“Being Zacchaeus”

Luke 19:1-10

October 30, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 19:1-10

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 

So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

| Centering Prayer |

There are occasions

For all serious students of scripture

When something new appears

That so alters the way we think about a passage

That shakes faith and challenges us to the core.

Could this “something new”

Be a gift from God?

On many occasions, in my experience, it is.

Behold, the Spirit makes all things new.

I recently read an academic article suggesting that Zacchaeus’ stature may have

Entailed more than just being short.

There are linguistic hints that the author of Luke

Is suggesting that Zacchaeus was,

In fact, someone who looked like this:

An individual with dwarfism;

Most probably, a genetic disorder

That limited his height to under 4 feet 10 inches.

The proper term today is short stature,

Defined as a height with the lowest 2.3% of the general population.

The most common type of this condition is called achondroplasia

(A-chon-dro-pla-sia) and is

exhibited with disproportionate body features.

As is all too common even today,

Zacchaeus was one who almost certainly

Suffered from ridicule and social discrimination all his life.

Consider the implications of Zacchaeus being disabled;

Or, as I like to say it,

He was a person with different abilities, or, differently abled.

How does this alter the way

We experience the Gospel this morning?

What if that song of old

We learned in Sunday School

Or in Vacation Bible School

Would be rewritten like this?

Zacchaeus was a discriminated man,

an ostracized man was he,

And he climbed up in a sycamore tree,

for he wanted the Lord to see,

for he wanted the Lord to see.

And as the Savior passed that way,

he looked up in the tree.

And he said, “Zacchaeus! you come down,

for I’m going to your house to stay.”

“For I’m going to your house to stay.”

As opposed to other encounters

Jesus has with people of different abilities,

Here, today,

Jesus does not make an attempt to cure Zacchaeus.

Jesus doesn’t try to “stretch him out,”

“lengthen him up,”

Or “right size him,” as it were.

Today’s encounter with Jesus

Requires a deeper contemplation of faith, ability,

And our relationship with God.

Behold, the Spirit makes all things new.

Let’s take a closer look at Luke 19:1-10.

The Zacchaeus story immediately follows the

Story of the rich young ruler

(Who desired to follow Jesus,

Found the requirements too difficult,

And decided to walk away disappointed).

It also follows the story

Of Jesus restoring sight to a blind beggar

Who loudly asked to have his sight back.

Once his sight was restored,

The former blind man followed Jesus,

Glorified God,

Becoming a recognized celebrity.

The newly healed man became a catalyst for faith:

“and all the people,

When they saw it,

Praised God.”

– Luke 18:43b

Jesus entered Jericho

And was passing through it,

Down the north / south main thoroughfare.

Jericho was, and is, known as a City of Palms,

An oasis in the gravel desert

Watered by Elisha’s Spring;

Carefully channeled via aqueducts

From the surrounding mountains to the west.

The palm trees that line the streets are beautiful.

In the center of Jericho today is a small park

With a Zacchaeus tree in it,

An overgrown fig palm tree that is thousands of years old.

(Let that sink in for a moment).

Jesus is en-route from Galilee in the north,

To Jerusalem, straight uphill to the west, as the crow flies

14 miles away,

Or 30 miles by the treacherous, switch back, serpentine road.

People who are “short in stature”

(as Luke reports it)

Get picked on all the time;

Probably discriminate against

Just as many are today.

Offensive words today

Would have ancient counterparts.

I’m jumping to an assumption here,

But my guess is that a lifetime

Of trauma, ridicule, bullying, exclusion, and discrimination

Had probably left emotional scars on Zacchaeus

Leaving him bitter;

Which would be ironic,

Because his name, from the Greek, means “pure” and “innocent.”

This would be like the grumpiest person you know

Being named “Joy.”

Luke describes Zacchaeus as being

Not only a tax collector,

But the Chief Tax Collector.

Remember from last Sunday’s Gospel,

Tax collectors were hated as traitors and as extortionists?

Zacchaeus was the boss;

The head of them all.

This tells us that he was rich,

For he skimmed off the top of all his subordinates,

And, being a public figure,

That he was universally despised by his neighbors.

Zacchaeus was ambitious with his career.

He was at the top of his pay scale.

And he was rich.

For a moment

Hold in dynamic tension

The wealth of Zacchaeus

With that of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31).

With the same determination

That overcame a lifetime of almost certain ridicule,

That propelled him to the top of his corporate ladder,

Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd

That had come out to see Jesus with

His traveling

healing tour and

salvation show.

