“On Behalf of Those Who Will Believe”

John 17:20-26

May 29, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 17:20-26

”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

| Centering Prayer |

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

Forty-two years ago

During the first week of June

I attended the Central New York Conference

Local Pastor Licensure School at

Casowasco Camp and Conference Center,

On Owasco Lake, south of Auburn, New York.

Think of this as boot camp for pastors.

At age 19,

I was, by a country mile,

The youngest and least experienced member of the class.

Nearly everyone else were middle-aged, second-career, budding candidates for a Local Pastor’s License.

By the end of the week

Each of us had been chosen

To be prayed upon.

When my turn came

I was centered in a living room on my knees,

Surrounded by about 25 pastor-teachers of the school and fellow students.

Everyone reached out and place their hands on me.

People took turns praying out loud for me;

To strengthen and support my ministry,

For the Spirit to guide me,

For my future parishes to be cooperative and vital,

For my family, and

For my protection from temptation and evil.

You name it, it was prayed for!

This went on for a very long time until my knees hurt and everyone was all prayed out.

It was an extraordinarily powerful event.

It brought me to tears.

This event became one of many milestones in my call to ordained ministry

And has been branded forever into my memory.

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

Fight the temptation to allow prayer to become superficial, shallow, or rote.

The closing passage from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John

Is the conclusion of a five chapter section

Scholars have titled “The Farewell Discourse.”

Jesus is preparing his followers,

His disciples,

His soon-to-be apostles,

For his ascension into heaven

And his physical absence.

As we heard last Sunday,

Jesus tells us that he is ascending to the Father,

To prepare a place for us

Where we will dwell forever,

One with Jesus and the Father.

The Farewell Discourse concludes with Jesus praying.

His prayer, in its entirety, is encompassed in John, chapter 17.

Jesus prays, not in the Garden of Gethsemane,

As is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke,

But in the same location

Where he washed the filthy feet of his disciples;

In the Upper Room.

It is important to note

That Jesus prayed aloud,

With intention that all his disciples should hear him.

It is important to note

That Jesus first prays

To the Father

For himself;

That his forthcoming Passion, suffering, and death

Would give glory to the Father. (17:1-9)

It is important to note

That Jesus prays secondly

For his disciples;

That they be protected from the evil one,

That they may have the joy of Jesus completed in themselves,

That they may be sent into the world sanctified in truth. (17:10-19)

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

Imagine how the disciples felt

When Jesus prayed aloud

Just for them.

It is important to note

That Jesus concludes his prayer,

Immediately before the beginning of his Passion

With his betrayal and arrest,

By praying for those

Who will come to believe in Jesus

At some point in the future

Based on the testimony of the disciple’s word. (17:20-26)

In other words,

Jesus is praying for you and me.

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

Instead of being swept away with anxiety, humiliation, or impending betrayal

Jesus turns his prayerful mind and heart towards future disciples,

In his generation, and in generations to come.

He prays aloud

So that his prayer

Might be recorded for the benefit of his eternal, universal Church.

Jesus petitions his heavenly Father,

Calling him “Righteous.” (17:25)

He asks him for two things:

One, unity, and

Two, intimacy.

Unity and intimacy.


Let’s talk about unity.

Jesus desires us to be united,

That all may be one,

For the purpose of …

For the purpose that …

All the world may believe.

Our unity is to become

The perfect means

By which the Holy Spirit can empower

The Church to make disciples of all the world.

Unity is not conformity.

Christian unity expects that we will not all agree

On issues of dogma, theology, or social principles.

Denominational plurality is good, so long as we are united by Christ.

Christian unity does expect us to be united

Just as Jesus and our Righteous Father are united.

The substance of Christian unity is God’s love.

The purpose of unity is belief in Jesus Christ.

Love brings about the transformation of the world

From our temporary and transitory kingdoms

Into the eternal kingdom of God.


Let’s talk about intimacy.

Jesus prays that his current and future disciples

Might share in the same intimate love that he and the Father have shared

Since before the foundation of the world.

The love that was the sole agency of God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Is extended to all disciples of Jesus.

God’s love is given as a gift of grace

To you and me.

“God loves you, and so do I,” I am often known to say.

When speaking about members and friends of the parish

I often use the word “beloved.”

This is entirely intentional!

And I’d encourage you to do the same.

Sharing in the intimate love of our Heavenly Father

Unifies us with God and

With one another.

This gift of sharing in the intimate love of God

Is truly, amazing grace.


Dearly beloved,

Know that Jesus had you in mind.

Know that Jesus keeps you in mind.

Jesus prayed for you aloud

Right before his betrayal, arrest, Passion, and death.

Jesus looked upon your face.

Jesus traced your fingerprints and

Counted the hairs on your head.

If Jesus prayed so personally,

So intimately for you,

Shouldn’t we also pray for one another?

Know this to be true:

Jesus prayed that you and I might be unified

That all the world might believe.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

Let’s you and I become the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity.

Jesus prayed that you and I,

And all the world who comes to believe,

Now and hereafter.

He prayed that we

May enjoy the same loving intimacy that

Our Heavenly, Righteous Father shares with His only Begotten Son.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

Glorify God!

The source of our unity.

The source of all love.


“Unwilling and Ungrateful”

John 5:1-9

May 22, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 5:1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

| Centering Prayer |

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

That is, if I don’t have enough faith, I won’t be healed.

But, if I have enough faith;

If I develop such deep conviction and belief,

If I surpass some divinely created threshold of faith,

Will I be healed and made well?

Jesus had just traveled from Cana, of Galilee in the north

To Jerusalem,

90 miles south,

To attend an unidentified festival of the Jews.

The Gospel of John reports to us

Jesus enters the city by means of the Sheep Gate,

The location where Stephen would soon be stoned.

Today, it is called the “Lion’s Gate”

Due to the 13th century animal carvings in the walls that flank it.

Because of his entry through the Sheep Gate

Jesus probably had traveled the valley route;

That is, south, down the Jordan River valley,

Then up the mountain from Jericho to Jerusalem.

In the time of Jesus

It was called the Sheep Gate

Because the Temple

bread and raised

In the southern, Judean hills

unblemished sheep

Worthy of sacrifice.

The sheep

Would be herded through the gate,

Past the pools of Bethesda,

To the shops near the Temple entrance.

Unblemished sheep were made available

For purchase by visiting pilgrims.

It was only a short walk from the Sheep Gate to the Temple.

The pools of Bethesda are quite interesting.

Think of a spring fed creek running down a mountain side gully.

Build a dam, such that the reservoir was 40 feet deep.

Give the dam a spillway to maintain a steady water level.

Square off the reservoir and call it an “upper pool.”

Build a second dam downstream,

Such that the second reservoir backs up to the first dam.

Square off the reservoir and call it the “lower pool.”

Lay pavers around the two pools and across the upper dam.

Erect a roof overhead the deck for shade and call each a portico.

Walla, you have the pools of Bethesda.

The name Bethesda comes from the Hebrew beth hesda,

Meaning “house of mercy,” or “house of grace.”

The same word could be flipped and used to mean

“house of shame,” or “house of disgrace.”

This dual meaning may have sounded appropriate

Since this location was both

A place of disgrace due to the presence of invalids

And a place of grace, due to the granting of healing.


