1 Peter 2:19-25

April 30, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

1 Peter 2:19-25

For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

| Prayer |

“What are we to believe?” and

“How are we to live?” are

Two questions addressed last Sunday

That naturally surface in Peter’s first letter

Addressed and delivered to the small, immigrant communities of transplanted Christians

Newly relocated from Jerusalem to Turkey.

Our God,

Heavenly Creator,

Father, both our Father and the Father of Jesus,

Has a plan for us,

To liberate us from death and

To impartially pass judgment on us and our behavior.

Have we lived in reverent fear of our loving God?

Have we turned from the futile ways of our ancestors and

embraced Jesus, his blood, his salvation?

Have we placed our trust

wholly and completely in God?

Living obedient to God’s truth?

These are the criteria by which

Our loving, heavenly Father will hold us accountable.

Today, Peter addresses the issue of

Enduring pain as a result of unjust suffering.

It is one thing to suffer justly,

To serve a deserved sentence,

To pay the penalty for a convicted sin,

But it is another thing to suffer unjustly.

If punished for doing wrong, what credit is that? Peter asks.

But if you endure punishment for doing right,

You have God’s approval. (2:20)

It is important to state unequivocally:

Peter is not granting permission to harm your spouse or others,

As has been inappropriately interpreted and taught.

The old line “Jesus took it, and so should you,”

Is justification for evil that Peter never envisioned,

And diverts the focus from his true intention.

I asked my wife, Cynthia, this past Monday about suffering,

And she told me I had better start with a definition.

Merriam-Webster defines suffering as “the conscious endurance of pain or distress.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suffering)

Suffering can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.

Suffering is common to the human condition,

No one is exempt,

All have or will at some point in life

Experience the pain of suffering.

Life is mortal.

To live is to suffer.

To die is to suffer.

She had led a good life.

90 plus years.

Raised a family.

Farmed the land.

She was an expert quilter and teacher of quilting.

She was a spiritual leader among many.

She was admired by all.

Her balance disturbed,

She fell backwards,

Her head impacting the cement stairs that led to her kitchen door.

Light faded to black.

Consciousness ran thin,

Then was totally drained.  

There she laid for time unknown.

A long day,

long ago,

I sat by her side,

Held her hand as the doctor nodded his consent.

“Will I die today,” she wrote on paper with a pencil,

Her endotracheal tube prevented her from speaking.

“Yes,” I replied.

The ventilator was turned off and the tube was removed.

“Will I suffer?” she wrote.

“No,” I said, as I shook my head and we cried.

Debate the validity or purpose of suffering.

Truth is, a sheep of my flock

suffered and died.

What was the point? I asked.

Why did she suffer and die?

For the first century, newly minted Christians

Attempting to evangelize the population of Turkey,

Suffering took the form of

Treatment as immigrants, migrants, and slaves,

Rejection of their message and mission, and

Martyrdom, even, for their efforts.

They wanted to know if there was a point to their suffering.

Was there a reason for their mistreatment?

For the injustice they endured?

Was preaching Christ crucified and risen from the dead

Worth the pain, suffering, and cruelty they were enduring?

Peter writes

“If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (2:20-21)


Live by Christ’s example.

Do right.

Suffer, yet endure.

Whether suffering from a broken arm, a broken mind, or a broken heart

To suffer is to be on the receiving end of God’s call for your life.

To suffer is to be divinely called.

“Whom shall I send?” the prophet Isaiah asked.

“Send me.”

To suffer is to be called to

Share with God

Your anger, your pain, your trials and temptations.

Share with God

Your lament, your regrets, your repentance.

Opening to God

The pain of heart and soul

Is to be drawn into God’s embrace and love.

To suffer is to answer God’s call.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus

Means suffering.

Christ suffered,

And so will you.

Living by his example

Means dying on a cross,

The culmination of denial, betrayal, pain, and suffering.

Suffering is the purest form of authenticity.

Yet, this is what we so desperately want to hide.

We want others to think

We have the perfect life,

We have it all together,

We have no problems,

We mask our pain,

We cover our sin.

The result, Rick Warren, observes,

“Is that we are labeled hypocrites and phonies.

Everyone already knows

we don’t have it all together.”

… “We think people are impressed by our prosperity.

But actually, they’re more impressed

with how we handle adversity.

It’s not our success

but how we handle suffering

that gives our witness credibility.”

(Plough, Pain & Passion, Spring 2023, pg.82)

The greatest witness of God’s love was the crucifixion of Jesus.

Your greatest witness of God’s love is the suffering you endure.

It’s one thing to tell others how you were saved.

It’s quite another thing …

It’s much more powerful

to share how you endured.

Suffering advanced Parkinson’s disease,

Pope John Paul II found it important

To liken his suffering to that of Jesus on the cross,

To bear witness to Christ

And God’s amazing love for humankind.

Nearly twenty years later,

I have not forgotten

His witness.