He ran ahead.

He climbed into an overgrown fig palm

And perched himself above the road in the branches.

Consider how ridiculous he must has looked.

He didn’t care what other people thought.

His emotional calluses were much too thick.  

He had power and money

And he’d come to see Jesus.

Talk about creative and expedient!

There is no wonder Jesus was stopped dead in his tracks.

He looked up,

Calls Zachaeus by name

(by the way, how did Jesus know his name?),

And invites himself over to his house

Right in front of a certainly flabbergasted crowd.

The crowd knows the sinful trade of the tax collecting community.

They would have been scandalized

That Jesus invites himself

To the home of the chief sinner.

As an uncomfortable hush descended upon the crowd,

Zacchaeus “hurried down and was happy to welcome him.”


This is the third-time Jesus

Has chosen to eat with a tax collector

And the third time people have grumbled about it.

One would think,

Jesus of all people,

Would want to separate himself from sinners,

Wouldn’t you?


Jesus was sent to the world to eat with

And relate to sinners.

Oh, the scandal of the Gospel!

Instead of walking away sad,

Zacchaeus responds with exuberance!

I will give away half of my possessions to the poor, he promises.

On top of that,

Zacchaeus vows to pay back four times

Anyone who he had defrauded,

Which is double the requirement of Jewish Law.

In essence,

Zacchaeus is eagerly willing to work to overcome poverty

(Much of which Zacchaeus is personally responsible for creating).

And he is willing to make reparations

To everyone who he has treated unjustly.

That would be … everyone.

Zacchaeus is willing to give up nearly everything

To be saved from his sin,

To be reunited to his family as a child of Abraham, and

To be found by God.

Jesus’ mission has been fulfilled,

“to seek out and to save the lost.” (19:10)

… to seek and to save.

Are you willing to give up nearly everything?

I don’t know about you,

But I am.

What can we learn from Zacchaeus

That can be applied to our lives today?

First, Zacchaeus was determined.

Dare we exercise our discipleship

With the same amount of determination?

Can we race ahead of the crowd?

Can we risk the embarrassment of climbing up over the crowd?

Can we deploy the same amount of determination to lift Jesus up

For all the world to see and learn from Him?

Where is the Lord in today’s world?

The fact is

Most of the world has never seen Jesus

And wouldn’t know him if they bumped into one of his disciples.

Be determined to produce Jesus

And to wear Him on your sleeve.

Secondly, Zacchaeus was expedient.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Gettysburg

Is by Robert E. Lee confronting the overdue General Jeb Stuart.

When Jeb Stuart sees that his delay

May have very well cost Lee the battle

He offers to step down from his command.

“There is no time!!!” Lee thunders.

Zacchaeus knew there was precious little time to see the Savior;

That’s why he ran ahead.

There is no time for us to waste, either.

We must offer Christ to the world

With all his grace, love, forgiveness, and salvation

– a world desperately searching for what Christ has to offer –

– before it is too late

And even one is lost before we had a chance.

Thirdly, Zacchaeus is amazingly creative.

He broke the social standard,

Made a fool of himself;

Yet, his creativity stopped the Lord dead in his tracks.

So too, we need to be just as creative.

What new ways can we use to present Christ to the world?

How can we better share the Good News

Of his redemption and salvation?

Technologically? theatrically? artistically? with audio-visuals?

I do not like rap music;

However, look at what has happened

When rap was set to a Broadway show named “Hamilton”.

The creative genius of a writer

Turned Broadway upside down

And pulled the Arts from the Culture section of the paper

To the front page.

Fourthly, Zacchaeus was willing to repent

And so, too, should we;

On an ongoing, regular basis.

Although the story doesn’t specifically mention it,

It is quite easy for us to make the assumption that Zacchaeus,

By his actions,

Came to repentance:

Acknowledging his sin and

Swearing to make a 180-degree change in his life.

We, like Zacchaeus,

Are invited to acknowledge before God

The instances we have sinned,

And to make every attempt to correct our behavior

Such that we don’t sin again.

Lastly, Zacchaeus teaches us about the value of reparation.

Reparation is not a popular topic

Especially when spoken of in the context

Of U.S. politics,

Of American slavery,

Or Native American resettlement.

The Gospel suggests that we listen to Zacchaeus carefully.

Pay attention to Zacchaeus, what he says and what he does.