Remember, in the ancient world,

Being blind, lame, paralyzed, or disabled in any way

Relegated an individual as unclean

And permanently segregated them away from family, friends, and loved one.

The pools of Bethesda

Were given their healing attributes

From legend, and the Greek god Asclepius,

The god of medicine.

A pulse of flowing water through the pools

Were earlier attributed to the Asclepius and were thought to bring healing.

By the time of Jesus,

It was believed that an angel stirred the water,

Bringing God’s favor to the one who first entered the pool.

Is healing a matter of having a sufficient quantity of faith?

In the time of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda,

Healing came to the one who was attentive and quick!

Of all the people in John’s Gospel,

The man in today’s lesson is the least willing and the least grateful.

Allow me to explain.

Jesus enters, conducts a quick assessment of the blind, lame, and paralyzed.

For some unknowable reason,

He picks out this one man.

I don’t know why he chose this man.

Let’s call it “the luck of the draw.”

Jesus knew he’d been there a long time,

(thirty-eight years, John reports),

And he must have looked like a wreck.

See his bed sores.

Smell his body stench.

See the resignation in his eyes.

Jesus asks the most obvious question,

“Do you want to be made well?”

You and I would jump and flail!

“Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”

Some might respond with jubilee or with sarcasm:

“Look at me. What do you think?”

The obvious answer was, “Yes, sir. I want to be made well.”

But this was not the unnamed man’s response.

He responds with a complaint!

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up;

and while I am making my way,

someone else steps down ahead of me.”

– John 5:7

In other words,

He didn’t have faith in the help of a stranger.

He didn’t have faith in the kindness of others.

He only had faith in the stirring of water.

It is obvious,

The man didn’t know Jesus

And had not heard of his reputation.

They were strangers to one another.

Jesus told him to stand and to take his mat with him;

A blatant violation of the Sabbath.

The man stands and is healed.

On the spot.

Right there.

He’s healed.

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

It certainly doesn’t appear to be in this case.

This man’s faith was in the stirring water,

Not in an unknown stranger who tells him to stand and to take his mat with him.

Jesus is silent.

There is no response from Jesus,

Unlike in other healing narratives:

“Go. Your faith has made you well.”

Today, Jesus remains silent.

Our Gospel reading is about the least willing part of this healed man.

Yet, if we continue to read on,

We learn the healed man was also the least grateful.

He was challenged by Jews

Who called him out for carrying a mat on the Sabbath.

He tells them

‘The stranger who made me well,

Told me to go and take my mat with me.’

You heard it.

The healed man throws Jesus under the bus.

Later in the day,

The man runs into Jesus in the Temple plaza.

He learns his name,

And promptly runs to the Jews and tattles on him.

Talk about ungrateful!

“Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus,

Because he was doing such things on the Sabbath.”

– John 5:16

And thus began the slow burn

Of our Lord’s Passion.

Unwilling and ungrateful.

There you have it.

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

Our Gospel from John makes it abundantly clear that

Healing is not a matter of having enough faith

(as if faith could be measured).

That isn’t how Jesus operates in this circumstance.

Jesus doesn’t heal for the benefit of himself,

In gratitude,

Or praise,

Or devotion.

Jesus heals people simply because this is the work of his Father.

– John 5:17

“Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,

So also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.”

– John 5:21

(Thanks to Elisabeth Johnson, Professor, Lutheran Institute of Theology, Meiganga, Cameroon. As found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2839)

We don’t know why certain people are healed and others are not.

Recently I heard the testimony from a father

Of his child who could not hear in one ear.

She returned for her annual checkup

And the doctor proclaimed her hearing was equal and perfect in both ears.

Just like that.


God acted.

At the same time,

In the same room,

Listening to the same witness,

Was a young woman with two cochlear implants.

She was probably wondering to herself

When it was her turn for a miracle.

With one voice I said, “Praise God!”

Yet, with another voice I asked, “God, when is it her turn?”

There is an unsettling sense of arbitrariness to this world.

Some suffer and die.

Others suffer and live to suffer another day.

Still others are healed and miraculously recover.

Just as it mystifies you, so it remains a mystery to me, too.

Two thoughts.

First, we are reminded by Jesus

In his dialogue with Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, that

“The wind blows where it chooses,

and you hear the sound of it,

but you do not know where it comes from

or where it goes.

So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

– John 3:8

In other words

This is God’s kingdom, not ours.

God is in control.

God has a greater plan.

We can only see or know a fraction of what God is doing.

But know this,

God always loves us.

And God always works for our best interest.

If we knew all there was to know about God,

We’d become god-like ourselves.

That wouldn’t be a good thing

On so many different levels.

Therefore, one could say,

It is a part of our necessary human nature

To always know and respect the mysterious nature of God.

Secondly, we are reminded in our own United Methodist Book of Worship that

“The root of the word healing in New Testament Greek, sozo,

is the same as that of salvation and wholeness.

Spiritual healing is God’s work

of offering people balance,


and wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships

through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”

All healing is of God.

Healing does not spare one from suffering.

Healing does not promise cure.

“The greatest healing of all

Is the reunion or reconciliation of a human being with God.”

– The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 613

From the point of view of this man

Who languished for thirty-eight years besides the pools of Bethesda,

He was healed

And Jesus was responsible.

He was reunited with his family, friends, and the crowds in the Temple.

He was reconciled with God.

He was healed in spite of himself.

Do you want to be healed? Jesus asks.

I see three different specialists.

My arthritis is bad

And shots of steroids in my knees are becoming less effective.

My aches, pains, and complaints are getting worse the older I get.

Yes, I want to be healed.

What I want, however, more than a cure,

(For I know I will live to only die another day)

I want to be reconciled with my neighbor and with my God.

This is my desire.

This is how I answer our Lord’s question.

What do you want?

Jesus is asking you,

“Do you want to be healed?”

What is your answer?

What is your prayer?


“Loving the Bookends”

John 13: 31-35

May 15, 2022 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 13: 31-35

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 |

Jesus just washed the feet of his disciples;

An act of humble service.

I wonder how the world would be different

Had Christianity adapted the

Pitcher and Bowl as our symbol

Instead of the Cross?

The tool of the state

(Rome, that is)

To impose its ways

was the cross.

The means of the state was death by public crucifixion.

Take one, make an example of him.

Then take another.

And another.

Splay ‘em.

Nail ‘em.

Hang ‘em high for all to see.

Crucify and leave them to die outside of city gates,

where everyone passes.

The longer and more drawn out the affair,

the better.

Wails, screams, cries, and word of mouth is better than social media.

No pay per view: it’s free, sponsored by Rome.

Bring lots of towels and hand sanitizer because it’s

Bloodier than a butcher shop.

Crucifixion projected

Domination. Cruelty. Oppression. Death.

Crucifixion reminds me of Bucha;

Prisoners restrained, tortured, slaughtered,

Leaving streets littered with corpses for all to see.

Crucifix or bowl and pitcher?

My inherent pessimism and privileged bias

Leads me to counter my internal conflict;

“No, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Our sinful nature and love of evil probability

Would have led to the same outcome;

Regardless if we wore a shiny cross with a crucified Jesus on a necklace around our neck

Or a sterling charm molded in the shape of a bowl and pitcher.”

