“Close; and Closing Fast”

Matthew 3:1-12

Advent 2A, December 4, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of

Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come

near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he

said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the

way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing

of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food

was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all

Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,

and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their


But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for

baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you

to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our

ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up

children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the

trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut

down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for

repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after

me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with

the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he

will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the

granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

| Centering Prayer |

The prophetic edge

is sharp.

It is meant to cut,

to contrast,

to set apart,

the current momentum and direction of God’s own people

to the direction that is the will of God.

Prophecy is the voice of God,

spoken through an intermediary,

to a specific people

in a specific time and place.

It is the fusion of earthly observations

with Divine will.

Because prophecy is sharp,

most prophets are pretty jagged.

John the Baptist this morning is no exception:

he is out in the wilderness eating bugs,

dressed in burlap,

making claims and engaging in behaviors

that not only draw a crowd

but also bring down the religious authorities.

Though the will of God was directed for the benefit of

other people living in a different time,

essential truth can be harvested

from even one so controversial and cutting as John the Baptist.

So, what can be learned?

1. Preparation begins with repentance.

We know that Christ has come;

Christ is present with us;

and, yet, we expect

– we look forward to –

Christ that is still to come.

Because Christ has yet to arrive

we’d better be ready.

We had better prepare the way of the Lord.

The way to prepare your life for the coming of the Lord,

according to John the Baptist,

speaking on behalf of God,

is to make repentance of your sins.

Repentance means to recognize when you have breached God’s laws,

making an intentional and thoughtful decision to stop the sinful behavior,

seek forgiveness,

make reparations,

and to set out with a new will and intention to sin no more.

Repentance implies that we don’t forget;

rather, we

use past experience

to modify and improve future decisions and behavior

according to the will of God.

Have you repented of your sins?

If not, there is no better time and place

than right here, right now

at this communion table.

2. The Kingdom of heaven is close; and closing fast.

And we thought Christmas was coming quickly!

The approaching Kingdom is imminent.

It is as close as the next breath.

Yet, because it is according to God’s timing,

it may still be far off.


Or, Christ returning?

We don’t know when either will be.

All we know is that it is coming.

Therefore, every moment must be lived with the expectation

that God’s Kingdom is imminent,

so, we’d better be ready

every moment of every day.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he writes

For to me, living is Christ

and dying is gain.”

(Philippians 1:21)

Advent living is living in a frame of mind of constant preparation.

I am prepared to die,

Just as

I am prepared to welcome the return of Jesus.

The coming of the Kingdom of God

and the coming of Christ are one and the same.

Thy Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

The dividing chasm will be crossed,

every mountain will be made low

and every valley will be lifted up;

and all will worship the Lamb.

Are you ready?

Are you ready for this great and glorious occasion?

There is no better time or place to be ready

than right here,

right now,

at this communion table

when we eat the bread

and drink the cup

and eat and drink the Christ

and welcome him in.


3. Though Christ claims you; Christ also judges you.



One might think that baptism is sufficient;

that because I’ve been baptized by water and the Spirit

that I get a pass when it comes to my final judgment.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Pedigrees do not provide an automatic acquittal

and neither does the fact that you might be a baptized disciple of Christ.

Being a child of Abraham

is no better than being a lifelong church leader, teacher, preacher, evangelist or missionary.

Each of us will one day look Jesus Christ in the eye.

Each of us will one day receive the judgment of our Lord,

Our Redeemer,

Our Savior.

We assume that his Divine judgment is like a courtroom

with Christ attired in a black robe and carrying a gavel

and we all rise when he enters.

We assume this is Divine judgment

because that is what we know.

But, quite clearly the Gospel tells us

that judgment takes place on the cross, not in a courtroom.

Sin is drawn to the cross like metal filings are drawn to a magnet.

Our sin is absorbed by the Body of Christ

and we are redeemed by his Blood.

It is like the fire of burning chaff

to hang with the unrepentant thief

mocking Jesus with cat calls and jeers.

Similarly, it is all that we can ever hope for

to be gathered into God’s eternal granary with the promise

“today you will be with me in paradise.”

