“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?

Or,

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.

Abide!

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!

Amen.

“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.

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.

Amen.  

“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.

Amen.

“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,

Forgotten,

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.

Amen.

“Truth”

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.”

(18:37b)

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)

Truth.

“I am the Light of the World.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness

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

Truth.

“I am the Gate.

Whoever enters by me will be saved, and

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

Truth.

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

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

Truth.

“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)

Truth.

“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.

Amen.

“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.

Peter.

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.

Amen.

“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

Verses

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.

Why?

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.

Create an environment of grace and love.

Create opportunities to partner with Jesus

To bring redemption and salvation to the world.

Beloved,

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!

Amen.

“Keep the Poor Among You Always”

John 12:1-8

April 3, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

| Centering Prayer |

Allow me to clear up some confusion.

Mary, the sister anointing Jesus feet, and wiping them with her hair

Is not Mary Magdalene.

This was a medieval western Christianity legend

That attempted to connect her with an unnamed, sinful woman

From the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:36-50).

This was and is an injustice to Mary Magdalen that is perpetuated to this day.

That unnamed, sinful woman from Luke 7

Also anointed Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair

While he was eating with one of the Pharisees

At his house in Jerusalem.

Likewise, the pair of sisters today, Mary and Martha,

Is not the Mary and Martha sisters

– Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus

while Martha waits on them hand and foot –

As depicted in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 10:38-42).

That pair of sisters lived in the region where Jesus began his ministry,

In the north,

In the region of Galilee.

Great story; different sisters.

John’s Gospel account of Mary and Martha

Is about a completely different pair of sisters,

Coincidentally also named Mary and Martha.

Mary and Martha were common names.

St. John’s narrative about Mary and Martha

Takes place in the south,

In a suburb of Jerusalem called Bethany, and

Includes a brother by the name of Lazarus.

You may remember,

Lazarus was dead, stinking, and rotting four days in a tomb

When Jesus came and raised him from the dead and brought him back to life.

Raising Lazarus from the dead, St. John records,

Led to some Jews in the crowd believing in Jesus and following him,

While others went to the Pharisees and the council in outrage.

The council decided to have Jesus arrested (John 11:45-57) and Lazarus killed (John 12:9-11).

Jesus withdrew further away from Jerusalem to Ephraim,

Near the wilderness, and

Remained there with his disciples. (John 11:54)

When Passover drew near,

Jesus makes his way back towards Jerusalem,

Stopping back in Bethany to have dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

I wonder if Jesus inquired about Lazarus’ health?

“Did you walk towards the light?”

“Any lingering effects of being DEAD?”

Seriously, though,

Passover is near, and so too is Jesus’ hour.

A number of items from the Gospel of John,

About this act of love, followed by the confrontation with Judas Iscariot,

Catches my eye and

Captures my heart.

1. Smell.

The stench of Lazarus dead four days in a tomb. (John 11:39)

The smell of costly perfume made of nard,

Filling the house with fragrance. (John 12:3)

Death and life are contrasted in both scenes.

Corruption, on the one hand, and wholeness, on the other.

Smell calls the observant to attention.

Pause for a moment to smell.

Breath in deeply the smell of Mary’s perfume.

Imagine this house filled with its fragrance.

Rudyard Kipling wrote

“Smells are surer than sounds or sights

To make your heart-strings crack.”

(http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_licht.htm)

Smell can be associated with a memory,

Good or bad,

That can last a lifetime.

The smell of costly perfume

Can be a foretaste of the Passion that is to come.

One can almost smell the newly crucified Jesus,

His corpse washed.

Nard smoothed into the skin.

His body wrapped,

Stuffed with myrrh and aloes and laid in a tomb. (John 19:39)

2. Anointing.

Jesus reports

Mary purchased the perfume

For his burial.

“She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

(John 12:7)

Kings are anointed at coronation.

Priests are anointed at ordination.

The newly converted are anointed by the Holy Spirit.

The dying are anointed on their deathbed.

The dead are anointed

recognizing new birth to eternal life.

This very day,

On the eve of Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem

Jesus is anointed by Mary, the sister of Lazarus,

As a wonderful, beautiful, loving act of preparation

For Jesus to complete his mission:

To redeem the world,

Reconciling the world to God.