Disciples of Jesus

Must be willing to make reparations

For prior offences;

Amends and repayments

For prior acts of injustice.

When injustice has taken place

Let us dare to go the second mile,

To go beyond merely making it right.

Let us repay doubly the loss

When another has been hurt

As a result of prior sin.

Our efforts must not only fix the world

But they must improve the world.

Zacchaeus was no wee little man.

Zacchaeus was a child of Abraham,

Who acted with determination,

With expediency,

With creativity,

To repent,

To fix and

improve that which he had broken.

Today salvation came to Zacchaeus and his house.

Go and do likewise.

Invite salvation into your home, too.

Today, Zacchaeus was found.

Go and allow the Lord to find you, too.

Be Zacchaeus.


“Pride Makes for Fallen Angels”

Luke 18:9-14, Proper 25 C

October 23, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

| Centering Prayer |

Our Gospel lesson

Follows last Sunday’s

“Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge.”

Jesus taught about the importance of prayer,

Persistent prayer.

Unrelenting prayer.

Praying for justice.

Praying, knowing God answers our prayers.

Today, Jesus immediately follows on with a second parable,

Often called “The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”

This is not a story about the virtues of righteous living.

This is a story about were one plants and grows their faith.

Jesus uses role reversal as a literary technique in this parable.

The status,

the values

of contrasting people

are exchanged                                                       

so that listeners are taken by surprise.

The good man goes away disappointed,

while the bad one leaves forgiven.

The angel is made into a devil,

And the devil is made into an angel.

In a way,

Jesus is painting a picture for us

of what the new age will be like.

The present, evil age will be brought down

and Christ’s new kingdom will take its place.

Take note of Jesus’ immediate audience.

They are described as

“some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous

and regarded others with contempt.” (18:9)

The practice of placing trust in yourself

and in your righteousness

is a type of

arrogant, self-assured piety.

Jesus is asking

Do you really think you don’t need to trust God?

Do you believe you are capable of such righteous behavior that you are without sin or blemish?

He is also making a statement about how one treats others.

Are we to despise others?

To regard others with contempt?

Clearly, Jesus is commenting that such behavior

it is a form of spiritual condescension.

Together, Jesus describes his audience

as being exactly like the character of the Pharisee

in his story: people filled with pride and arrogance.

The audience and the Pharisee are as one.


This fictional Pharisee is an interesting guy.

Not all Pharisees were like this fella;

in fact, he was probably an exception.

There are many examples in the Bible and elsewhere

of Pharisees behaving better,

who were humble and compassionate.

Judaism placed a theological emphasis on legalism,

Righteous living, and merit.

In this environment

there was always the danger of spiritual pride.

This Pharisee did have some good attributes.

1. He attends temple and prays silently.

If they handed out perfect attendance pins,

He would have had oodles of them.

2. His prayer follows the Jewish liturgy of the day:

“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe

who …”

But then his prayer takes an unexpected turn and flies off the rails.

He thanks God that he was not like others in the crowd:

Thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like that tax collector.

Thank God he wasn’t

Made a Gentile, a slave, a woman.

Thank God he wasn’t made … (you fill in the blank).

3. The Pharisee lives a righteous life, and

He makes it a point to remind God about it.

4. The Pharisee engages in the spiritual discipline of fasting.

He is proud to exceed expectations.

Instead of fasting once a week, he fasts twice.

5. The Pharisee is generous.

He gives tithes of everything he gets;

not just giving ten percent of his income

from agricultural products

as required by Jewish law.

He parses the language like a lawyer.

6. The Pharisee is a praying man.

In his prayer,

he recognizes that God is the source of his lot in life;

extending to him blessings of favor and prosperity.

He thanks God in his prayer,

(thanking God is always a good thing)

and he doesn’t ask God for anything in return.

There is no doubt about it,

this man was leading a life of exemplary righteousness.

That, nobody could deny.

Life was about to be turned upside down.

Then Jesus introduces to the audience the tax collector.

A number of years ago I received

One of those wonderful love letters from the IRS.

It was everything I imagined,

And worse.  

It might be more desirable to get a call

From your accountant telling you you’re broke

Or a call from your doctor informing you

that you have cancer.

Tax collectors in biblical times

Were loved even less than today’s tax collectors.

Rome set the tax rate;

often between 80 and 90 percent of people’s total income.

Such high taxes were required

to pay for very expensive Roman Legions

expanding the empire

and maintaining newly won territories.

Rome made the rules for collecting taxes.