Maybe I’m wrong.

Had the Church adapted a bowl and pitcher instead of the cross,

We might be living in an age of peace and tranquility,

Where service is above self,

Where the Light has overcome the Darkness, and

God’s kingdom has come.

Patience, beloved.

God’s time is God’s time, not our time.

Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples;

An act of humble service.

Our Gospel narrative from St. John is far more familiar

On Maundy Thursday of Holy Week,

Yet, we revisit it five weeks later.


The core characteristics,

That make the Gospel of John unique and distinct,

From the paralleled synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are



Love, and


Let’s examine each.

1. Abundance.

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and

Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” 6:35

Eucharist symbols are related to the abundance of God’s grace:

Jesus feeding 5,000 and their families with five loaves and two fish,

Jesus turning water into an abundance of wine to save a wedding feast,

Jesus directing his disciples to fish on the other side of the boat,

Having them pull in 153 fish that nearly broke their nets.

That’s abundance.

Abundance is the fingerprint of God.

2. Discipleship.

In the final scene from the Gospel of John,

Jesus has a face-to-face with Peter.

A life of discipleship is one of service, Jesus tells him.

Tend the Lord’s flock.

Feed the Lord’s flock.

Lead the Lord’s flock.

In the physical absence of Jesus until his return.

Serve the flock just like the Good Shepherd has served you.

If you claim that you are a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ

And you’re not engaged in an intentional ministry of service

You’re doing it wrong.

James, the disciple sums it up:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17

Faith without anything to show for it is dead.

Roll up the sleeves.

Get your hands dirty.

Put to work the talents God has given you.

Get to work in God’s name for God’s benefit.

Everyone can do something.

Volunteer your time and talents.

If you can’t work, write a check. Donate from your treasure.

If you can’t work or write a check, pray.

Everyone can pray.


Reveal the depth of faith,

Or lack, thereof.

Discipleship and service are inseparable.

3. Love.

The Gospel of John oozes love

Like blood from a wound.

God’s love for the world, and

Christ’s love for his followers.

We hear from this Upper Room narrative

Immediately after Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus teaching

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” (13:34a)

Taken in its short form, we know this isn’t true.

There is nothing new about it.

God had already put commandments in the book to love others.

Leviticus 19:18 reads

“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.”

Leviticus 19:34 reads

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Allow this commandment to speak for a moment,

In context of our immigration policies and the

Trench warfare of the partisan body politic.

What is new

Is the longform command of Jesus:

“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (13:34b)

“Just as I have love you,” is what is new and set’s the love of Jesus apart

From anything the world had ever seen.

Jesus pushes the envelop of love even further.

“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus’ love is new, fresh, different, … revolutionary.

Case in point:

The context of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

This narrative is bookended

By Judas’ betrayal before and Peter’s denial afterwards.

Yet, Jesus loved Judas and Peter enough to wash their feet anyways.

It’s easy to love the center,

Those who everyone loves.

It’s much harder the further you pull away from the center.

It’s hard for me to love those on the outer edge.

It takes the love of Jesus

To love the bookends.

Who are the bookend people in your life?

Those who are most difficult for you to love?

Are they people who have betrayed you, like Judas?

Ask Jesus for the strength,

And wash their feet anyways.

Are they people who have denied knowing you, like Peter?

Pray for strength, courage, and direction,

And wash their feet anyways.

Are they people with whom you have become estranged?

People who you approach as if walking on eggshells?

Those who are broken?

Those who you dread?

Just as Jesus sucked it up and loved his disciples,

Wash feet anyways.

Having Jesus by your side

It is possible to love the bookends

When it is beyond your capacity to love.

If you have Jesus in your life,

It’s possible to draw upon his love

… to tap into his divine reservoir of unlimited love …

When our love reaches it limit and runs out.

4. Glory.

When it comes to interpretation

Sometimes the Gospel gets in its own way.

I mean, what is this “glorify” thing?

What is this “glorification” thing all about?

It’s hard to read, untangle, understand;

Even for me!

Jesus teaches

“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.” (13:31b-32)

Traditional Christianity defined “glorify” as

Words and actions that direct praise, honor, and adoration

To the penultimate act of God’s salvation history:

The cross,

The empty tomb, and

The ascension.

God is glorified in the words and actions of Jesus.

The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus brings praise, honor, and adoration to God.

Likewise, Jesus is glorified in God’s initiative and actions throughout salvation history.

God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world,

Not to condemn the world,

But that the world might be saved through him.

This glorifies Christ.

This is a great definition of “glorification”

For a sterile, academic discussion,

But it falls short of the target if we are seeking application to our lives.

Are you daring?

Let’s push the thinking of traditional Christianity just a nudge:

Let us consider

“Glorify” is a recognition of the presence of God in our midst.

Imagine; had Judas and Peter

Recognized God present in Jesus.

Judas didn’t recognize the presence of God in Jesus, so he

Walked out and betrayed him.

Peter was so caught up in the murderous, frenzied crowd,

He was unable to think beyond self-preservation

And he denied Jesus three times.

Too often,

I am so focused on navigating through secular life –

Paying bills, working long hours, juggling responsibilities, being a dad, and,

Oh, what’s for dinner? –

That I, too, fail to recognize the presence of God in my presence.

I suspect I’m not alone.

I’m not suggesting the cliche

“Slow down and smell the roses.”

I am suggesting engaging in an intentional spiritual discipline

Known as mindfulness.

Mindfulness means tuning our spiritual antenna to achieve maximum efficiency and sensitivity.

Mindfulness means we



We stand alert;

To recognize the presence of God.

When we become conscious or aware of God’s presence, direction, power, grace, and love … Right here, right now …

We become the glorification of God

Of which the Gospel of John speaks.

Glorify God.

Recognize God’s presence.

The Gospel of John is about

The abundance of God symbolized by the acts of Jesus;

Living the life of a discipleship;

Loving one another, neighbors, enemies, and aliens,

Loving those who are easy to love and

Loving the bookends,

Just as Jesus loved his disciples, Judas, and Peter alike;

And living a life of glory,

A life lived with Jesus Christ,

A life lived in the presence of God.

Dearly beloved,

Love, just like Jesus loved;

Love with no strings attached.

When your love runs out, ask the Lord to make up for our deficits.

Live in the presence of God.

Be aware of God at work in and through you,

Your thoughts, words, and deeds.

Testify to God’s presence.

That brings glory to God. 

That’s how you truly glorify his name.


“The Father and I are One”

John 10:22-30

May 8, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

| Centering Prayer |

It is a bit of an awkward transition

During this season of Easter,

The season of resurrection,

To move from last Sunday’s final resurrection appearance of Jesus

To this Sunday’s narrative from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John.

This narrative takes place before our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection.

It is like being whiplashed back into the pre-passion life and ministry of Jesus.

‘So what’s the connection?’ the inquisitive are certain to ask.

As I spoke about last Sunday

In Jesus’ final post resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John,

Abundance is a characteristic Jesus puts forward

For living a life as one of his disciples.

An abundant life is not one of material abundance,

But one recognizing the amazing grace of living in God’s abundant love.