Common as life,

As birth,

As baptism,

Our common suffering is an invitation for fellowship

To reach out, invite in, and engage the world in Christian ministry.

If I suffer from depression or addiction,

So much better can I empathize with those

In the throes of similar suffering.

If I endure severe anxiety and panic due to trauma or abuse,

So much better can I relate with those

Fighting such demons.

If my marriage ended in divorce, or struggled and survived,

So much better can I relate with those

Struggling to save their own marriage.

If the pain of death and grief encompass my life

So much better can I

Show up and

Share in another’s anguish.

Personal pain, if allowed and carefully shared

Can increase sensitivity and deepen empathy with others

Allowing for a common connection

That leads to acceptance, inclusion, and healing.

Jesus lived life on life’s terms.

He experienced loneliness, misunderstanding, rejection, and withering criticism.

Hebrews reads

 “Even though Jesus was God’s son,

He learned obedience from the things he suffered.”

“Suffering made Jesus perfect.” (5:8-9)

So, too, do we learn obedience the same way.

So, too, can we expect to be perfected by our suffering.

Every actual occurrence of suffering

is an opportunity for us to grow more Christlike

To draw us closer to God.

We are more alive,

More concerned,

More sensitive,

More reverent,

More human,

More passionate,

More responsible,

More pure of heart.

(ibid. pg. 80)

Using pain to help others

Is the heart of redemption.

It may not be a ministry or calling to which is aspired,

But it is a pain that becomes an opportunity to be embraced,

Less the pain be wasted and lost.

There is so much more

To explore on the topic of suffering.

This letter from Peter, Paul’s letter to Rome, and James

Speak of the endurance that suffering builds,

As if capacity is a grand and noble thing.

Suffering as the divine consequence of God’s gift of free will

Can be debated in seminary classrooms,

In parish pews, and

Among family and friends around a campfire all evening long,

But to what end?

I think of my friend Ray,

A few years older than me,

Developmentally disabled,

Raised in the NYS institutional system,

Now aging and infirmed,

Sent to rehabilitate miles away from family, friends, church supports.

It feels like everyone but Ray knows this is how it ends.

And his suffering is for what?  


I am bitter.

I find comfort in the fourth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.

He writes,

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

(4:8-11, 16-18)



1 Peter 1:17-23

April 23, 2023 – Third Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

1 Peter 1:17-23 (NRSV)

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 

He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 

You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

| Prayer |


Last Sunday I began an

Easter sermon series from the New Testament Book of

1 Peter.

Has anyone taken the opportunity this past week

To read 1 Peter through, start to finish,

As I suggested?

Like my physical therapist says,

“You gotta put in the work if you are going to see results.”

The pastor / preacher can only take you so far.

How hard are you willing to work for your faith?


In the first years after

The passion, death, resurrection, and ascension

Of Jesus Christ,

Thousands of eyewitnesses fanned out to the four corners of the known world.

Some traveled overland routes East

To Asia, south Asia, and India.

Others traveled South

To Egypt, Ethiopia, and throughout Africa.

Due to Roman Empire trade routes

Many eyewitnesses of

Christ’s resurrection and ascension were dispersed

West throughout the Mediterranean basin;

To Spain, Italy, the North coast of Africa, Greece, and Turkey.

First Peter is a short, five-chapter letter,

the first of two,

Attributed to the Apostle Peter

Addressed to five small communities of former Jews.

These were newly minted and baptized Christians,

Doing as they were instructed,

Taking the Gospel to the world.

Yet, they often found themselves received as

Strangers in a strange land.

The locals were not very receptive of the “good news” they delivered.

Not only were these new Christians

strangers in a strange land

The “good news” they shared

Was still “new news” to them.

They may have witnessed the resurrection and ascension of Jesus

But they had not had sufficient time to reflect upon its meaning.

The successful completion of any mission

is much more difficult

If you don’t fully understand

why you are doing what you are asked to do.

With letter in hand,

Silvanus, a brother in Christ with Peter (5:12)

Delivers this letter to Christian exiles

In modern-day Turkey,

The regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

Members of these new faith communities were doing their best

To hope in a world that was not their own.

They worked to adapt their former Jewish beliefs

– Abraham and God’s covenant –

– Moses and God’s Law –

Into a new, Jesus-centric faith,

Based on love as expressed through

– God’s grace and forgiveness of sins –

– God’s gift of salvation –

All the while, attempting to fulfill Christ’s Great Commandment

As recorded in Matthew (28:19-20),

“Go therefore and

make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them

in the name of the Father

and of the Son

and of the Holy Spirit, 

and teaching them to obey

everything that I have commanded you.

And remember,

I am with you always,

to the end of the age.”

For many,

The door was shut before they could introduce themselves.

For some,

raising the topic of religion, faith,

Let alone Jesus raised from the dead,

Was a treasonous act

In defiance of the divine emperor,

That could,

and did,

lead to a martyr’s execution.

