that the crowds were composed of

All the tax collectors and sinners, and,

Pharisees and scribes who complained about them.

2. Jesus is teaching in parables.

The parables of the Lost Sheep,

The Lost Coin, and

The parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

Immediately precede today’s

Parable of the Dishonest Manager.

The narrative of the Rich Man and Lazarus follows.

It is important to recognize that our parable for today

Is bookended by the Prodigal Son and His Brother and the Rich Man and Lazarus.

From a younger son who squanders his father’s possession by dissolute living to

The crisis of eternal life of Lazarus and a rich man sent to eternal Hades

We find a dishonest manager of his master’s treasure today

Smack dab, right in between.

3. The use of treasure and wealth

Is a common thread that draws our attention.

Jesus is teaching about what’s in your wallet and how are you using it?

He’s talking cold, hard cash.

Not volunteer time.

Not putting your skills and talents to use.

Jesus is talking about mammon

(Μαμμωνάς, Greek, def.- riches, money, possessions, property).

Cash, savings, pension, 401(k) and 403(b)s.

House, properties, and businesses.

The beginning of understanding Christ’s parable of

The Dishonest Manager

Starts with a personal review of your personal wealth.

4. The parable is a fictional story

Jesus created to

Communicate a deeper truth.

In the time of Jesus

It was common practice for wealthy landowners

To employ a professionally trained manager to manage their financial affairs.

They would have power of attorney,

The ability to buy, sell, borrow, and engage in business and commerce on behalf of the wealthy owner.

This shielded the rich from Jewish usuary laws, and,

Freed them to do whatever it is that wealthy people do.

Pass the Grey Poupon, please.

5. A professional manager, as we have in today’s parable,

Would earn their wage by adding a percentage of a loan

And skimming it off the top.

Let’s call it a “Steward’s Commission.”

Say a wealthy person had 60 containers of wheat to loan.

He could tell his manager to loan it out at an interest rate

Such that it would take 80 containers of wheat to pay off the loan.

The manager would mark up the loan to owe 100.

The rich man makes twenty.

The manager makes twenty.

It’s a pretty slick system for the wealthy;

Not so much for the poor debtors covered in sores laying at the gates. 

6. In today’s parable the rich man catches his manager with his hand in the cookie jar.

He was charged with squandering his property.

The manager neither denied the accusation,

Tried to defend himself, or

Attempted to beg off.

Guilty as charged.

What to do? He thought.

How does one respond?

How does one respond such that it his future is assured?

7. This is his plan:

Mark down each loan

By the amount of his cut.

This makes the debtor happy;

He or she feels they’ve received a discount.

This makes the wealthy man happy;

He or she has their loan paid off with interest.

The prudent manager doesn’t burn his bridges;

He makes certain

That the present crisis

Provides future opportunities.

What are we to learn and

how are we to apply what we’ve learned

to our circumstances?

Four things.

1. Keep yourself

future oriented;

You, personally,

And, in general, the Rush church family.

The temptation is to relive yesterday.

“Remember when” …

Our idyllic life growing up?

“Remember when” …

Our church was growing families, staff, and programs?

An equally dangerous temptation is to complain about today.

It is easy to become the victim of unrealized grief or loss,

To fester lingering feelings of rejection,

To blame the pandemic, prior or current pastors, and society as a whole.

Like the dishonest manager,

We can take control of our own destiny.

It is our choice,

Individually and collectively,

To plan and implement means to

Maintain our personal spiritual lives, and

To maintain and grow the vitality of the Rush church family.

The responsibility is shared.

The responsibility is ours.

2. We, children of the light,

(Disciples of Jesus)

Can learn from the children of the world,

Such as this dishonest manager.

The lesson isn’t dishonesty;

The lesson is prudence.

Prudent stewardship can be learned from

Your financial advisor from Goldman Saks as well as

The treasurer of the local Hell’s Angels gang.

Prudence is a universal virtue

that Jesus is teaching us to apply to our own lives,

Individually and collectively.

Discipline your financial and business life as much as possible.

Budget. Plan. Pay attention to details. Stick to it. Improve every day.

Trim spending on the self as much as possible.

Stick to the bare necessities.

Prudently put to use savings, assets, and property

To capitalize on present and future opportunities.

I’m look at Cindy, Michelle, and Eric;

Our chairpersons of the

Board of Trustees,

Finance Committee, and

Endowment Committee.

Is your committee acting with prudence?

Practicing good stewardship?

What are you and your committees doing well and what can you improve?

Budget. Plan. Pay attention to details. Stick to it. Improve every day.

3. Responsibility and fidelity in small things corelates with responsibility and fidelity in large things.

When it comes to personal wealth

God gives to some little,

To others much,

Each according to God’s will.