It is symbolized

When 153 fish strain and nearly break the disciples’ nets,

With 6 stone jars of water being turning into wine,

When 5 loaves and 2 fish are multiplied to feed crowds of thousands.

Are you aware of God’s amazing, abundant love?

It’s been supporting you all your life

Whether you know it, or not.

In your experience

What is it like having it support you?

What is it like to drink it in?

What is it like to have the abundant love of God move in and take up residence in your life?

Let’s have a conversation about sheep.

The metaphor of sheep

Is the common ligament that connects

Jesus teaching

About what a life of discipleship is like

With those who are called to follow Jesus.

Jesus tells Simon Peter what a life of discipleship looks like:

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus says.

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.” (21:15-17)

Feed: i.e. Nourish. Sustain. Abide with and in.

Tend: i.e. Encourage. Direct. Lead.

Look around;

These are the sheep of Jesus.

We are the stand-in shepherd,

Until the Good Shepherd returns.

Are we feeding each other?

Tending one another?

Teaching each other?

Calling each other and holding each other to accountability?

Are we abiding with each other,

Even when sometimes that means we walk with each other

Through the valley of the shadow of death?

Have no fear!

We are not alone!

Take comfort!

God abides with us,

And we are invited to lean on his rod and staff!

(Psalm 23:4)

Are we each other’s biggest cheerleaders, supporters, and fans?

Are we using the skills God has given us

To discern God’s will and ways, and

To faithfully steer ourselves and God’s flock

In the direction of God’s will?

What a glorious Church we become

When we all pull together,

When we all steer a common course,

Fixing our eyes upon Jesus!

“I have told you, and you do not believe,” Jesus told the crowd of Jews

Who asked if he was the Jewish Messiah. (10:25)

I told you.

Is there something you don’t understand?

I told you.

If you understood,

The only possibility is that you must have chosen to not believe.

You have chosen not to follow.

Belief begins with a choice:

Become familiar with the voice of Jesus? and

Choose to follow?


Choose to remain a stranger?

Keep Jesus at arm’s length.

Don’t let him into our lives, and

Don’t let Jesus guide or call us?

Free will means the final decision is up to us, to you and me.

Choose wisely.

There are consequences to choosing not to believe or follow Jesus:

1. There is not the protection of the Good Shepherd.

You will be vulnerable to

The evil of this world

That snatches and steals like a fox.

You will face evil and temptation.

The question will be if you choose to face it with Christ or without him?

2. Without a shepherd

Life occurs in isolation, away from the flock, disconnected from the body.

Abundance is replaced by dependence,

Dependence becomes desperation, and

Desperation leads to death.

Lone sheep don’t last long in the wild.

On the other hand, there are benefits to choosing to believe.

There are benefits to choosing to follow Jesus:

1. Choose Jesus and you will be protected.

The Lord’s protection is largely unnoticed for

It is largely unrecognized

The Lord’s protection often

Happens outside of our awareness, or

Happens outside or our timeline.

2. Choose to believe and follow Jesus, and

You will have eternal life and never perish. (10:28)

John’s Revelation gives us a glimpse of what this might mean:

Forgiveness, worship, and a great banquet.

No more crying or mourning.

You will be sheltered from the scorching sun by day.

You are promised to be

Refreshed and replenished by the water of life.

(Revelations 7:14-17)

When the choice is death or life,

Always choose life;

Life in his flock,

Life with Jesus Christ.

I told you before,

But I’ll tell you again:

“The Father and I are one.” (10:30)

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is more than a second confirmation

Of Jewish messianic expectation.

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is more than a theological detail

Necessary for early Church fathers

To stitch together a trinitarian doctrine. 

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is an invitation to unity, Christian unity.

With Christian unity comes the promise of

Christian perfection and immortality.

Christian unity is not about maintaining

the organizational integrity of the denomination.

Christian unity is only about abiding in Christ, and

Allowing Christ to abide in us.


This is Christian unity.

We are one:

One in the Spirit,

One in the Lord;

One united with each other, and

One united with Jesus.

The Father and Jesus are one.

We are one united with the Father,

Our creator, and

The Creator.

We are one with the Creator of all things before all things.

We are united with the Creator who is transforming the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of God.

We are one with the Creator who will continue to create all things for ever more.

Eternal unity is confirmed with God’s pronouncement in Revelation,

“I Am the Alpha and the Omega,

the beginning and the end.”

(Revelation 21:6)

Dearly beloved,

Let us be united in our belief

That Jesus is Messiah;

The fulfillment of our expectation,

That he is one with our Father,

The Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Let us be united in our choice

To follow Jesus and become the benefactors of God’s amazing grace and love.

Let us be united in our discipleship

Feeding others,

Tending others,

Good stewards of Christ’s flock

Drawing others towards the same Good Shepherd.

May his flock grow!

Let us be united in our forgiveness and our salvation.

Let us be one.

To God be the glory!


“Sent to Do What Jesus Has Done”

John 21:1-19

May 1, 2022 – Third Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 21:1-19

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”

They answered him, “No.”

He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)

After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

| Centering Prayer |

When I was in seminary

I was afforded the privilege of

Serving as a student intern

At a community mental health organization

Where I was taught,

Over a three-year period,

The art of Psychiatric Assessment

For individuals suffering a psychiatric crisis.

The first year I observed.

The second year I took part.

The third year I led.

I had to write up every assessment

In a detailed, prescribed format.

My mentor, Dr. Thomas Ruth,

A leader in the field of crisis intervention,

Would debrief the assessment and intervention

One-to-one, teaching me the art and science

Of a good intervention, assessment, and referral.

I distinctly recall Dr. Ruth teaching me

That a good assessment is only as good as the moment it is conducted.

It is but a snapshot of a moment in time in the life of the individual.

It records the past.

Clarifies the present.

It gives an impression of a possible diagnosis

and a suggestion for safe treatment and care.

Yet it is nearly impossible to foretell the future.

A person may be a danger to themselves yesterday,

Be safe today,

But there is no way to know with absolute certainty

How dangerous they may be to themselves or others tomorrow.

Life changes.

Circumstances and context changes.

Drug and alcohol use changes with time. 

Brain chemistry changes with seasons and aging.

People come into and out of our lives.

To live is to change.


Change is the difference between

Where you end up and

From where you started.

Mathematics has a name for change: Delta.

(The lower-case Greek is a squiggly d.

The upper-case Greek is a triangle.)

Here we are three weeks into the season of Easter.

We’ve heard the witness of Mary Magalene that she had seen the resurrected Jesus.

We’ve read the account of Jesus coming to the disciples locked in the upper room,

Not once, but twice,

To convince the previously absent Thomas,

To breath on them the Holy Spirit,

And sending them to forgive sins of those who seek forgiveness.

As you have journeyed from Lent,

Through Holy Week, and

Are now solidly engulfed in Easter,

My question to you is

“What’s changed?”
“How have you changed?”

What is demonstrated in the post-resurrection accounts,

Including today’s narrative from the Gospel of John

Is that there is a delta relative to discipleship.

What it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ changed

Due to his resurrection.

Allow me to explain using the following table:

Delta of Discipleship

We can see the change, or the delta of discipleship relative to time.

There are four stages.