The four questions …

“What are we to believe?”

“How are we to live?”

“Why are we being persecuted and allowed to suffer?”

“What does the future hold for us?”

… Are essential questions

to understand the concerns of the early Church

To whom Peter is writing.

These are the same questions

I hear being asked by you,

The members and friends of the Rush United Methodist Church.

Thus, our deep dive into First Peter.

The first two questions,

“What are we to believe” and

“How are we to live?”

Are addressed today.

(Recognition and thanks is given to Rev. Richard Carlson, Pastor First Lutheran Church, Kearney, Nebraska, for his commentary on this lectionary text, as found at working preacher dot com)


1. “What are we to believe?”

a. God is our heavenly Father;

The Creator of all things,

The Alpha and Omega,

Who is all powerful,

All knowing,

Always present,

And always approachable.

Call upon God in prayer.

God is present and ready to listen.

Speak plain language.

Be forthright in your requests, confessions, and thanks.

Listen, with the expectation that God

Answers every prayer.

b. God is the Father of Jesus Christ.

Jesus and humanity share a common heavenly Father.

We also share a common Baptism.

Baptism is a claim made

by the Father

upon our life,

That should never be ignored,

That should be faithfully accepted,

That is, and will remain, eternal.

c. God created Jesus as a part of a divine plan.

God’s plan

Destined Jesus

To ransom us from both

The futile ways inherited from our ancestors, and,

from the agnostic, atheist, non-believing world in which we live.

The Greek word for ransom is “lytroō”

Which could well be “liberated”

because this verb is used regularly

(in the Septuagint)

to depict God’s act of liberating Israel

from both its bondage in Egypt

(Exodus 6:6; 15:13; Deuteronomy 7:8; 9:26; 15:15; 21:8) and

its exile in Babylon

(Isaiah 44:22-23; 45:13; 51:11; 52:3).

d. Peter observes

Divine liberation is

accomplished through Christ’s death.

The redemptive, liberating nature of Christ’s death

Breaks the former historical cycle of prosperity, sin, redemption, and restoration.

No more slavery or exile.

God moved on.

By God’s grace and the blood of Christ,

That is, his death on the cross,

We are liberated and saved

from the temptations and sins of the world.  

e. God, our heavenly Father, is our judge.

He is an impartial judge of our deeds.

No side is taken.

Influence cannot be bought.

A fair, unbiased, fully transparent judge of our deeds.

No consideration is made for the consequences of our final outcome.

Many would deny God the status of judge, jury, and executioner.

Do not be naive or easily fooled.

God created us, such that,

It is entirely by God’s designs that

God is the judge of our deeds.


2. “How are we to live?”

a. We are to live in “reverent fear”

of our impartial judge and heavenly Father. (1:17)

Reverent fear can better be understood as

awe and reverence.

Posture yourself in the awe of God.

Address God with reverence,

Worthy of the Creator, the author of life,

The Father of the Savior, the Redeemer,

The giver of the Holy Spirit, our guide, strength, and guardian.

Reverently fear God.

Be in awe.

Bow in respect.

b. To live is to learn;

and to learn is to grow.

Ignorance is no excuse.

Know this, Peter proclaims:

the immortal, precious blood of Christ

Has ransomed us

From the futile ways inherited from your ancestors. (1:18)

Jesus paid the price for our liberation.

Jesus breaks the cycle that ensured repeat offenses,

(as demonstrated in Egypt and Babylon),

Granting to all who will claim it,

Healing and eternal salvation.

c. To live is to learn;

to learn to place our complete “trust in God,

who raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory,

so that your faith and hope are set on God.” (1:21)

Trust between two individuals is hard

To create

To build

To grow

To become comfortable and contented.

It begins fragile and is easily destroyed.

Trusting in God

Requires more on our part

Because the reciprocal is less obvious or appreciated.

Trusting God

Becomes easier with a growing awareness

Of God’s enormous love

Of God’s amazing grace.

Trusting God

Deepens our faith in God’s next response,

Develops our hope for the next moment in our existence,

Builds confidence to live beyond the self,

To live as God’s servant hands and heart,

Meeting the needs of the world,

Expanding God’s kingdom.

d. Live obedient to the truth,

Peter implores.

He writes,

“You have purified your souls by your

obedience to the truth

so that you have genuine mutual love,

love one another deeply from the heart.” (1:22)

Stick to that which is true, pure, simple, and holy.

That keeps the soul pure.

That keeps the community of faith

In genuine,



Straying from the Truth

Is the way of fools,

Soils the reputation,

Brings destruction if not corrected.

Truth and love

Are two sides of the same coin,

Between one another, and

In our relationship with God.


Today, Peter answers the questions,

“What are we to believe?” and

“How are we to live?”

Looking ahead

First Peter will address

The final two questions:

“Why are we being persecuted and allowed to suffer?”

“What does the future hold for us?”

Oh. Yes.

Do your homework.

Read ahead.