If the cross is our judgment

and the grave is our sentence,

than the empty tomb is this promise:

the coming of the Lord justifies us

– makes us right with the Lord –

and we are welcomed into our eternal home;

where heaven and earth are one

and all is known as God’s Kingdom.

Are you ready for the Christ that is yet to come?

Do not fear!


Draw close to this Table.

Eat his bread; drink his wine.

Make Christ a part of you,

living in you,

working through you.

Then, there is no fear.

There is only hope and anticipation.


“That Day; That Hour”

Matthew 24:36-44

Advent 1A, November 27, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

| Centering Prayer |

Fear is a powerful motivator.

Fear was an effective tactic used by Ms. Eggleston,

my 6th grade teacher.

We called her “Old Eagle Eye”

because of the way she stood at the end of the hall when we passed;

arms folded,

and looking over her cat eyed glasses.

Not much happened outside of her

all seeing power.

It was as if the hallway was the land of Mordor

and the eye of Sauron was always watching.

Fear is a powerful motivator for changing behavior.

I love trains;

not toy trains, mind you.

The real thing.

I love the railroad industry

and the horsepower, technology, the Surface Transportation Board, and people who make it go.

So I read as much industry information as possible;

I always have.

I’ve learned over the years,

by reading, direct observation, and talking with employees,

just how dangerous the rail industry is;

and it has been this way from the very start.

It is said

the rule book is founded

on the blood of railroad men and women who paid the price.

The result is perhaps the most strict work environment

any place on the planet.

In every American rail company,

rule violations by an employee quickly results

in swift, harsh punishment.

Qualifying for positions is hard, time consuming, and requires a lot of education.

One accident,

one error,

can quickly result in catastrophe.

As a result of decades of intense regulation and an emphasis on safety,

a railroad job today is one that has a very low risk of injury or death

compared to other industries.

If you fear for your job,

you’ll jump through hoops to keep it!

Fear is a powerful motivator.

Consider how fear is, or has been, weld:

Stalin, less your village be deported to the gulag or worse.

The Roman Catholic Church, lest you be sent to hell for your sins.

Putin and his thug army, lest your village be shelled to oblivion.

The school yard bully, lest you have your lunch money pounded out of you.

The SAT test, lest you not get into a good school

Stalin got a slowly simmering society but will no opposition.

The Pope used to (emphasis on past tense) get churches with filled pews.

Putin is destroying power, water, utilities, with the occasional apartment complex.

The school yard bully got two milks instead of one.

And educational tutoring services thrive in the months before each test.

It is hard to hear our Gospel for this morning and not be afraid.

It sounds like Jesus is using fear as a tactic

to keep his followers alert for his return.

Everyone is eating, drinking, and having a good time one day,

and only Noah and his family are left behind the next day.

Everyone else was killed.

(Yes, later-day interpreters

who insert into scripture misaligned rapture theology

get it backwards.

Noah didn’t get it backwards;

Noah and his family were the ones left behind.)

Two people working in the field.

One is taken and one is left.

Two people working the grist mill.

One is taken and one is left.

It all sounds rather arbitrary on the surface

but Jesus knows

that no two workers,

no two disciples,

are alike.

Some are eager to work

and are selected at six in the morning.

Those less eager

don’t get hired until the end of the day.

Jesus knows there is great diversity in the labor pool;

as there would be

great diversity among his followers.

Some will be all in,

other disciples,

will be persistent procrastinators.

Jesus knows the problems of identifying

that day and that hour.

He knows the nature and characteristic of people.

Everyone might stop working,

gather in Times Square

hold hands, and

start singing Kum Ba Yah.

There’d be chaos and pandemonium

if we knew the date and time.

His kingdom would REgress,

as opposed to PROgress,

which is what he desires.

“Better not to tell them,”

Jesus probably thought to himself.

“A little bit of fear is good for them

especially if it keep my disciples alert and awake.”

It is easy for us to look around our sanctuary today

and feel pretty smug.

We might feel like we will be the ones spared;

passed over, if you will.

After all, we’ve showed up.

We’ve ponied up.

We’ve dressed up.

We’re the ones who make the effort

week after week

to ensure our faithful presence, prayers, gifts, and service.