They hired only willing collaborators.

The tax collector’s wage would be earned by commission,

on anything that could be collected above and beyond

the government tax.  

(And we think that taxes are high today!)

No wonder tax collectors

were often hated and thought of as extortionists.

To be a tax collector meant

they would have to profess their faith and allegiance

solely to Rome.

Besides being thought of as a dishonest extortionist,

the Jewish community

considered tax collectors disloyal to the people.

They were viewed as traitors.

Temple authorities would consider

A traitorous tax collector as “unclean”.

It appears that the tax collector in Jesus’ parable

Knew that he was unclean, too,

because we find him described in the story

“standing far off” away from the altar.

So here we have two people

on the hill of Zion in the temple praying;

two people who were

as different as black and white,

oil and vinegar,

day and night.

The audience to whom Jesus was speaking

probably began to believe at this point

that they understood how this parable concluded:

that Jesus was lifting up the virtues of righteousness.

(Perhaps you may have thought of this yourself.)

Instead, Jesus turns the world upside down.

The better characteristics of the Pharisee begin to tarnish.

Jesus knew that

“the proud are always most provoked by pride,”

because like the audience to whom Jesus was speaking,

Jesus paints the picture of this Pharisee

as one who trusts in his own righteousness,

despised others,

and was proud of who he was.

He lists all those who he is glad he is not like,

then he starts to make the case for himself.

Let’s be honest.

His prayer was never directed to God.

It’s focus is solely upon himself: I, I, I, …

look how righteous I am.

The worst part about the Pharisee

is that his idolatry is revealed.

He attempts to replace himself for God;

tries to take God’s place as the judge of other people’s soul:

“thank you that I am not like other people

– thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like

THAT tax collector.”

Thank God I’m Not Like YOU!

And oh, how easy this is to do!

“America is adrift.”

“We need to turn back to God.”

“Those people are what’s wrong with our country.”

“What’s wrong with all those people

who don’t come to church?”

It is so easy to yield to the temptation

to use a broad paint brush to blame others,

to judge others:

their lifestyles,



or economic status.

This is the pride

which makes us a fallen angel,

St. Augustine proclaimed.

Judging others puts us in the position of spiritual arrogance,

of thinking that we are superior to others.

But arrogance and thinking more of oneself than of others

is completely contrary to the grace of God.

Being better,

or more righteous,

or leading a more clean life

doesn’t make us more acceptable to God.

Only a life of faith does.

Only a life of faith makes us acceptable to God.

A life of faith gives God pleasure;

A life of faith like the sinful tax collector was leading.

He, on the other hand,

recognizes his own sinfulness

and throws himself upon the mercy of the Lord.

The tax collector places his trust in the Lord,

Not in himself.

Both the tax collector and the Pharisee

are perceptive enough to confront the issue of righteousness,

or the lack thereof.

But it was only the tax collector

who moved beyond the issue of righteousness

to that of faith.

It takes faith and a whole lot of courage

to present yourself wholly and submissively

at the feet of Jesus.

Whereas the Pharisee trusted in himself

for his righteousness to save him,

the tax collector rightly recognized

that it was not righteousness that provides salvation.

He trusted not in who he was but in who God is.

God is merciful.

He hoped not in what he had

but in what he might receive:

mercy and forgiveness.

It is when one can extend faith and trust beyond the self,

to call upon the mercy of the Lord,

that one can expect to be justified,

to be made whole and perfect,

by Jesus Christ, our Savior.

This passage is the core of our Wesleyan / Methodist ethos:

We are justified, or made complete with God,

by our faith, not by what we say or do.

This is the stumbling point that I mentioned earlier.

Too many times down through the centuries,

Christians have failed to see this parable

as one whose purpose was little more

than to address the issue of doing good works

and humbly seeking forgiveness.

This is a parable that addresses

the deeper issue of what it means

to place one’s faith and trust in the Lord;

how to enter into relationship with Jesus Christ,

and how to grow that relationship

through lifelong discipleship.

The first step is to appeal to the mercy of Jesus.

Fall submissively at his feet.

Confess your sins.

Try praying repeatedly the Jesus Prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

This is true faith:

to trust in God,

and in God’s mercy,

instead of trusting in yourself.

When the Jews in the crowd

Understood the deeper meaning of this parable

They were outraged.

They lived, breath, and died by the Law.

It was the Law that saved you,

or so the Jewish mind thought.