Reflect on what you’ve read.

Pray God to reveal to you God’s will.

Ask for the strength to be faithful.

And get to work.



1 Peter 1:3-9

April 16, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

| Prayer |

Blessed Easter to each of you, my beloved,

And may the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Deepen your faith and grant you assurance

Of your redemption and salvation.

Over the course of this and following Sundays of Easter

You will hear wonderful Gospel narratives

Of the resurrected Christ

Appearing to his disciples,

To crowds, and

To others

Granting to each

Eye-witness accounts

Of God’s miraculous acts of mercy and grace.

I’m taking this Easter opportunity to

Allow the Gospel to speak for itself,

To stand on its own two feet,

That you might be fed by its imperishable Truth.

In its place,

I will be preaching a series of sermons

From 1st Peter,

A remarkable letter

To the faithful

dispersed and scattered

Throughout Asia Minor,

Primarily in modern day Southwest Turkey;

The Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

The author of First Peter speaks fondly

To the faithful,

Referring to them as “elect” or “chosen”

Drawing upon Israel’s unique status in the Old Testament as chosen by God.

He is appealing to their former Jewish persona,

Now transformed by Christ’s own election,

As eyewitness of Christ and his resurrection,

As exiles of the diaspora,

As strangers in a strange land.

(Much of the content of today’s sermon is inspired by the exceptional commentary by Richard Carlson, Pastor, First Lutheran Church, Kearney, Nebraska as found at working preacher dot com.)


I remember the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land

As the jetliner made its final approach.

Below was the large city of brick-and-mortar huts topped by rusty tin roofs.

Above each was smoke curling up,

evidence of the morning meal being prepared

over a cook fire

in each walled off compound.

Numerous, decades old

Decaying Russian Hind helicopters

Rested in the weeds just off the taxiway.

I was a stranger in a strange land.

“Do not be afraid,” I was reminded of Jesus’ greeting

To the women at the tomb,

To the disciples hiding in the Upper Room,

To the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Seated next to me waiting to deplane

Was Tony, a native son of Nicaragua,

A true brother in Christ,

One who’s faith and hard work

Led him to America with his family

To play baseball for the Baltimore Orioles and the Rochester Red Wings.

Tony was beaming ear to ear.

He was so excited to return home

Leading our mission group

To share the Gospel and love of Christ,

Build homes for the homeless

(mostly, his cousins and extended family),

And to host a vacation Bible School for 300 village children.

I didn’t speak the language.

I was thousands of miles away from home.

I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into.

But, what I did know,

Is that the love of Christ is universal.

I felt like one of those exiles,

A stranger in a strange land,

To whom Peter authors this letter.

Peter reminds the faithful

That they do not belong to the pagan reality in which they dwelt,

Anymore than I belonged to the Noreiga communists in Nicaragua.

Instead they belong to God,

Our God who specifically singled them out,

Chose them before the foundations of creation,

Made and formed by the Holy Spirit

Through Christ’s obedient and sacrificial death.   

Christians have been born anew,

Or born again, according to some translations,

Into God’s holy family.

This new birth is the result of God’s enormous mercy,

Not because of any decision we’ve made

Or because of any extraordinary faith.

It is by God’s mercy that we are given a new beginning.

This new beginning is not a one-and-done affair.

We are born new every day,

Transformed, reformed, refreshed, and renewed

By God’s mercy every moment of every day.

This continuous Divine effort by our merciful creator

Results in us a living hope

Of salvation that begins in the here and now

And extends into eternity,

The gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jim and I made our way off the main cobble stone street

Through numerous back alleys

In an attempt for him to point out to me

The numerous homes prior mission teams had built.

We were two big, tall, non-Spanish speaking, white Americans

In a village full of short, underfed, non-English speaking Nicaraguans.

We rounded a corner

Were a man with a large machete ran up to us.

I shrank back, but his incongruent smile, eased my fear.

He pointed to a tree,

Jim nodded,

And up he went

To cut down clusters of plantains, a type of banana,

For us visitors to eat.

The plantains were delicious.

His welcome and hospitality transcended language barriers.

Out from a house came a young couple,

The woman holding a newborn,

Sucking from a bottle of sugar water.

Underfed, tiny, wrapped in a small blanket,

The baby fussed.

They recognized Jim and it was like old home week!

The mother turned to me

And thrust her baby into my arms.

It had been a while since I held my own infant boys

And I was a little out of practice,

But, by God’s mercy and grace

I held the child close

And kissed his forehead.

The plantain man and neighbors who gathered

Let up a cheer

At the love I showed to a newborn baby.


Salvation had long ago been accepted

And was being refreshed.

I was being reborn,

New every day.

Peter has a way of describing this inheritance

With triple adjectives:




Salvation is imperishable.

The act of Christ’s death and resurrection

Can not be undone and

Will not be destroyed.

Christ’s motive was as pure

And the love of the one who Created us.