Why wouldn’t we be the ones spared by God.

Why wouldn’t we be

left behind to complete God’s kingdom?

Our Gospel for today calls us to self-examination;

are we doing everything possible

to remain alert and awake for imminent return of the Son of Man?

Fear is a powerful motivator;

welcome to Advent!

Of course,

Advent is a season of anticipation

and today is the launch.

We take four Sundays to remember the Christ child who came.

We recognize the Christ present and at work in the Body assembled here.

And we anticipate the Christ that is promised yet to come.

Christ has come.

Christ is come.

Christ will come again.

Fear may be a powerful motivator,

but for the faithful follower of Christ,

we are given the confidence to

transform fear into anticipation,

changing our behaviors,

as is God’s will,

into a community preparing for the return of Christ!

Yes, Christ will be coming

like a thief in the night, Jesus teaches us.

So instead of being paralyzed with fear,

begin to prepare a way for him!

Let us bring down the mountains and fill in the valleys.

Let us gather our weapons and recast them into

plows, planters, and harvesters.

Let us complete the transformation of this world

to be God’s kingdom

on earth

as it is in heaven.

Beloved, set your hearts and minds about the business of preparation.

This is where the anticipation of Advent is found:

– Staying awake and alert

means loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength

and our neighbor as ourselves.

– Staying awake and alert

requires of us a feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Things have to change!

The poor must be lifted up.

The hungry need fed.

The sick need healed.

Prisoners need reformed and reintroduced into society.

Those mourning need comforted.

Peace makers need to strike new deals.

And the disabled, orphans, and widows need cared for.

– Staying awake and alert

means we work tirelessly to build God’s kingdom,

to seek and follow God’s will

all of our earthly days,

and when that day comes

when Christ returns,

we are received into the Father’s eternal glory.

Today’s message of fear

is the foundation for Christmas’ anticipation:

Christ has come.

Christ is come.

And Christ will come again.

So stay awake, beloved workers of the field.

Stay alert, dear people grinding at the mill.

Be the body of Christ

that transforms the world.


“Jesus, Remember Me”

November 20, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

| Centering Prayer |

Generally, we Americans bristle at the thought of monarchy.

Abusive, totalitarian monarchies drove immigration from every corner of Europe to the Americas.

It was one of our signature characteristics

Won for us in our Revolutionary war;

the idea that we would break from the king and elect our own leaders.

Colonists didn’t like heredity making that decision any more than we appreciated our tea being taxed.

We don’t like privilege.

We don’t like entitlements.

And we don’t like being told what to do by wealthy, privileged, entitled, kings or queens.

Yet, we still have this pathological voyeurism when it comes to royalty.

I admit, I tuned in for the wedding of Charles and Dianna and

was tragically shocked by Dianna’s death.

Most recently, I watched with interest the funerals of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.

On this, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year,

we celebrate the Reign of Christ, or,

what used to be known as Christ the King.

By removing the word king,

we de-emphasize monarchy;

and by adding reign,

we more properly place the focus on God’s kingdom.

(or so I’m told by liturgical scholars!)

Through the past twelve months,

we’ve walked the pages of the Gospel of Luke,

followed Christ

from manger to ministry,

from passion to death,

and on Easter Sunday, we stepped with Christ out from the empty tomb

as people redeemed, saved, and commissioned for duty.

“Go make disciples,” the resurrected Jesus tells us,

with an authority that can only be described as “Divine.”

Yet, it was only a few days earlier

that Jesus’ broken body,

apparently defeated,

was hanging on the cross.

He was flanked by two opposing criminals like

our altar cross flanked by candles,

his bloodied, dying pulp elevated above the mocking crowd,

even as his followers “stood by, watching.”

One criminal, with one foot in the grave, and the other anchored by Satin,

temps Jesus with blatant self-interest:

“Are you not the Messiah?

Save yourself and us!”

Religious leaders scoffed at him with sarcasm

and with similar temptation,

“He saved others;

let him save himself,

if he is the Messiah of God,

his chosen one!”

They even mock him with twisted sarcasm

by posting a derisive inscription for all to see:

“This is the King of the Jews”

the very title Herod Antipas exclusively reserved for himself.