Jesus’s teachings, therefore, were revolutionary:

that, what is important is faith,

not the actions of an individual.

Likewise, Jesus’s actions were revolutionary:

Justification comes at the foot of the cross

and salvation is a gift

left at the door of the empty tomb.

Jesus embodied a new covenant,

a new covenant that we celebrate with Eucharist,

that we remember by breaking, pouring and sharing

the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

This is not to say

that Jesus was unconcerned with people’s behavior.

Not at all!

Rather, Jesus is frying other fish.

Jesus was and is primarily concerned with faithfulness;

fidelity and trust in the mercy of the Lord.

While good works and righteous living

are always the evidence of faithfulness

it is possible to lead a good and moral life

outside of faith.

“What does this imply for us today?” you may ask.

“How is God speaking to me through our Gospel?”

We are all sinful.


Given this fact

Don’t try to fix problems of sinfulness by yourself.

Begin by seeking the mercy of God.

Go to the feet of Jesus and ask for his assistance.

Peter says it quite plainly,

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

(1Peter 5:5)

At first you may feel empty;

as if it is silly to ask for God’s help,

to ask God to be merciful to “me a sinner.”

But after time and with practice,

faith in God begins to bloom and grow.

Suddenly, you’ll find yourself

seeking to lead a righteous life

because of this brand-new relationship

that is growing between yourself and God.

This is the type of relationship

that Jesus Christ is begging

to have with each of us.

Take the first step,

like the tax collector did,

to initiate the spark,

that will ignite the flame of the Holy Spirit

within our hearts.

“Pride changed angels into devils,”

St. Augustine proclaimed,

and “Humility makes one an angel.”

The Pharisee was made into devil.

And the tax collector?

“I tell you,

this man went down to his home justified …

for all who exalt themselves will be humbled,

but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Go, and do likewise.


“Pray Like There is No Tomorrow”

Luke 18:1-8

October 16, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

| Centering Prayer |

Our Gospel for today

Begins with praying always and not losing heart.

It takes a detour into persistence and justice.

And it concludes with a question about where faith will be found.

Undoubtedly, across the land

Pastors will deliver fine, inspiring sermons on each of these three points.

I am reminded by the wisdom of one seminary New Testament professor

who made the point that every parable

is meant to communicate Divine truth, …

at the same time,

every parable has a limit to how far it can be pushed or wrung dry.

In other words,

Keep it simple.




Seek that which God desires us to know,

but, don’t push a parable of Jesus beyond its intent.

The danger is reading into the narrative our personal agenda or biases,

which can distort the intended message.

Across the centuries,

spanning the globe,

crossing multiple cultures,

enduring transitions from oral, to written, to printed communication techniques

as well as multiple translations from one language to another to another,

human editors have had a field day with today’s Gospel.

It has become a tangled furball,

a spray of divergent topics

that obscure the essential Divine truth hidden within.

The challenge is to clarify,

to fine tune what is presented

into a clear concise message

that can be applied to our lives today.

“Pray always,” Jesus says.

Pray without interruption,

without ceasing.

Pray continuously.

Pray persistently,

like a widow seeking justice

who won’t give up and won’t give in.

Pray day and night.

Pray like there is no tomorrow.

Keep praying because the Son of Man is coming

and he is expecting to find us in prayer.

Consider the common nature of prayer in Luke.

Jesus prays at his baptism.

He withdraws to pray at key points throughout his ministry.

Jesus prays such that he sweats blood on the Mount of Olives.

He instructs his disciples to pray for those who abuse them.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray when they ask for instruction.

And Jesus assures us that the Holy Spirit comes to those who ask.

As Jesus was persistently in prayer throughout his life and ministry,

as he illustrates in this parable a widow who is persistence in her petition for justice,

so, too, are we to claim

the same persistence

for our prayer life.

Pray like there is no tomorrow!

Which is to say

“Pray in this moment.”

Time for some introspection.

Close your eyes.

Consider your life,

Your words,

Your actions.

Is everything you think, say, and do

firmly anchored to a foundation of prayer?

Persistent means always,

never ceasing.

Do you pray while shopping;

that choices will reflect your stewardship of God’s creation?

How about praying as you shuttle your kids to and from practice or games?

Do you pray that your attitude and language will be tempered by God’s love and wisdom,

And set a good example for other parents and families?

Do you pray when facing temptation?

When facing something you know you shouldn’t do,

but want to do anyway?

When tempted,

Do you ask for God to help you? Give you strength?