  • Answering the call to discipleship: doing what Jesus had done
  • Holy week: denial, betrayal, passion, and death
  • Resurrection: witness, forgiveness, and feeding Christ’s sheep
  • Ascension: making disciples, baptizing, and teaching

Let’s dig in!

1. The first stage of discipleship

Is the behavioral change that takes place

When one answers the call to

“Come follow me.”

This largely takes place during Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee and Samaria.

When one responds positively,

they are charged

With doing what Jesus had done:

Preach the Good News,

Teach what the Good News means and how it transforms lives,

Heal the sick,

Exorcise demons,

Resurrect the dead,

Prepare and watch expectantly for the Lord’s return,

Focus discipleship ministry on those who are marginalized

(the outcast, sinners, the poor, and the least members of society).


2. The second stage of discipleship takes place when Jesus steps foot into Jerusalem and Holy Week begins.

On the graph I show this as a negative delta,

A negative change.

In other words,

Don’t do this.

Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Don’t deny Jesus.

As the old hymn says:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,

the strife will not be long;

this day the noise of battle,

the next the victor’s song.

To those who vanquish evil

a crown of life shall be;

they with the King of Glory

shall reign eternally.

(UMH #514, v.4)

Judas betrays Jesus to the authorities.

Don’t betray Jesus.

Taring down the Church is a betrayal of Jesus.

If you’re not building up the Church,

Strengthening the Body of Christ,

You are doing it wrong.

You are betraying Christ

Just like Judas.

Members of organized religion cause Jesus to suffer degradation, torture, and humiliation.

The world, both church and state, killed Jesus dead.


3. Jesus rose from the dead completing Holy Week,

Leading to the third delta of discipleship.

In his post resurrection appearances

Jesus builds upon the foundational stage of discipleship

(Doing what he had done)

And adds witness, forgiveness, and feeding Christ’s sheep.

Jesus tells Mary, “Go and tell.”

Witness to the fact that you have encountered the risen Christ.

Christ had died.

Christ is risen.

Last week we heard Jesus tell his disciples to forgive or withhold forgiveness.

Forgive those who seek forgiveness of their sins.

Withhold forgiveness for those who resist forgiveness,

Presumably with the hope of future repentance and request for forgiveness.

Today’s narrative from the Gospel of John

We experience Jesus instructing Peter to feed his sheep.

Yes, his three-fold request matches Peter’s previous three-fold denial.

However, in the context of fishing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,

With the catch of an astonishing amount of fish,

One is invited to think of abundance.

Feed my sheep with abundance,

Jesus is directing the first of the Apostles,

The emerging Apostolic leader of the birthing Christian Church.

The message is clear:

God is keeping God’s promise.

God is not giving up on us.

Jesus has confidence in Peter despite his shortcomings,

Just as Christ has confidence in you.

Feed my sheep harkens back to Jesus’ teaching

In the Tenth Chapter of the Gospel of John,

Where Jesus teaches that he is the Good Shepherd.

Today, Jesus looks Peter in the eye

And tells him, “now it’s time you become that good shepherd.”

It’s time for Peter to take over the work of Jesus.


4. Which leads us to the fourth change in discipleship,

Which will take place in the near future,

Upon the ascension of Jesus Christ

Into the heavens to be seated at the right hand of the Father,

The God of Creation.

Jesus uses this opportunity

To outline his final curriculum for mature discipleship.

He commissions his disciples, his followers to do three things:

Make disciples, baptize, and teach them everything that Christ has taught.

Jesus commission his disciples to go to all the nations of the world and make disciples.

Which is to say,

Lead people into a relationship with Jesus

And allow God to transform their heart.

Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize

And he tells us how to do it.

Baptize with water and the Holy Spirit.

Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Baptism forever confirms Christian discipleship;

What God has done no one can undo.

Jesus commissions his disciples to teach all that Christ taught.

It is our responsibility to Train the Trainer,

For this generation to teach the next, and

When their time comes,

For them to teach those who follow.

Disciples are teachers.

Choose you course:

Children, youth, or adults.

Teach by both word and example.

Provide learning opportunities through activities of love and support.

This final, most developed phase of discipleship,

Sits on top of witnessing, forgiving, and feeding,

Sits on top of doing what Jesus had done,

And avoids the pitfalls of denial, betrayal, passion, and death.


Has your delta of discipleship kept pace

With Lent, Holy Week, and Resurrection?

In every stage of Christian development

Jesus speaks the language of love,

Acting with compassion and love.

Do the same.

You and I are taking over Christ’s work.

Speak the same language.

Love, just as Christ loves.

How does God love the world

Without the physical Jesus?

God loves the world through you and me.

Be the delta.

Be the change.

Together, we can.


“Life in His Name”

John 20:19-31

Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 20:19-31                                                                                        

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

| Centering Prayer |

The mission of the United Methodist Church is simple and straightforward:

“The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (2016 Book of Discipline)

A disciple of Jesus Christ is a believer;

One who believes

That Jesus taught us how to live,

That Jesus died to forgive our sins and to reconcile us with God and creation, and

That Jesus rose from the dead, bringing victory over death and the salvation of the world.

A believer comes to know that

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

There are numerous ways to come to believe

That Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.

The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus,

As recorded in the Gospel of John,

Highlight a few that deserve our attention.

1. The first means of belief is to have a physical encounter with the risen Jesus,

Like Mary Magdalene at the garden tomb,

Like his disciples on the first day of the week behind locked doors,

Like Thomas a week later,

Like Paul on the road to Damascus, one to five years later. (Acts 9)

When the risen Good Shepherd

Recognizes Mary, one of his own, by name,

It is no wonder Mary cries out “Rabbouni! (Teacher)”.

It is no wonder Mary enthusiastically complies with Jesus’ command,

Returned to his brothers,

Delivered his message, and proclaims

“I have seen the Lord!” (20:18)

As the Gospel of John reports,

Belief is complicated for those who see with their own eyes a resurrected corpse.

Jesus appears.

He stands among them.

Confirms peace.

The complicated becomes simple.

When the evidence of resurrection stands right before you,

Wounds from his hands and side gaping and raw,

It is no wonder the disciples rejoiced when they too saw the Lord,

And believed. (20:20)

When the one whose death and burial was witnessed

Now appears and stands before you a week later

It is no wonder Thomas gasps

“My Lord and my God!” (20:28)

My Lord … is a statement about the human Jesus who Thomas had followed,

Who lived, died, and had risen from the dead.

My God … is a profession of faith,

Witnessing to the fact that

God is inherently and completely present in the life of Jesus Christ.

Only God could do

What God has done.

Jesus ascended into heaven, and

With the exception of the conversion of Saul,

His personal appearances on earth ever since are few, and far in between.

I’d like to have a meet up with Jesus,

But I’ve never have had that personal,

One-to-one, face-to-face, let’s talk over coffee

meet with him.

I do look forward to meeting him someday,

At some point in the future, when I am welcomed home to glory.

How about you?

Please note,

I would never doubt or second guess someone’s witness

Of a personal encounter with Jesus.

After all, God is capable of all things.

It just hasn’t happened to me, and

I don’t believe the resurrected Jesus has made a personal appearance

To most of us.

If only it was this simple.