As if 40 days of dealing with the Devil in the wilderness wasn’t enough.

Saint Luke paints the picture of

hell-bound criminals and religious leaders

sharing the same boat

that is opposed to Christ and

bent on his destruction.

To which Jesus replies,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

When Jesus makes his cross the symbol of forgiveness

he gives us a taste of his heavenly monarchy,

not one like we have rejected- wielding autocratic brutality,

rather, an eternal reign by a grace wielding King.

Many today may view the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ

as Christianity taking a soft approach to crime;

easy on the Law.

As if Christ gives us a get out of jail free card;

so eat, drink, and be merry!

for tomorrow we are forgiven anyway.

Luke’s narrative this morning tells us otherwise.

Forgiveness from the cross defines the eternal, all-inclusive monarchy of Christ!

Only a divine King has the power and authority to rule with such grace.

A judge and jury,

the gallows and the guillotine,

are replace by

“My son” or

“My daughter”

“go and sin no more; your faith has made you well.”

The grace of God,

Through the cross of Jesus Christ,

outdoes bruit force

When it comes to Christ and his Kingdom.

Grace vacates your conviction,

Extends forgiveness, parole, probation, and pardon.

The grace of God,

Through the cross,

Brings healing to repair the damage we have caused because of our sin and offenses.

Listen carefully:

“Go and sin no more.”

At the same time, Jesus is not alone.

The passive crowd stood by, watching.



It is easy for us to be critical of their posture,

but it is important to remember how powerless they were to earthly authorities.

Any attempt at intervention would have brought swift, violent reprisals.

Those soldiers,

With their spears and swords

Were formidable deterrents.

Do not underestimate the value of this crowd of witnesses, however.

God apparently had other plans.

These are the people who will soon bear testimony to both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

They are essential first-person,

eye-witness accounts that will warm people’s hearts and change people’s minds.

Witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus

are the first people

to become subjects under the new reign of Christ

and to be empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit

to gather new subjects

into Christ’s heavenly kingdom.

Jesus is not alone on the cross, either.

The opposing criminal is balanced by another crucified for his crimes.

Instead of deriding Christ,

This man recognizes his own faults

and takes responsibility for his crimes.

“We have been condemned justly,” he proclaims.

“We are getting what we deserve for our deeds.”

In an attitude of confession, a willingness for repentance, and with an acceptance of the justice imposed upon him

this second crucified criminal expresses

extraordinary faith with his sincere petition:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus assures him,

“today you will be with me in Paradise.”

In a similar way to the passive crowd,

today we are called to be faithful witnesses

– paying careful attention to the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and worship;

not taking our eye off of the cross of Jesus Christ  –

while at the same time, we are called and commissioned

to spread Christ’s kingdom by the power of our testimony.

This is how we celebrate the reign of Christ;

by expanding his Kingdom.

In a similar way to the penitent, faithful thief on the cross,

with sincere humility,

petition our King,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It doesn’t take much to rebuke the opposing competitors to Christ’s Kingdom,

just faith the size of a mustard seed;

just the faith that has already been given to us from God above.

This preemptive gift of faith,

called “prevenient grace”;

it is what God gives us before we know of it, asked for it, or needed it.

Prevenient grace is unearned, undeserved, without price.

Prevenient grace makes it possible for each of us to directly petition Christ,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Keep your eyes on the cross.

It is your forgiveness and mine.

Yet, the cross is more.

Jesus has transformed the cross

And it now has become the symbol for the eternal reign of Christ.

Watch, testify, make your petitions directly to Jesus;

these are the hallmark characteristics

of kingdom living,

of recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the

Reign of Christ.

Of his reign there will be no end.


“An Opportunity to Testify”

Luke 21:5-19

November 13, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.“ When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

| Centering Prayer |

People are gullible.

We want to believe what we believe.

We seek justification for what we believe.

We can look at facts and each draw separate conclusions;

Each according to our personal biases, needs, wants, and motives.

This alone should make us critical of other people’s conclusions.

Personally, I want you suspicious of mine

Because it is a healthy means of self-improvement

And it keeps me honest!