Nothing can degrade or tarnish

That which is perfect.

Salvation will never fade away.

It has not dimmed through generations of saints,

And it will not fade in today’s generation.

The light of Christ and his salvation

Has never shone brighter than today.

Our inheritance is not one of land,

As was promised by God in his everlasting covenant

With our ancestors.

Our inheritance is eternally protected by God’s power.

It is now, and will be, safe in God’s care.

Nicaragua is a land of suffering,

The second most impoverished land in the Western Hemisphere.

Poverty and malnutrition are pervasive.

Corruption and social ills flow in the polluted water they drink.

After lunch

A number of us were resting

in front of the house

After a day of vacation Bible School and house building.

We sat on the curb that lined the cobble stone, narrow street.

A pickup game of soccer was being played

By some of the children and members of our group.

People came and went from the friendly Pharmacia across the street.

Down the center of the street staggered a heavily intoxicated man.

The soccer game merely adapted to the other side

As he made his way towards us.

I braced for what was going to happen next.

He stopped,

Stood up straight right in front of me,

And passed out, face down in the gutter.

Nobody moved.

The soccer game came to a halt.

I rolled him face up to protect his airway

And then

Time stood still.

The broken man at my feet was the personification of suffering,

Dressed in rags, dirty as the unleashed dogs that roamed.

The children urged the soccer game to continue.

None of us spoke.

Tony came out,

Recognized the broken man as one of the town drunks

And told us not to worry.

The man rested, then roused, struggled back to his feet

And resumed his staggering journey down the street.

There are such unfortunates

For whom suffering is too much,

Yet, for whom

is offered a place at the table with Christ

just as there is a place for you and me.

Our place at the table

Is God’s gift of mercy

Secured for us

By the cross of Jesus Christ.

Suffering, Peter writes, comes with the territory of faith.

Christian suffering is grounded in Christ’s suffering.

Not only is there a cause for suffering in the present,

There is a purpose to it.

Suffering is a testing ground

“so that the genuineness of your faith

May … result in praise and glory (in the future)

When Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Peter is pointing us forward

To the future

To the promised return and revelation of Jesus Christ.

Salvation has come

And soon will be

When Jesus Christ is revealed.

What does that future eschatological time look like?

I don’t know.

But I do know this:

I love

because Jesus loves.

I believe

because in Him is an indescribable and glorious joy.

Words fail me,

But the joy of Christ fills my heart.

Beloved, the Apostle Peter

The first Father of the Church

To whom Jesus bestowed the keys of forgiveness

Has much to teach us in this, his first letter.

First Peter is short in length,

but full in belief.

I trust you will take the time and opportunity

To read it thoroughly during these days of Easter,

During this season of resurrection,

That your faith might be refreshed,

Your hope may be restored,

And your salvation may be complete.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of Peter to the Church,

For his assurance when we find ourselves exiles in a strange land,

For his insight into God’s marvelous mercy,

For his confidence in the midst of suffering,

For his faithful embrace of Jesus Christ,

For his faith in your greatest gift of love,

The salvation of a formerly lost world.


Good Friday Reflections

April 7, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 18:1-19:30

| Centering Prayer |

Ten candles extinguished this evening

Leaving only one,

One Pascal candle

To provide for the Light of the World.

We sit in the near-dark

Filled with inner doubts and fears;

Questions so deep

Words and language fail

Abandoning each

To random destinies.

The aging human is one

Constantly in a state of change.

Experience molds and shapes personality.

Physical changes whispers a message we don’t want to hear;

Weakness, dependency, mortality.

Faith, wavering between fleeting and dark roast bold,

Develops deeper acknowledgment

Of compromise, peace, and acceptance.

As I age,

I view the Passion

With new and fresh

eyes and ears

every revolution around the sun.

I have changed since last year.

You have changed, too.

Four fresh thoughts.

1.  Jesus knew all that was to happen to him.

It says so in John 18:4.

Across the Kidron

In the garden known as Gethsemane

In the dark

Jesus saw them approaching

Making a racket,

Metal clanging against metal,

Marching awkwardly,

Murmurs, grumbles, complaints,

The barking commands of one in charge.

“Lanterns and torches and weapons,” (18:3)

John records.

Ironic, don’t you think?

Lanterns, torches, and weapons

Come for the Light of the World

Come for the Prince of Peace.

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. (18:5)

His work was done.

His betrayal complete

Playing out for all the world to see

Revealed by

Lanterns and torches and weapons.

Other than Judas and the others falling to the ground,

According to John,

He had no other role to play.

Why did Judas even show up?

Judas took his shot

And quietly exits stage left.

What is a revelation to you and me

Is familiar to Jesus.

Jesus knew.

What unfolded for the world to witness

With morbid fascination

Was known by Jesus prior to every tragic circumstance.

Yet, Jesus went willingly.

Without hesitation.



As moved by the unseen hand

Of a reluctant, yet willing,

Loving, heavenly Father.