Or complicated.

2. The second tactic to come to belief

That Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead

Is to be convinced by the testimony or witness from someone else.

This is where the Church must live by faith today.

This is where the rubber meets the road,

Where our confession, witness, and testimony take on paramount importance.

Dearly beloved, call or get out of the booth.

Go big or go home.

The disciples, like Mary Magdalene,

Had a story to tell the absent Thomas.

“We have seen the Lord.”

Yet, just as it was complicated with the physical appearance of Jesus,

It is so much more complicated without evidence,

Without the reanimated corpse

Standing in front of you and

Calling you by name.

The skeptic inside us all

Draws on the experience of death,

Its biological confirmation,

Mortal finality,

its complete irreversible transformation from breath to corpse, that

Every one of us must be sympathetic to Thomas and his doubts.

Unless I see …”

Unless I “put my finger in the mark of the nails” …

Unless I put “my hand in his side,

I will not believe.” (20:25)

I will not believe. Ouch.

Stubborn refusal.

How are we to overcome the stubborn refusal to believe?

How can we fulfill our mission?

How are we to bring people to the table of discipleship for the transformation of the world?

Strong arm tactics don’t work.

Think of all the kids forced to come to church

Who grew up vowing never to return.

Threats of hell and damnation don’t work.

Oh, they may work for a while;

But, in time, questions and curiosity overwhelm

Leaving behind a scorched cinder, backslider of a person.

An exclusive, literal, fundamental belief doesn’t work;

Eventually, inconsistencies reveal a foundation built on sand.

Grace always trumps Law.

This is my testimony;

This is what has worked for me:

  • A laser focus on Jesus Christ, as reported in the Gospels.
  • An invitation to come clean, repent, to be forgiven, and start new.
  • Love, that first comes from God, that builds and nurtures relationship, one person at a time.
  • Honesty and authenticity when speaking; I can only witness to the God of my experience, who I have come to know as Jesus.
  • Consistency in what I say and what I do.
  • A humble awareness of God’s amazing grace and eternal promise.

What is your testimony?

What works for you?

Our testimony and witness brings non-believers, doubters, and lukewarm believers to Jesus Christ.

Our testimony and witness warms hearts

And draws people to the table.

Our testimony lights a fire and kindles it to burning passion.

Tell your story.

Tell it often.

Let’s you and me kindle the fire, and

Let God take it from there. 

3. The third tactic to come to belief

That Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead

Is to be filled and convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is even more complicated, if that’s possible!

You and I can’t control the Spirit.

We can invite, cajole, petition, beg, plead, …

anything short of cutting off our right arm.

But we can’t control what God will do.

Nor should we touch that third rail of idolatry.

The Spirit moves where it chooses to move.

The Holy Spirit does what it chooses to do in God’s own due time.

When the Holy Spirit makes its presence known

All we can do is to sit back, be filled with awe, and give praise!

Unlike the author of Luke and Acts,

Who describes the descent of the Holy Spirit

As celebrated on Pentecost seven weeks after the resurrection,

The author of the Gospel of John relates the coming of the Holy Spirit

With the breath of Jesus on the first day of the week,

The evening of his resurrection.

“He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (20:22b-23)

This, I can say:

I’ve seen some miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve experienced truly awesome work of the Holy Spirit in my own life.

The key for me is to sit on my skepticism,

Don’t fall for the temptation to try to explain away the circumstance,

Nor blame it on simply an emotional experience or coincidence.

The key for me is to create space for the Holy Spirit to fill;

To enter, to work, and to have its way.

The key for me is to let God be God.

The method of belief and conversion is important from a tactical standpoint.

Tactics matter when we plan our

Outreach, evangelistic recruitment, and discipleship.

How do we bring people to conversion?

What the best way to make disciples of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps we need to employ multiple tactics to cast a wider net?

When tactics are woven together according to God’s design

And our faithful actions,

We can begin to recognize God’s greatest, overarching strategy:

“That through believing

you may have life in his name.” (20:31)

Belief is life.

Belief is the key to life.

Belief is the well from which we draw to live a meaningful life.

Belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,

Is God’s longing desire that you and I may have everlasting life.


“Making God’s Love Personal”

Luke 24:1-12

April 17, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

| Centering Prayer |

For two thousand years

Baptized followers of Jesus Christ 

Have gathered weekly for the purpose of worship.

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday, we believe.

Therefore, we gather

Every Sunday

To praise God

By proclamation of the Word, Celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and music and song.

We thank God through prayer,

For all we’ve been given.

We thank God

For the presence, power, direction, and loving support of the Holy Spirit. We thank God

For the promise of the future

As made in sacred covenants

And the words of Jesus.

This is what we do

Every time we gather for worship.

Today is the first of firsts,

The foremost of all Sundays,

The pinnacle of all mountaintop Sabbath days.

Today is Easter,

(Follow me, here, if you can)

The first Sunday

Following the first Full Moon

Following the Vernal Equinox,

When the sun is directly over the equator and the night and day stand in perfect balance

(March 20th every year).

We celebrate this day

The profound significance

Of the events that took place

On this sacred anniversary.

The events of this date are absolutely fundamental

To our Christian faith and experience.

Without the resurrection,

Jesus would have been

Relegated to a small footnote

In the history of the world.

He would have become

Just another nameless,


Zealot revolutionary

Whom Rome squashed like a bug

In its brutal occupation of Israel.

The Good News of this day is the fact

that Jesus Christ rose from the dead!

The women found an empty tomb.

They were greeted by two messengers

Who witness to them that his promise had come true:

On the third day after his death,

Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead.

And he did.

Our Lord’s resurrection has confirmed Jesus Christ as the essential revelation

Upon which all faith is built.

This supernatural event,

Accomplished by divine design,

Has shifted the focus of spirituality

And has revealed the extravagant grace and love of God.

The salvation history of humankind fundamentally changed.

His resurrection gave birth to the Church;

50 plus generations of disciples

Who have made Jesus Christ the central experience

Of our faith journey.

We have been chosen by God,

And have accepted the invitation,

To be disciples of Jesus.

We devote ourselves to learn all we can

About Jesus and his life.

We attempt to pattern our life after his.

We hang on every detail,

every nuance,

of every word he spoke.

Righteousness is no longer defined

By strict adherence to the Law,

Rather, for the Christian,

Righteousness is counted

Only in our devotion and faith in Jesus Christ.

Righteousness has become for us

Living our lives the way

We believe Christ would have us live.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ

Has confirmed the grace of God

And His love for us.

We have come to see through the lens of hindsight

That His passion and death

Won for us forgiveness of sins.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

God is reconciled with creation.

God is reconciled with you and me.

All those former sins have been washed away, and

Behold, God is making all things new.

We have come to know

That His resurrection has won for the human race

The gift of eternal life.

Eternal life is ours to accept.

The gift of forgiveness and eternal life is outrageously extravagant.

These gifts of grace are a sign of how deeply

And how passionately

God loves us,

And wants the best for us.

The resurrection has made God’s love for humankind personal.

God doesn’t just deliver a chosen race or nation.

God has chosen you,

Thought of you,

Loved you so much that He sent you His Son,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

(John 3:16)

We are not born to toil, suffer, and die.