It also means that we should always be examining our own conclusions.

People are persuadable.

Our gullibility makes us vulnerable to the opinions of others.

We like to fit in;

Go with the flow,

Not make any waves.

Sometimes it is good to be persuaded.

We learn, we adapt, we grow.

New information allows us to grow our world view and mature.

Sometimes being persuaded is a liability;

Some call it “being a flip-flopper.”

It can be a sign of indecisiveness,

A lack of confidence,

Or a sign of weakness.

People are naturally paranoid.

A little dose is healthy;

It comes down to self-preservation.

Being suspicious helps keep us alive in an environment filled with danger.

Too much paranoia, however,

Becomes the natural default for those who can’t or won’t make the effort to draw their own conclusions

And if left unchecked

Can lead to unhealthy lifestyles;

Even illness.

People are overconfident.

We think we are smarter than we really are.

I know I am.

In my own mind, I’m downright brilliant.

I’m also sufficiently self-aware to know that this is not true.

We believe we can think our way through any problem,

Solve any puzzle,

Find a solution to any perplexing issue life happens to deliver.

We are confident.

We are can-do type of people.

We have been marinating in self-esteem since childhood.

We believe we can do anything.

We are Americans, after all!

Gullible, persuadable, paranoid, and overconfident.

That’s the human condition.

It is a blessing, and a curse.

People haven’t changed much these past 2,000 years.

In fact, not only was Jesus teaching his disciples about their present circumstances

He is also reaching to the future to speak to us here today.

Jesus is providing us tools with which we can use to make sense of our world.

In the time of Jesus,

And in centuries to follow,

There were individuals who claimed to know future events

Based on present circumstances.

“The Temple is destroyed and the nation is defeated;

This must be a sign of the apocalypse.

This must be a sign the end is near.”

“Don’t you believe it!” Jesus clearly states in today’s gospel.

For Luke and his audience in the early first century church

The Temple had been destroyed.

Luke was authored after the destruction of the Temple in 72 AD.

The nation was defeated.

Rome had burned it to the ground.

The few survivors were scattered to the far corners of the world

(known as the “diaspora”).

The people were gullible, persuadable, paranoid, and had a complete loss of confidence.

The end isn’t near,

Jesus reassures his future Apostles and church planters.

Persecution may be a reality.

Death was a certainty.

“Do not fear,” Jesus assures.

“Simply endure.”

“I will give you words.”

“I will save you.”

The curse of being naturally gullible, persuadable, paranoid, and over confident is that we draw similar conclusions about the future

Based on current world circumstances.

Don’t believe one word of it, we hear Jesus echoing today.

“Volcanoes and earthquakes,

War in Ukraine,

North Korea firing off missile left and right,

Car jackings and mass shootings,

Hacked emails, ransomware, and the dark net,

Are all signs the end must be near!”

From Watch Tower tracts to Hollywood movies and music,

We are constantly being tempted to believe in rapture, apocalypse, and the end of the world.

Just stop it.

What makes our generation any more exceptional than the prior 39 going back to Jesus?

“Beware that you are not led astray,” Jesus proclaims.

“Do not go after them …

The end will not follow immediately.”

Though fear monger politicians and snake oil peddling preachers

May be spreading terrifying tall tales,

(Often to pack their pews and fill their bank accounts)

Jesus is crystal clear:

Don’t believe it.

Future events cannot be foretold.

Neither can the will of God be maligned, corrupted, or railroaded

To satisfy human will.

Prophesy means looking at the horizon,

Seeing the storm clouds,

And drawing the conclusion that it is going to rain.

Prophesy does not convince God to put the clouds in the sky.

Prophesy does not predict when it will rain, how much it will rain, or how long it is going to rain.

Neither does prophesy draw conclusions that storm clouds are the result of God’s judgment.

Mostly, it rains just because it rains.

Prophets are not oracles or fortune tellers.

Mostly, prophets simply watch and listen and faithfully report what God wants them to hear.

A life lived in fear is a life of missed opportunities.

Fear prevents us from building up the kingdom of God:

Of eliminating barriers that divide us,

From ending poverty that plaques us,

Of establishing justice, mercy and grace throughout the land.