To divert your attention to more faithful endeavors?

When confronting injustice,

Do you pray to resist,

As we vowed at our baptismal waters?

Ask for strength and direction to resist oppression,

Wherever it be found.

Ask for God to channel your passion, to give you His words, and help keep you faithful?

It’s easy to pray occasionally;

when facing crisis,

when set in routine,

or when we step foot into the sanctuary.

Praying persistently is advancing the spiritual life one step further;

filling the in-between time

with our intentional effort to listen and speak with our God.

Time for some Extrospection.

Consider the life of our community of faith,

our church:

Is everything we think, say, and do

also firmly anchored to a foundation of prayer?

Can we let go and let God;

Give up our agenda and listen for God’s agenda to be made known to us?

When we talk finance

is it in such a way that reflects our prayerful revelation of God’s grace?

When we talk missions and outreach

is it in such a way that recognizes the fact that God is telling us to be like Jesus

reaching out to the last, the least, and the lost?

When we talk about a fund raiser,

are we asking God to work through us to bless and love

every one of our customers?

Persistent means always,

Praying as individuals and when we are gathered,

Here in the building or when we are deployed throughout the community.

Are we prayerfully supporting one another,

and through each other,

our neighbors, community, state and world?

“Pray always,” Jesus commands,

“and not to lose heart.”

Do not lose heart.

Keep faith.

Don’t lose heart.

Keep faith that God is in control,

today, tomorrow, and forever.

Today, most of us have the faith to pray.

We’ve come to worship after all.

In the spur of the moment

just about every Christian is able to muster up an

“Our Father, who art in heaven,”

“Now I lay me down to sleep,”

or “God is good, God is great.”

But when the petition is a little bit more personal

– like a plea –

and when the petition is made not just one day

but for a succession of days,

it becomes a little bit more dicey.

Do not lose heart, Jesus injects his confidence directly into our souls.

In the short term,

the persistent widow’s prayers for justice were not answered,

yet, she came back day after day,

knocking at the door of the stubborn judge.

Keep faith that

God’s time

is God’s time,

not our time.

We live in God’s time.

We think we live in our time,

but we don’t.

When one talks resurrection and salvation

all talk is eternal.

All talk is God’s time.

It is according to God’s schedule that God responds.

Be there no misunderstanding.

God responds to every prayer.

Our job is to pray without ceasing,

with mustard seed sized faith and to keep knocking on God’s door.

Be assured, Jesus tells us,

persistent prayers are

always answered

according to God’s will and according to God’s time.

Do not lose heart;

keep faith

that every answered prayer,

that comes from God,

comes to us

from the one characteristic of God

that remains eternal:

God’s everlasting love.

When Jesus says,

“Ask anything and God will grant it,”

we conveniently leave off that part “according to his will.”

“And this is the boldness we have in him,

that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

God’s will and motivation has always been for our personal and communal benefit.

Only a God who loved the world would send a son

to forgive us of the sins we’ve committed against Him and each other.

Only a God who loved the world would send His son

to win victory over death with a gift of eternal life.

When our persistent prayers

are according to God’s will to love us,

then, yes, every petition is granted.

When we believe our petitions haven’t been granted,

either it is because

what we’ve been asking for has been contrary to the will of God,


what we’ve been asking for has yet to be revealed by God’s greater, long-term plan.

Eventually, the persistent widow

was granted her petition.

She asked for justice and she got it.

Of course, justice is consistent with the love and will of God.

Why wouldn’t it be granted?

The point is she was persistent in her petitions; and so should we.

She didn’t lose heart, she didn’t lose faith, and neither should we.

Jesus concludes our Gospel for today

with what I believe is the perfect question:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Luke 18:8

Consider numerous Gospel narratives where a multitude of people are commended for their faith:

  • A centurion who believes Jesus will heal his slave, even from a distance;
  • the sinful woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and loves much;
  • friends of a paralyzed man who are willing to cut a hole through a perfectly good roof;
  • the bleeding, unclean woman who touches Jesus’ clothes in the crowd and is healed;
  • the Samaritan healed of his leprosy, whose gratitude turns him back to Jesus where he falls at his feet in thanksgiving;
  • and the blind beggar later in this chapter who sees Jesus for who he is and calls out to him.

Yes, the Son of Man will find faith,

but Luke suggests that it may be in unexpected places,

not among the religious professionals

or the ones certain of their own righteousness.