We are born to give glory to God!

The world is transformed when we live as forgiven people,

Saved by grace,

Loving God, and loving neighbors.

We are given life that we might live eternally in God’s new creation.

Death no longer is the final period at the conclusion of the Book of Life;

Rather, death has become the doorway

Through which we pass

On our journey into perfected communion with God.

It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that opened the door.

Bishop William Willimon makes this observation:

“Look at all God has gone through

down through the ages

to save us,

find us,

embrace us.

Look at all Jesus went through just this past week.

Shall death defeat the purposes of such an extravagantly [loving,] life-giving God?

I think not.”

(William H. Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 11, 2004)

Today, we join the almighty chorus,

Of billions of Christians around the globe,

Proclaiming the Good News of this day;

That Jesus Christ rose from the dead!

And so will you.

Sing to the glories of God’s grace!

Proclaim the wonders of God’s love!

Know that it is God who saved you!

Shout it from the mountain top.

Make this, your witness, heard loud and clear.

Thanks be to God.



A Good Friday Meditation

April 15, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

The Rush United Methodist Church

John 18:33-38

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.

| Prayer |

The truth is …

The Passion narrative from St. John

Has led me to brew on Pilate’s rhetorical question to Jesus

“What is truth?”

The truth is

In today’s world

Truth is so often

Avoided, exaggerated, interpreted, hidden, stretched, bent, or simply denied.

What is it about the ninth commandment

“Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor”

(Deuteronomy 5:20)

That it is so hard to comprehend and practice?

The truth is

Significantly different from telling a lie.

Lies, or bearing false witness, as the Deuteronomist would say,

Deviate from the truth for personal gain.

Lies expose the selfish, self-promotion, unbridled self-interest.

The size of the fish I caught is exaggerated

Simply so that you will think more highly of me and my fishing skill.

The truth is

Significantly different from the opposite of fake news.

This would require one to assume that all news was truth.

Yet, we all should be aware that news is blurred,

Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally,

By point of view, cultural blinders, moral and ethical assumptions, implicit or explicit biases, and religious beliefs.

The truth is

Really, really hard to pin down.

On the one hand are cold, hard facts.

On the other hand are deeply rooted beliefs.

This apparent contradiction has unnecessarily pitted science against religion for centuries.

The truth is

Believers believe and deniers deny.

And it’s really, really hard to convince someone to change their mind,

To pry them from longstanding belief, and

To lever them to cross to the other side.

Then along comes Jesus.

“For this I was born,

And for this I came into the world,

To testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”


The truth is

Truth can only be found in the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The truth is

“In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1)

All things came into being through him. (1:3)

Life came into being. (1:4)

Life led to light,

The light of all people.

The truth is

“The Word,” God, that is,

“Became flesh and lived among us.” (1:14)

The truth is

Found in his testimony:

“I am the Bread of Life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and

Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (6:35)


“I am the Light of the World.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness

But will have the light of life.” (8:12)


“I am the Gate.

Whoever enters by me will be saved, and

Will come in and go out and find pasture.” (10:9)


“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

No one come to the Father except through me.” (14:6)


“I am the Vine,

You are the branches.

Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,

Because apart from me

You can do nothing.” (15:5)


“I am the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (10:11)

Can you hear Mary weep?

Can you see Jesus breath his last?

Truth is

“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus testifies.

“Those who believe in me,

Even though they die,

Will live,

And everyone who lives and believes in me

Will never die.” (11:25-26)

This gives us hope;

An expectation for what awaits us

In just three days.

Truth is

I am unable to convince anyone of the truth.

Like everyone else,

I am only able to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ.

The lever that leads to belief …

The catalyst of conversion …

Is God’s gift of grace,

God’s presence in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit knows our condition, circumstances, and needs

Before we know them;

The Spirit knew us before our birth.

The Holy Spirit uses the testimony of apostolic commission

To lead the unbeliever to the altar of

Repentance, forgiveness, conversion, and justification.

There, the Holy Spirit fills the breath of the newly converted,

Abides within, and

Empowers testimony

To this wonderfully beautiful, newfound truth.

Don’t worry about what you are to say.

The Spirit will give you the words.

Truth is

When darkness falls and

We strip this sanctuary of all color;

When we lay his body in the tomb and

We return home this cold, cold night;

We know …

We know the truth.

Truth is

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Is not God’s final word.


“Have Love for One Another”

Maundy Thursday

April 14, 2022

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

The Rush United Methodist Church

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 |

The ongoing daily dialogue we have with the scriptures tells us that

the choices we make in our lives

make a difference

in the eye of God.

A person’s actions,

both publicly and privately,

both seen and unseen,

serve as a window to the soul.

A disciplined, mature spiritual life

could be defined as when a person’s actions

are consistent with the faith they proclaim.

This recognizes and eliminates personal hypocrisy.

This defines authenticity.

This is euphemistically referred to as

“Talking the talk and walking the walk.”

I think of it as living in harmonic rhythm with Christ.

This is my goal as his disciple:

to make what I say and what I do

become not only a harmonic rhythm with each other,

but also, a harmonic rhythm with what Jesus said and what Jesus did.

“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,”

Jesus instructs his disciples. (John 13:34)

Jesus talked the talk and walked the walk.

Jesus is as authentic as they come.

Our Last Supper setting for this evening begins with His action:

Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

He pours water over their feet, washes, and towel dries.

His actions were startling to his beloved disciples,

perhaps just as startling as they are to us today.

In my opinion, feet are dirty and smelly and rather ugly.

Yet, Jesus washes 12 pairs of feet this evening.

His actions are incredibly humbling.

The teacher is usually the one held in higher esteem than the student.

Yet, Jesus demonstrates that

humility is more important than any lesson plan.

His actions are incredibly courageous.

He knows that his betrayer is in line to have his feet washed.

Time would have stood still.

Tension could have been cut by a knife as Jesus made his way down the line.

Jesus washes the feet of Judas anyways.

The one who is betraying Jesus to the authorities to be killed

is one of those whose feet Jesus washed.

His actions are amazing.


The one who

Couldn’t walk on water,

Couldn’t open his mouth without sticking in his foot,

would soon deny Jesus

… not once, not twice, three times …

Gets his feet washed by Jesus, anyways.

His actions were that of a servant.

He rolled up his sleeves

and went about the work of cleaning his follower’s dirty, filthy feet.

Corns, bunions, fungus nails, and hammer toes, oh my!  

His actions are incredibly loving.

It is hard to get more intimate than washing someone else’s feet.

His touch demonstrates how much he loved his closest friends.

Jesus teaches them,

“you also ought to wash one another’s feet… you are blessed if you do them.”

(John 13:14)

When it comes to hypocrisy,

none can be found in Jesus.

Jesus is saying, “Just as I have done, so are you to do to other disciples.”

Treat other followers of Christ with humility,

not according to power or authority,

but as equals,

even if it takes making ourselves less than equals,

servants of all.

Be courageous in service;

extend mission and ministry

to those who are known to have

hurt us,

denied us,

even betrayed us.

Be generous in your service.

Anticipate the need of others,

Then meet and exceed their need

Without drawing attention to yourself.

Be willing to go above and beyond what the world might expect.