Jesus knew.

What if we knew?

Perhaps we know.

For some, knowing is instinctive, intuitive,

The revelation of Divine will.

For others, knowing comes only by

Hard knocks, overwhelming obstacles, insurmountable odds.

How one gets from point A to point B

Is not so important

As long as one bleeds, dies, and is resurrected with Jesus. 


Just as Jesus knew,

You have been forgiven.

You are forgiven, and you will be forgiven.

Know you were born to be saved.

You live the life of salvation from sin and death.

And, when mortal life ceases your salvation will bring you eternal life.

Jesus knew.

I thought you should know, too.

2. Peter, Oh Peter.

How could you?

Peter, the Rock,

The first Apostle,

The one Jesus bestowed the keys of the Church,

The keys!

The keys!


Caught outside the gate

in the courtyard of Caiaphas

addressed by an anonymous guard,

denied knowing Jesus.

Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.

Jesus was out of earshot

inside being grilled by Caiaphas.

Peter was in a crowd outdoors.

Peter thought no one was listening

No one was watching.

However, Peter wasn’t alone.

He was with another disciple, John reports. (18:15)

That disciple was known;

Known to the high priest

And known to the woman standing guard at the gate.

Yup. A woman guard.

When the other disciple brought Peter in,

Through the gate,

The woman guard inquires in the negative,

“You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”

“I am not,” replied Peter. (18:17)

“I am not”

Completes the portrait

Of a yellow-bellied coward

Fleeing responsibility,

Unaware and unconcerned of the unintended consequences

Of abandonment.

Peter becomes the personification of moral abandonment,

Of ethical desertion.


If God can build a Church

Upon Peter and this broke-down legacy

There is hope

There is promise

This church can be rebuilt.






The job is ours.

By us

For us

With God’s will and strength

To build!


From the smoking remnants of bygone eras

Wrecked by power, greed and virus,

Divided by politic and government,

Devastated by sin and death,

And the thin faith of Christmas and Easter attendance.


Upon Christ.

Take responsibility

And accept the keys to the front door.

“I am!” is the faithful response.

“I am a disciple of Jesus!”

“I was!”

“I was with him!”

“I will.”

“I will faithfully follow Jesus

Accept his every responsibility

With every breath

With every beat of my heart.”


3. Truth.

The thirty-seventh verse of chapter 18 caught my imagination.

When Pilate asked about his royalty

Jesus responds

“For this I was born,

And for this

I came into the world,

To testify to the truth.

Everyone who belong to the truth

Listens to my voice.’” (18:37)

Truth matters.

The world says otherwise.

Don’t believe the world.

Believe Jesus and his testimony.

I think I know what truth is.

You think you know what truth is.

Fact is, neither of us know truth

if we don’t listen to the voice of Jesus.

Hebrew scripture informs us about Jesus,

But is no substitute for the voice of Jesus.

New Testament letters inform us

Of early belief and practice

But is no substitute for the voice of Jesus.

Both orient us to the feet of Jesus.

But neither is a substitute for Christ himself.

Resist taking part in the half-truths,

white lies,

and bold-face lies of the world;

lies told by others,

lies told to others,

lies you tell yourself.

Resist lying.

You will sleep more soundly.

Your conscious will thank you.

Your soul will discover a new freedom

A new opportunity

To explore the fullness of Christ,

His words,

His actions,

His ordained mission

To unlock the chains that bind you

To set you free

To live with meaning and purpose

In God’s emerging kingdom.


One source.

One destination.

One place where truth can be found.


In Christ alone

Is truth.

4. Beware the Crowd.

Pilate asked the crowd,

“Shall I crucify your king?”

Who responded,

“We have no king but the emperor.” (19:15)

Beware public opinion.

Beware poling the congregation

As well as

Beware poling the population.

Crowds give anonymous feedback

Without fear of consequences, intended, or otherwise,

Often with a benign ignorance

Of human complexity and motive.

I understand

Popular opinion is the pinnacle of democracy.

Majority rule is the gold standard

Which the Gospel of Jesus Christ threatens to destabilize.

For there is among the faithful

A higher power

A gift given

To the observant

To the faithful.

The Holy Spirit speaks and works

Through individuals and small groups,

Is not bound by majority rule,

Yet, remains

The truth to which Jesus spoke.

The Holy Spirit gives conscience to individuals

Irregardless of position

– in the majority or in the minority.

The Holy Spirit

Plants seeds of truth

Deep in the hearts and minds

Of the committed to discern the whispers of God

The directives of the Divine.

The Holy Spirit is the source of truth,

Truth to be told

In spite of popular opinion, temptation, trials, or repercussions.

Truth spoken to power.

Truth with better than golden purity.

There you have it.

You’ve got what I have to give.

Jesus Christ knowingly,



Gave his life on the cross,

His witness

His gift

God’s grace

That you may be redeemed and saved,

That Christ’s Church universal may be redeemed and saved,

For this is Truth

The witness that points us and moves us forward.