Fear prevents us from placing our trust in God.

We become fearful of placing our dependence in anyone other than our selves.

We don’t want to depend on others, and we don’t want to depend on God.

Fear creates false idols;

We trust our bank accounts, not God.

We build bigger and better barns.

We stockpile our treasures

And justify our hoarding by saying we are just “saving for a rainy day.”

We trust our instincts, not the word of God.

Fear makes us hibernate when we get home, lock our doors, and complain that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Fear breeds distrust and causes us to do irrational things.

Fear leads us to distrust people who look or believe differently.

Fear sucks us into get rich quick schemes,

Leads us to invest in swampland,

And opens our wallets to unproven cures.

Don’t drink the cool-aid!

Do not follow those who breed fear and discontent.

Do not be terrified

When you hear threats of terrorism, war, end times, a culture divided.

Do not be afraid.

God is in control.

God’s got this.

God has already saved you.

The assurance of Jesus is not always welcomed as good news.

Arrest, persecution, and death await.

Bad things do happen to good and faithful people.

Within two sentences

Jesus says some of you will be put to death,

Then promises “not a hair of your head will perish.”

Indeed, though all will die a mortal death,

Eternal life with God is a gift that can never be taken away.

Instead of fearing trials, temptations, plagues, and famines-

Instead of fearing the pain and suffering that life ultimately serves to everyone,

Jesus gives us another strategy,

Another tool for our faithful living:

Replace fear

With opportunity.

Take the opportunity of pain, suffering, and persecution

To testify to the redemption and salvation of Jesus Christ.

Testify to the dirty world who it was that washed you clean.

Testify to the world who embraces death and destruction

Who it is that has saved and recreated you as Christ’s disciple.

Instead of standing at the grave and fearing death,

Look into the face of death and proclaim

“I believe!”

I believe in both the cross and the empty tomb.

I believe in both death and resurrection.

I believe Jesus both died and was raised

And in doing so,

Won for us victory over the grave

And the gift of eternal life.

Testify your faith when life fails you.

Lift high the cross of Christ

When walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Proclaim the sweet name of Jesus even when the devil looks you square in the eye.

Fear not..

Place your trust in God.

Refuse to succumb to fear.

When given the opportunity to witness, speak up and speak out!

Sharing your personal testimony repeatedly builds confidence.

Confidence overwhelms fear,

Allows faith to deepen,

And draws us closer to God.

Do not be afraid.

Just stick close to God.


“The Hope to Which Saints are Called”

Ephesians 1:11-23 and Luke 6:20-31

All Saints Sunday

November 6, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 6:20-31

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

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

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

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

| Centering Prayer |

Our hope is in Jesus Christ.

Our hope is in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

On this sacred Sunday

We celebrate

the saints from our church family and community

Who have died in the Lord this past year

And who now have received the fulfillment of hope;

The forgiveness and absolution of every sin,

and, the gift of eternal life.

Jesus Christ is what unites us.

He holds us together as one.

Our beloved saints

Were baptized by the same water that flowed over the Lord

When he was baptized in the chilly Jordan;

The same water that we were baptized with

Before our own font,

or in our own stream or lake.

Our beloved saints lived as sinners,

Much as we do,

Yet, returned to God’s house of prayer  

To seek forgiveness and absolution of sins.

Our beloved saints

Sat in these same pews and chairs,

And experienced the Word proclaimed

That gave the foundation for hope.

Our beloved saints

Came humbly before this same altar table,

And celebrated the sacrament of the Eucharist,

Bread and wine,

The Body and Blood of Christ,

Broken and shed for each and every one of us.

Indeed, Jesus Christ is what unites us.

From Ephesians 1:11-23 we read:

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Today, we join with the saints

For the praise of Jesus Christ, and his glory,

As the Apostle Paul so eloquently wrote to the church in Ephesus.

Praise God from whom all blessings fall!

As the heavenly host sang

Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

Give thanks to Jesus Christ for his inheritance,

His gifts of grace

To each of his disciples.

To know Christ,

To grow deeper in love with Christ,

To develop an understanding of the inheritance Jesus has given to us,

Like the saints before us,

We’ve been given a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

Wisdom and revelation opens the eyes of our hearts

To know the hope to which saints are called.