Serve simply for the sake of love,

Without any expectation of reciprocity.  

Love enemies, just as we are to love ourselves,

… just as we are to love our God.

Because Jesus washed the feet of his disciples,

it requires that we pay especially close attention to what he has to say.

He gives a new commandment:

“Love one another.

Just as I have loved you,

you also should love one another.”

(John 13:34)

Shouldn’t this be the defining character

that identifies you and me as a follower of Jesus?

Love should define who we are and whose we are.

Often today, we lose sight of this simple, humbling fact.

It is far easier to apply the cultural

ethics and morality of the world upon our church,

than it is to apply this command of Jesus to our lifestyle and decisions.

The church becomes secularized when we import

democracy, authority, and power.

The body is whitewashed by

political agendas,

hunger for money,

power hungry laity, and

ambitious clergy.

The ecclesia becomes just another system of righteous service.

Robert’s Rules of Order is easily reforged into a golden calf.

But Jesus calls us to another, different standard.

The identity of His Body is to be grounded and identified by love.

Show me a community organization that requires everybody to love!

Show me a judicial expectation to love!

Show me a politician who runs on a platform of love.

Show me incorporation papers or by-laws of any business

that demands love define its purpose, culture, or values!

Jesus calls his church, his followers, his disciples to love

– to love one another,

to love our enemies,

to love those who persecute us,

to love those who are un-lovely,

to love those with dirty, smelly, ugly feet.

Jesus calls his church

to love the least fortunate,

the last, least, lost, the left behind.

Jesus calls us

to love the outcast, the poor, the widow, the orphaned, the diseased, the dis- or other-abled, and the imprisoned.

Jesus calls us to love the Lord our God,

with our entire mind,

with all our soul,

with all our strength, and

with all our heart.

That love began with a pitcher of water, a basin, and a towel.

This is his reason:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

(John 13:35)

In this age of evangelical fervor,

isn’t this the greatest evangelism tool

ever conceived and enacted by Jesus?

When others see our love of God and neighbor,

They’ll want some, too.

You won’t find love in your company’s ethic.

You won’t find love standing before a judge.

You won’t even find love in a therapist’s chair.

Love won’t be found in a course outline or a state curriculum.

You may be searching for love in a failing marriage or broken relationship.

You may even be searching for love from a bottle, from a pill, or in a high.

Love won’t be found there.

By the grace of God,

let others find the love of God here with us!

Open the shades,

that all might look in and see the love that is proclaimed by our congregation,

without hypocrisy,

with integrity and authenticity,

both in our words and in our deeds.

Let us act with humility, with courage, with service, and with love,

just as Jesus did,

washing his disciples’ feet.

Let all the world see and experience God’s love,

as it is meant to be seen and experienced.

There is no greater love than the love Jesus has for you.

We are his disciples, his children, his followers.

It was for our sake that Jesus suffered and died on the cross

– to wash us clean of our sins

– to reconcile us with each other and with our God.

It was for our sake that Jesus rose from the dead

– to give us the gift of eternal life.

It was for our sake that Jesus broke bread and shared the cup

– to give us the sweet anticipation of his return and

the love in which we are enveloped. 

That same bread and cup are shared here this evening,

Breaking our Lenten fast.

Tomorrow, his passion will be told.

And Sunday, His resurrection will be proclaimed.

Actions do speak louder than words.

Have love for one another, my beloved,

just as Jesus loves you.

And by your love, you will be known.


“Tears of the King”

Luke 19:28-48

Palm / Passion Sunday

April 10, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 19:28-48

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

| Centering Prayer |

Early in the war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Would make video calls

To world leaders, congressmen, members of parliament, and the press

Appealing for aid and assistance against the Russian war machine.

He appeared unshaven,

In green tee shirts

(I purchased two, in his honor),

In dark, undisclosed locations.

With the threat of Russian armor, artillery, and air power so close at hand

He considered himself target number one

And his family target number two.

“This may be the last time you speak to me,” he was quoted as saying.

Zelensky was a wanted man with a price on his head.

Yet, he is surviving.

It feels like the tide is turning.

He has returned to his Presidential Office.

The actor / comedian now President of Ukraine

Has warmed the heart of the West.

Russians are leaving Kyiv,

Leaving behind tortured murder victims and mass graves.

May justice prevail.

May innocent victims

Rest in peace.

Today, Jesus is a wanted man with a price on his head.

Raising Lazarus from the dead

was the final straw for the Jewish leaders.

They intended to kill Lazarus (a second time)

And they intended to arrest and kill Jesus, too.

30 pieces of silver was the going rate.

Wanted: Dead or alive.

Jesus was target number one.

Lazarus was target number two.

His royal entry,

A parade through a crowd,

Was his protection.

Assassins prefer to act in secret.

The murderous intent of the Jewish leaders

Was driven by fear.

They had power and they weren’t giving it up.

They had Caesar whose sword and legions propped up the Temple,

So long as the trains ran on time.

They had wealth and the ability to print money;

Employing oppressive taxes, tithes, and fees.

When money flowed like water

From the poor

To the Temple

To Rome

Everybody was fat, dumb, and happy.

Disrupt the flow of money and power of this worldly empire

And there would be hell to pay.

The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

Was the opening clash of two kingdoms:

The power and wealth of Rome and corrupt organized religion


The abundant grace and love of the kingdom of God.

There would be victims of this cosmic clash.

Jesus could see Jerusalem being crushed, burned, and defeated

In a mere 40 years.

Killing fields are killing fields,

Weather it is Jerusalem or Bucha or Mariupol.

It made him weep.

Tears of the King flow

When the world does not recognize the things that make for peace.

The King weeps

When the world chooses power, oppression, fear, and violence

Over the way of Christ and the will of God.

Jesus was and is the visitation of God,

Who threatens earthly kingdoms, powers, and principalities.

Jesus was and is the King of kings

Who the people blessed with the royal treatment along the way.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)

Jesus was and is the King of kings

Whose righteous rage was willing to flip some tables

Disrupt like a pandemic

The acceptable ways and habits

Of the unexamined life.


Because we’ve always done it that way before.

Why not something new?

Because this is the way we do things around here.

But God can make all things new.

Shut-up and get in line.

The temptation is very powerful

To maintain the status quo

To resist change,

To insist that we are better off

Placing our bets on earthly kingdoms

Then placing our trust in God’s kingdom,

Where Jesus rules as King.

The world pushes back the progress of God’s kingdom.

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,

‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’

He answered, ‘I tell you,

If these were silent,

The stones would shout out.’” – Luke 19:39-40

It is impossible for creation to remain silent!

If your Christian faith and discipleship is getting pushback and facing resistance,

You might be doing it right.

Shout aloud

your blessing to our Heavenly King!

Practice the values of his kingdom.

Being peace

that the world may live in peace.

Do not be afraid to

Overturn a few tables,

Just as Jesus did.

Disrupt corruption, power, and greed.

In its place


Create an environment of grace and love.

Create opportunities to partner with Jesus

To bring redemption and salvation to the world.


Let us be committed to being co-creators with our God,

To follow Christ, our King of kings,

And to replace corrupt, evil-infused kingdoms of this world

With God’s eternal kingdom of peace and love.

Blessed is our King!