His body is a corpse.

His Spirit has left.

A puncture of his side and lungs

Will make certain there is no resuscitation.

Other than clean up,

laying the corpse in the tomb,

sealing the door, and

posting a guard

our job here is done.

Our job here is done.


Maundy Thursday Reflection

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

April 6, 2023

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

 Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

| Centering Prayer |

Why is today called Maundy Thursday?

What is a Maundy, anyway?

I’m glad you asked.

Over the course of 2,000 years,

Christianity has developed some interesting traditions.

Maundy is derived through Middle English and Old French

From Jerome’s original Latin word: Mandatum.

This is also the origin of the modern English word: mandate.

Mandatum is the first word of the statement by Jesus

In the Gospel of John 13:34.

“Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”

Which means,

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

There you have it:

Maundy equates with Mandatum,

Our Lord’s new commandment

To love one another,

Just as Jesus loved his original disciples.

But, I must ask, what gives?

The Gospel of John explicitly reports

Jesus is giving his disciples in the Upper Room

A NEW commandment.

The Latin “novum,” meaning “new” is right there for all to see.

We all know Leviticus 19:18 which states

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

The command by God

To love your neighbor had existed from the time of Moses,

Born in 1,592 BCE, according to Jerome.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Had been taught faithfully in Rabbinical schools,

In Temples and Synagogues,

To the people of Israel

For more than 1,500 years.

What’s new about that?

What was new for Jesus

Was not

To love your neighbor as yourself,


How to love your neighbor.

The events of the Upper Room and the Last Supper

Were a demonstration in

How to love your neighbor.

Listen carefully.

Better, yet.

Watch and learn

How we are to love our neighbors.

You’ll notice our Gospel of John reading is split into two sections,

John 13:1-17 and John 13:31b-35.

I don’t know about you, but

I’m always curious about what is being left out.

In today’s Gospel,

After Jesus washes his disciples’ feet,

He tells everyone at the table that one of them will betray him.

One of them,

Who we know was Judas,

Will turn him over to be arrested, tried, and killed.

“The one who ate my bread has lifted his heal against me.”

John 13:8b


“I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

John 13:21

After Jesus identifies Judas as the one who will betray him,

By first placing the piece of bread into his hand,

Judas immediately went out.

And it was night, John reported.

This is how you love.

Jesus washed the feet of the one who would betray him

Unto death.

Jesus fed the one who would turn him over to the authorities

For arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

Jesus would love that one man

Even though he fled into the night,

Forever separating himself from Jesus and the other disciples.

Jesus would serve him.

Jesus would feed him.

Jesus would forever love him.

There was nothing that could separate Judas from the love of Jesus.


Not even a hangman’s noose.

Not for nothing,

But for Peter, too.

Jesus washed Peter’s feet

And fed him

Even though the hour was drawing neigh

When Peter and the rest of the disciples would flee for their lives

And Peter would deny ever knowing Jesus.

Not once,

But three times.

Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Jesus served Peter,

Washed his feet,

And fed him, too.

That’s how you love your neighbor as yourself.

This is what’s new.

So, consider

All the neighbors you have in your life

With whom you have unresolved differences.

Think of the people

Where darkness has come

Between you and them,

Where sin has shoved you apart

And pride,

yours or theirs,

Has prevented forgiveness, repentance, and healing from taking place.

These are the people Jesus calls us to love,

On this Maundy Thursday

With his mandatum:

Love one another.


Love through service.

Wash feet.

Be hospitable,

Before, during and after breaking bread together.


Even if the one with whom you are at impasse with

might have a tongue of venom and is quick to spread lies about you.


Even your sworn enemy.


Even if the one you are serving

might be harboring violence or homicide against you in their heart.


Even those like Peter or Judas,

Who would deny ever knowing you if caught in a jam,

Who would betray you to a certain death for just a few bucks.


Serve and feed the world,

Even if the world has turned against you.

Serve and feed the world,


By your service

And by your generosity,

Everyone will know

That you are disciples.

You are disciples of Jesus.


“Come and See, then Go and Tell!”

Matthew 28:1-10

Easter – April 9, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

| Centering Prayer |

Pilate’s guards,

professional Roman soldiers,

stood watch.

A garrison with rotating sentries,

a camp fire and a pot for cooking suspended over the fire,

tents, possibly, offered modest protection from the morning dew.

Soldiers were posted at the request of the Chief Priests,

Approved by Pilate,

undoubtedly welcomed the pre-dawn light and

the promise of warmth.

Since Friday night they stood guard at the door

of the stone sealed tomb,

lest His body be stolen

by souvenir hunters,

by grave robbers,

by revolutionary zealots.

Sunday morning was dawning.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Matthew’s narrative reports they simply went to see …

To see the grave

Where the corpse of Jesus

Had been laid.

What, with guards and a sealed, solid rock door,

there wouldn’t be much to see.