When it comes to the wealth entrusted to the church,

We’re talking about God’s money,

God’s property,

God’s affairs.

Handle with care.

‘nuff said.

4. Lastly, check your attitude about wealth.

No one can serve both God and wealth.

Ask yourself, will wealth govern my life?

Or, will God govern my life?

Are finances and property the purpose of our congregation,

Or, is our purpose

Discipleship to Jesus and

Loving neighbors in his name?

When wealth is managed prudently,

There is no anxiety,

There is absolute freedom to serve the Lord.

If all we’re focused on is wealth,

Obtaining wealth,

Growing wealth,

Using wealth for our own benefit,

Then we’re squeezing God out of our lives.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Trust in the Lord to take care of the rest. 

God has already given us more than we need.

Today’s question is

how will we use this amazing, abundant  grace of

Money, property, and income?

How will you put to use

your personal wealth

To serve the Lord


Responsibility, and with


How will we,

As the Rush United Methodist Church family,

Use what God has given us to achieve the possible

Today and tomorrow?

Today’s Gospel is challenging;

But just wait to next week

When we find Lazarus begging at our front gate.


“The Joy of the Lord”

September 11, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 15:1-10

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

| Centering Prayer |

It is a dangerous thing to be critical of others,

especially when it comes to faith or religion.

When others find fault in us

We tend to take it personally.

When we find fault in others

it is like an invitation for others to return the favor.

Let the trench warfare begin.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged”

Jesus reminds his followers (Luke 6:37).

Jesus takes a different approach.

Instead of finding fault with others

he joins the tailgate party,

he joins the crew and orders an abundance of chicken wings,

he gets off his theological high horse

substitutes common talk for church talk,

and welcomes everyone to dinner.

Jesus knows how to flip a burger,

slather on the BBQ sauce,

and throw a block party

where everyone is welcome.

Jesus playing loosely with the law offends many, especially those in power and authority.

Healing on the Sabbath,

Touching the unclean,

Forgiving prostitutes,

No, don’t fault Jesus for being one

Who colors outside the lines.

Knock his behavior if you want,

but do so at your own peril.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

We hear the biblical narrative of the woman sweeping her house looking for the lost coin,

and of the shepherd leaving behind his 99 to go in search of the one lamb who is missing,

and we assume that this is a divine imperative that

we chase after those who have become lost to us.

We assume it is all about us.

The coin has no conscious knowledge,

so if it is to be found,

it is wholly dependent upon OUR initiative.

The sheep is a dumb animal,

most certainly never to find its way home,

so, it too, is completely dependent upon OUR attempts to bring it home.

Jumping to conclusions,

making assumptions,

leaping before you look,

and completing the sentences of others

just is not a helpful strategy!

Consider the equally powerful parable of Jesus,

the story of the Prodigal Son and his brother,

that immediately follows our Gospel for today.

I see a father who,

despite every cell in his body telling him not to let his son go,

he bites his tongue,

he lets him go,

and then he doesn’t go running after him.

I can’t help but stop and ask, “where is the consistency here?”

“Dad, go after your son! …

like the good shepherd who goes after the lost sheep,

like the woman who searches for the lost coin.”

And yet, the loving Father

watches, and waits,

watches and waits,

watches and waits,

with every expectation that at any moment that rascal son of his

will round the corner in the road and return home.

When does one watch and wait?

and when does one corral the 99

and set out on a mission to retrieve the one who is lost?

Let us consider another way forward.

Perhaps these parables are not about us;

perhaps the parables of

the lost sheep,

the lost coin, and

the return of the prodigal

are all about God.

When viewed through this lens

These parables may be

parables about God’s joy

when the lost is found,

when a sinner repents, and

when the formerly lost is reconciled back into the fold.

Jesus may be telling us something

about God’s nature and characteristics,

more so than instructing his disciples in policies and procedures

that should be followed in his absence.

Listen carefully to these words of Jesus,

“When he has found it (the lost lamb, that is),

he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.

And when he comes home,

he calls together his friends and neighbors,

saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Just so, I tell you,

there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

(Luke 15:5-7)

In my mind,

throwing a party

for recovering what could have been a one percent loss

is a little over the top …

Which is exactly as Jesus meant it to be!

Similarly, with the woman searching for a lost coin,

“When she has found it (the lost coin, that is),

she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying,

‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’”

(Luke 15:9-10)


in my mind,

throwing a party

for finding a lost coin

is a little over the top …

Which is exactly as Jesus meant it to be!

Two thoughts.

1. God’s joy comes from the find.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.

And the joy of the Lord spreads as fast as a contagion to the rest of God’s kingdom.