Allow me for a moment,

To use the Gospel to bring our celebration of saints

Into the context of our current state of affairs.

Wisdom and revelation are in short supply this (and every) election cycle.

It appears “truth” has been the first casualty.

There are as many truths as there are news channels on cable television.

Without wisdom,

Without discernment that leads to God’s revelation,

There can be no truth,

Only half-truths, lies, and damn lies.

Jesus people, do not despair!

Jesus gives his disciples, you and me, our politic,

If only we choose to listen, to think, and to open our hearts.

The politic of the Christian are not Republican or Democrat,

Liberal or Conservative.

The Spirit has given to us the inheritance of Jesus;

His grace and

His word.

Today’s word comes from his “Sermon on the Plane.”

With saints who have gone before us,

We are united with Jesus Christ and his Gospel politic.

What say you about the poor?

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, … But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Jesus responds.

Wisdom comes when we discern God’s will

To wipe poverty off the face of the earth.

Poverty is the result of greed, theft, embezzlement.

Christ calls us to love our neighbor,

Not to swindle or steal from our neighbors.

Disciples of Jesus are called to teach the world,

By word and example,

How to love our neighbors, especially the poor.

What say you about the hungry?

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” Jesus responds.

Like at a restaurant when more friends arrive,

Is not God calling us to add another table?

To pull up more chairs?

Extend the table and add more chairs

Such that everyone who is hungry might be fed.

And, oh yeah, for those who have the means,

Pick up the check for those who don’t.

The weaponizing of food,

As is being done in the Russian Ukraine war,

Is an ghastly politic

That is contrary to the politic of the Gospel.

There is no reason for anyone to go hungry in the world today,

Either in North Korea, South Africa, Guatemala, or under the Court Street bridge.

It’s up to us, as Christ’s disciples, to ensure everyone is fed.

What say you about those who weep?

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

Saints who have gone before us tasted death and grief,

For many, numerous times in their lives.

Much of death and grief in our experience

Is at the natural conclusion of the life cycle.

Yet, there is also a secular politic of death

Being played out on battlefields

With horrific civilian casualties and

Refugees fleeing the violence.

Ideological politics

Grip global adversaries in war, or near war,

Leaving unintended, collateral damage spewing in every direction.

There is even a death politic in American culture

Where schools fail, crime roams, and families divide.

America cries with death and grief.

The world moans in travail with senseless murder and mayhem.

Yet, know this to be TRUE:

The politics of death have no rule over

Our Savior who triumphs over the grave!

Disciples of Jesus are called to stop the violence,

Stop the murder,

To heal and restore humanity

Such that every life is valued,

And only natural causes lead one home to eternal glory.

Comfort those who mourn in every circumstance.

God blesses, and calls us to open our hearts to those who weep.

Hold the world tenderly in the loving embrace of Jesus.

Dry the tears with assurance of faith,

Spoken in the language of love.

What say you about those who hate you?

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Jesus taught.

Certainly saints who have gone before us have tasted hatred,

Just as we have.

Hatred goes both ways;

Hatred that grows from envy or resentment,

Hatred that festers from discrimination or exclusion,

Hatred that is deeply rooted in our history or original sin.

Christ’s Gospel politic

Is a call for every disciple of Jesus to love enemies,

To do good to those who hate,

To bless those who curse,

To pray for those who abuse.

This is a far different politic than what is espoused by the world today.

The standards for Jesus’ politics

Are set extraordinarily high.

Many would call them naive;

That’s okay,

Bless those who call you naïve,

Who hate you,

Who exclude and revile you

And who defame you on account of the Son of Man.

Go ahead,

Turn to them, Jesus tells us,

And give them your blessing.

Jesus Christ unites us,

Joining with us,

Together with every Christian

Upon whose shoulders we now stand.

Our inherited gifts are forgiveness of sins

And the salvation of our souls.

Make faith our body politic.

Unlike social politics

Faith in Jesus Christ will never fail you.

Faith in Jesus Christ will always lead to an inner transformation from sinner to saint, to God healing and blessing the world.