Faith is to be found

among outsiders,

the unlovely,

the unclean,

those certain of their sinfulness.

(Thanks to: Meda Stamper, pastor, Anstey United Reformed Church, Leicestershire, England, as found at workingpreacher.org)

Signs of faith today

are people and communities persistently praying

every moment of every day,

in every circumstance,

in submission to God’s power and will.

Signs of faith today are evident

when culture is wrapped so tightly in persistent prayer

that peace replaces violence,

God’s love drowns out hatred, prejudice, and racism,

and grace leads to life lived completely in the Spirit.

Signs of faith today

can be seen

in people and communities who persistently pray

and who do not lose heart,

who keep coming back

and coming back

and coming back

until the prayer is answered in God’s time,

or, until the Son of Man returns.

Whichever comes first.

It’s all good.

This is good advice:

Don’t stretch the parable too far.

Jesus gives his followers better advice:


Pray always.

Pray and do not lose heart.

Be the Gospel.

Be this Good News.


“The Impossible Made Possible”

Luke 17:11-19

October 9, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

| Centering Prayer |

The changing seasons-

In case you haven’t noticed

We are right in the final days …

Of election season.

Lawn signs have sprung up like daisies.

Television commercials portray political candidates

As fine, upstanding members of the community

Making promises everyone on the planet know they can’t keep,

All the while, tearing their opponent to pieces with innuendoes and lies.

America’s blood sport isn’t football;

It’s politics.

If there is a bright side to this season

It would be that, at least,

we are not settling debates with a duel,

Like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

With candidates practically begging for each and every vote

I believe Christians have a prime opportunity

To look to the Word,

Listen to the whisper of God speak through the scriptures

And follow our Lord’s example of how to address some of today’s most challenging social problems.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle desperately want our vote

And to get it, they give us lip service saying they want our input.

Our input should come from a life walking with Jesus

Not by a life lived along political parties or partisan division.

Let’s take a walk with Jesus

From today’s Gospel:

“As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him.

Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

In that time and culture

It was common for people with unclean diseases to group together.

If one had leprosy,

He or she was considered unclean, untouchable.

Those with leprosy were forced to live

outside the protection of the city walls

or on the edge of town

to minimalize the risk of contamination.

Of course, this is where others with leprosy and other communicable diseases could be found.

The city gate was a convenient location to beg for alms, food, and mercy.

A gate was a natural funnel for the flow of travelers,

A perfect location for the unclean to congregate.

Not only is this quite possible that Jesus and his disciples

would have encountered groups of individuals

with leprosy, and similar diseases or disabilities, as they traveled,

it was a certainty.

The Gospel is full of stories about Jesus healing the blind, the lame, and demon possessed.

Jesus and his disciples encountered groups of sick,

diseased and dying outside of every town they approached.

Jewish law, and it’s strict interpretation and application of cleanliness laws,

Segregated families, friends, and neighborhoods.

This primitive system of isolation and quarantine

Provided minimal public health benefit.

Honestly, the true benefit was “Out of sight, out of mind.”

“If I don’t see my disabled cousin every day

then I don’t have to worry about her

and I’m free to go about my business.”

Just another example of how the brutal application of law

– especially religious law –

destroys grace and compassion.

Beware of the practice of rigid fundamentalism,

Absolute, strict adherence to law,

Be it ultra-orthodox Judaism,

Sharia Islamic law, or

Modern day Christian fundamentalism.

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider the word ghetto,

from the Hebrew,

literally a bill of divorce,

and to apply it to our gospel for today.

Jewish society had divided itself, creating a system of

haves v. have-nots,

inclusion v. exclusion,

loved v. those who are to be shunned; even hated.

Let me see.

Can I envision a time and place and circumstance were issues divide us?

The Gospel

Leads me to think about healthcare.

For some, healthcare is wonderful, measured by brand and co-pay.

For others, healthcare is broken pony

dividing people unequally

by zip code, income, gender, age, or race.

If we ask “what would Jesus do” about healthcare,

We only need to turn to today’s Gospel:

Ten people suffering from leprosy cry out to Jesus for mercy.

Jesus saw their circumstance.

Jesus heard their cry.

Jesus healed all ten lepers.

Every last one of them.

As United Methodists

We are a part of a long heritage of

Providing faith-based health care.

Methodist based hospital systems and clinics,

Across the nation and the world,

Stand as a testament to

Our great Wesleyan heritage

Of healing the sick,

Just as Jesus did.