I don’t know where we ever got this impression

that our God is an ogre, prude, or square,

but it is wrong.

Yes, God’s history of involvement with humankind,

as recorded in the Hebrew / Old Testament scriptures,

paints a picture of a God of law, covenant, and judgment.

With this as the only lens through which one observes and creates a knowledge base,

yes, I can see how one might draw an incomplete conclusion about God.

Yet, when put together with the Gospels and the epistle letters of Paul and Peter,

we can easily see that God would rather not be in the business

of shelling out punitive judgment upon creation

or God’s beloved children.

God is so much more concerned with our well-being.

God sent us his Son, Jesus Christ,

not to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through Him.

Our well-being is rooted in living the example of Jesus,

creating an environment of forgiveness, redemption,

and in the gift of eternal life.

Our God is in the joy business:

working in the creativity department,

and in shipping.

There is joy in living by the Divine example;

reaching out to the lost, the lonely, the outcast, the untouchables, and the unclean.

There is joy in serving others, knowing they can never repay you, and they shouldn’t try.

There is joy in reaching out a helping hand and for someone else to take it.

Isn’t there joy in forgiveness?

Forgiveness is like opening a locked gate in the barnyard.

It allows a relationship to move forward,

sharing the road together for a while longer.

It sets free souls

that stagnate in a pen of purgatory,

awkward avoidance,

and wounded pride.

God experiences such joy with forgiveness

that his joy overflows and infects all the souls in heaven.

Angels rejoice! and why not?

No one goes over the top with

the biggest, best, wonderful party

more so than God.      

2. My second thought is this: Being found isn’t about being returned to a former state.

The former state was of a life living in sin.

Being found is all about repentance;

Ongoing, continual repentance this is the key to God’s joy.

We downplay the role of repentance,

to our peril,

in today’s society.

And yet, it is repentance that holds the key to solving so many of the world’s problems.

Fundamentalist fueled terrorism; either Moslem, Christian, or Jewish

ends when all agree to a process of repentance.

Racial and gender discrimination would come to an end

with a commitment to repentance.

Economic injustice would cease

with a universal acceptance of the repentance process.

This is what would bring joy to God, and to all of heaven!

It is time to stop talking politics and to start talking about reconciliation and repentance.

That process, which brings such great joy to God,

begins when we stop offending others.

Repentance begins with the end of oppression.

Let go of the power and the pride.

Give up the attitude of deserving anything in life; nobody deserves anything.

Everything comes from God’s grace, not through bloodline or birthright.

Lose the sense of privilege.

Instead of paying a premium to go to the head of the line,

join me at the end,

along with everybody else.

The second step of repentance is a personal resolution …

to never, ever commit the offense again.

Make it your personal, internal crusade.

Stop the hurting, and vow never to hurt again.

Make the vow,

and most importantly,

work diligently keep it.

Thirdly, and this may be some of the most difficult to accept,

repair the damage that was done.

Make reparations.

Make right the wrong that you committed.

My mother would call this “Cleaning Up After Yourself”.

Camp counselors call this “Returning the Woods to the Way You Found It”.

If your actions caused another to be injured,

pay for their hospital expenses, rehabilitation

and their pain and suffering.

Finally, God is filled with joy when repentance is complete,

and that begins when we set out on a new direction.

Turn your back upon the old ways,

ways that led to pain and sorrow.

Turn and face a new beginning.

Turn your life around and make a new start


The Lord is throwing a joyful party

Because you have been found.

Come and take a seat at the Lord’s table!

Keep your eyes on the prize,

Jesus Christ, our redeemer, and savior.

Finally, let me recognize the fact that

we can’t force people to behave,

or even to return our initiative with a civil response.

The person repenting of sin must cooperate with those whom he or she has harmed.

Perpetrator and victim cooperate?

Oh, boy. This is going to be hard.




How is repentance and reconciliation going to work?  

This is where the faithful must swallow hard, lay everything at the feet of Jesus,

(as difficult as this may sound), and walk away confident in God’s grace and love.

Trust God that

hearts will be healed and all parties will be able to move on.

The reason we fail to get cooperation

may be according to some larger, more grand, divine plan.

We may never know the answer to the question,


And so, dearly beloved, join God’s party!

Rejoice, for it is a good one!

At the same time give thanks to God

that you haven’t been left behind,

that God has found you.

Write repentance upon your heart:

Your personal repentance from your sins;

And the repentance of others for the pain they may have caused you.

Repent, and there will be less sin in the world.

Repent, and give God some joy.

Repent and watch that joy spread to every angel in God’s heavenly realm!

Repent, and God’s kingdom will become …

one step closer than it was before.