It would have been too soon for inscriptions or markers.

Yet, still they came.

The earth shook underfoot.

An angel of the Lord,

a male it is reported;

an angel dressed in white,

white as snow,

and looking like lightening,

descended from heaven

right before their eyes.

He rolled back the stone door

and he climbed on top

to sit.

Now, there’s something you don’t see every day!

There was no fight,

no quarrel,

no skirmish.

The soldiers may have been prepared to fight with Peter,

but they weren’t prepared for this

angelic intersection with the mortal world

of geological tectonic plates and

astrological black holes disrupting the cosmic order.

Fear and panic overtook these low ranking soldiers;

they shook and passed out cold

like cord wood in the wood pile.

Afterwards, Matthew reports

they were paid money

to lie about their incompetence

“just tell them that you were asleep

when they came and stole his body.” (28:12)

Like a leprechaun perched on the Blarney Stone

the angel sat and took it all in.

The women’s fear is even palpable today.

Certainly the angel could feel it.

He began to speak.

“Do not be afraid;” he assured them.

“Do not be afraid”

were words that were familiar to Mary.

Remember the annunciation?

This wasn’t her first rodeo,

Neither was it her first visit by an angel.

The angel knew the women’s desire,

The depth of their mourning,

The breath of their bereavement,

The tenderness of their love.

He knew whom they sought.

“He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

He is raised as he said.

The body had exited the tomb

before the stone door was rolled away.

The angel only opened the door

for the benefit of the witnesses.

“Come and see, then go and tell,” the angel commanded.


Tell them

“He has been raised from the dead.”


Tell them

“He is going ahead of you to Galilee.”

“Come and see, then go and tell,” the angel commanded.

The women obeyed

just as they were told.

They went with an interesting mixture of fear and joy.

Just as quick as they went

He suddenly stopped them with “Greetings!”

They looked,

probably two or three times

shaking the cobwebs and rapidly blinking.

It was Jesus!

Upon recognition,

They fell,

They held His feet,

They saw the pedal punctures,

and they worshiped Him.

They looked,

They fell,

they held,

and they worshiped.

It is a simple formula.

It didn’t take a whole lot of faith

with him standing right in front of you.

Jesus was dead, but is now alive.

This is the Good News of this Easter day.

Jesus was dead, but is now alive.

QED the mathematician would conclude,

“that which was to be demonstrated.”

(“quod erat demonstrandum” -if you have to know!)

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

For two thousand years we’ve been proclaiming this fact.

For fifty generations,

Christians have been passing down this witness.

This testimony has been as common as our baptismal waters,

as longstanding as Christianity,

as continuous as the ranks of Saints and apostolic succession,

as self-evident as the Declaration of Independence,

as true as the sky is blue.

This is our witness:

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

There isn’t a corner of the globe today

where this light hasn’t shined.

2.38 billion

– that’s a “B” for billion –

– The largest religious group on this planet –

Over 2 billion Christians are united this Easter Day

Celebrating the fact that

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

“So, what’s the big deal?” the cynic asks.

In a loveless world

filled with liars and false promises,

fake politicians,

hypocritical preachers,

poisoned by threat-based theology of going to hell,

and identity thieving computer hackers;

in a world consumed by darkness and evil personified

that will hate you,

hit you,

hurt you,

take your last dime,

spit on you,

and leave you in the gutter for dead;

in a world filled with survival of the fittest,

single elimination,

tribal councils,

dog eat dog,

and win at all costs …

… we are thrown a life line.

… we are invited to journey by a road less traveled.

… we are invited to meet the only one –

– the only one –

who can truly save us.

We are invited home to an eternity of grace,

A home filled with love.

For we are offered the Savior,


raised from the dead

willing to share the journey with us

offering to us

fully-shared participation in everlasting peace,

the gift of eternal life.

If you want to be left alone

in the belief that this is all that life will ever have to offer;

work hard,

play hard,

buy everything you can,

consume as much as possible,

and everyone else be damned;

then, well, God bless you.

You don’t have to catch His life line.

But, if you are willing to make a change,

If you are willing to take a chance,

If you want what we have,

If you are able to mix faith with hope,

and shake together a little pinch of vision

for what God’s possibilities might hold,

then reach out and grab the life line

Jesus is tossing you.

Jesus is throwing the life ring of salvation for you to catch.

Hold on tight.

Fall to his feet and hold on tight!

Look up and see His face.

Do not be afraid, Jesus repeats the angel’s assurance.

Do not be afraid, Jesus is telling us this Easter.

Do not be afraid that others might doubt,

Or that we might find ourselves

Enduring seasons of personal doubt.

Do not be afraid, for,

Low, my Spirit is with you always.

Go! Tell the world what God has done for you.

Go! Witness to the fact that

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

Just get up and go!

Prepare yourselves and prepare the world

That the risen Christ is our Savior,

His Spirit is with us always,

And, that one day,

He intends to meet us again.