My question is

Why don’t we do everything possible

To ensure that 10 out of 10 are healed?

Too bad, so sad,

if you can’t afford health insurance

Or if your deductible to so high

You can’t afford to use the health insurance you have.

I’m confident Jesus didn’t ask these ten people with leprosy

For their health insurance card and photo ID

Before he healed them and made them whole.

It is possible to improve access and utilization of healthcare,

When we consider the intersection between the life of Jesus and the principles of science.

Faith and medicine

can go hand in hand to ensure

All ten are healed;

No one is left behind at the city gate.

Health is not the only contemporary issue addressed by Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Jesus is traveling from Galilee, in the north,

to Jerusalem, 90 miles south,

through the region of Samaria.

Jewish Samaritans practiced a different kind of Judaism than everyone else.

The term Samaritan meant different things to different people,

depending upon your ancestry, location, and point of view.

To Jews whose ancestors had endured Babylonian exile over 700 years earlier,

Samaritans were descendants that had captured but not forced into exile.

They were conquered, left in place,

forced to collaborate with their occupiers.

Cultures collided.

They inter-married

resulting in bi-racial offspring.

To orthodox Jews

Samaritans were

Mixed race traitors

Practicing an unauthorized faith.

Additionally, during occupation,

Samaritans were forced to relocate the Temple,

due to travel restrictions to and from Jerusalem.  

They built a new local temple on Mt. Gerizim,

the traditional location of the near-sacrifice of Isaac.

Samaritans who lived between Galilee in the north and Judah in the south

Thought of themselves as the faithful ones.

Their blue-blood cousins from Jerusalem

Were the unfaithful ones.

The music stopped,

The charge was injustice,

They faced the Lord’s judgment,

Deemed guilty and sent into exile.

Samaritans hadn’t faced the Lord’s anger, judgment, and exile.

They resorted to survival tactics in the midst of an unmerciful occupier,

doing whatever it took to survive and to remain faithful to God.

They despised those who eventually returned, dismissed their Temple,

and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.

By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were treated as if they were second class Jews.

To Jews who lived in the north, in Galilee,

where Jesus matured and ministered,

Samaria was a place most travelers avoided.

Best to go around to the east to make the annual visit to Jerusalem and the Temple.

Take the road down the Jordan Valley

instead of the high road through the mountains and hills of Samaria.

Avoid Samaritans, and you won’t have to deal with them.

Treat them as if they are invisible.

Blame them for all that is wrong with our country,

because, well, it is better to blame someone else than to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sound familiar?



Both, white hot;

Electrified issues today in

US partisan politics.

Some call it people illegal, others name them undocumented;

Regardless, it results in treating others as

Faceless objects,

Political pawns to press the advantage.

People get used and abused,

Treated as second-class citizens.

What did Jesus do?

The religious culture in which Jesus taught and ministered

Was tailor made to divide people.

Supported by powerful, occupying Roman legions,

Organized Judaism pitted

Jew v. Gentile.

Clean v. Unclean.

Priestly class v. the laity.

Rome v. Jew.

Men v. women.

Wealthy contributors v. the poor widow’s mite.

What did Jesus do?

Jesus included Gentiles into the kingdom,

Healed all and made everyone clean … even on the Sabbath!

He tore up the money changers in the Temple

And treated women as equals with men.

Oh, yes, he healed one Centurion’s servant and

Raised from the dead the daughter of a ruler of the synagogue.

Jesus elevates the foreigner, the immigrant, the migrant, for doing the right thing,

for returning and giving thanks to the Lord.

And like in so many other situations,

Jesus responds with the command,

‘Get up and go on your way;

your faith has made you well.’

We are called to do the same, too.

It begins with changing our attitudes,

ending our resistance to change,

and the acceptance of others,

simply the way they are: created beautiful and perfect in every possible way

by a loving and merciful God.

We don’t have to agree with others,

but we do have to tolerate and respect each other.

We don’t have to worship the same God,

but we do need to insist that all have the freedom to express their religious beliefs

however they see fit, and

without outside threat, risk, or danger.

We do need to stand up and speak out,

both in the voting booth and with our lobbying efforts,

to keep society a melting pot of individuals,

always refreshed with new members,

safe to raise our families,

respectful of our history,

tolerant of culture,

knowing that diversity makes us strong.

By faith in Jesus Christ, the impossible can be made possible.

Healing and restoration are possible.

All can be included in the kingdom,

Not because we say so,

But because it is the way of our Lord.