Too often, we experience the love of God, through Jesus His Son,

Moving in a single direction,

From God to humankind,

From God to me.

Mary is one of the rare examples of reversing love’s flow.

She loves Jesus,

Is willing to sacrifice greatly to show him love and compassion.

Mary returns to the Lord the love that first comes from God.

Mary’s love isn’t withheld.

It isn’t miserly or a mere token.

Mary takes a pound of costly perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet.

Mary’s love is extravagant, over the top, excessive, enormous;

Exactly like God’s love for you and me.

We may say we love Jesus.

We often talk about loving Jesus.

Talk is cheap.

Actions speak louder than words.

Mary’s act of love is actually demonstrating love for Jesus.

How might we do the same?

What can you and I do to actually show our extraordinary love for Jesus?

Love Jesus?

Show me.

Show the world.

3. Poverty.

It is impossible to separate Jesus from the poor.

The Gospel author of John

Recognizes how deeply entwined the message and meaning of Jesus

Is tied to how we respond to the poor of this world.

It is no accident that Judas Iscariot

… The one who was about to betray Jesus,

The one who kept the common purse

The one who robbed from it for his personal benefit …

Brings up the topic of the poor.

True, perfume that cost a year’s wages

could have been sold and given to the poor.

After his skimming, the poor would have probably received a fraction of the proceeds.

Judas wasn’t concerned for the poor.

But, John correctly notes that Jesus was.

Jesus brought good news in tangible ways to the oppressed and vulnerable.

He fed the hungry.

He healed the sick.

He returned the broken to wellness and restored them into community.

Jesus resisted oppressive and corrupt

political, religious, and social systems

That lay at the root cause of the worlds suffering.

There is an important insight to John’s Gospel

That comes from the ancient Greek.

Sometimes the present indicative form of a word

Matches the present imperative;

which is an academic way of saying

“maybe we should read Jesus’ statement not as indication of the way things are – ‘You always have the poor with you’

but as a command: … ‘Keep the poor among you always.’”

(With thanks to Lindsey Trozzo, as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3993)

Keep the poor among you always.

Living a life of Christian piety is a life immersed in poverty.

One who understood and practiced piety was Francis Asbury.

A few years ago I read his biography,

“American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodist” by John Wigger.

Asbury rode thousands of miles on horseback

During the American Revolution and in the decades thereafter,

Preaching the Gospel,

Converting the masses,

Expanding the Methodist movement beyond the wealthy coastal cities

Deep into the wilderness and frontier.

Asbury owned little,

Gave most everything away,

Lived on the generosity of host families.

His primary concern was with the saving of souls,

Bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ,

Then discipling them by organizing people into class meetings.

Class meetings, patterned after the class meetings of John Wesley,

Were led by a lay leader,

Met regularly,

Served to support one another in their discipleship,

And to reach out and serve the poor.

It’s rigid discipline encouraged love and devotion;

A modest, pious Christian life moving on towards sanctification.

Asbury avoided the trappings of wealth and power,

Eagerly seeking the farmer, the slave, the common person.

Asbury avoided locating in the comforts of cities on the Eastern seaboard,

Preferring the interior wilderness of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee.

Boarding with a frontier family,

Warmed by their hearth,

Speaking of mortal and immortal concerns,

Warms the heart and quickens the soul.

Keep the poor among you always, Jesus commanded.

Opportunities abound to not just talk about poverty

But to do something about it.

One in five children in America live in poverty.

Of our total population, 48% are poor or low income.

At the same time, 1% of the population own 43% of the nation’s wealth.

The bottom 80% are left with just 7% of wealth.

(http://kairoscenter.org/poor-peoples-campaign-concept-paper/)

And that’s just in America.

Love the Lord, the Great Commandment tells us.

Love your neighbor as yourself, it is quickly followed up.

When we can love our neighbors as extravagantly as Mary loved Jesus,

We will go a long way towards keeping the poor among us

And serving their needs.

Just as Jesus fed the hungry crowds,

So too can we feed those who are unable to feed themselves or their families.

Just as Jesus healed the sick,

So too can we make health care affordable and accessible to all who need it.

Just as Jesus railed against systems of injustice and oppressions of this world,

So too can we.

Dearly beloved,

Breathe deeply and smell the fragrance of Mary’s anointing perfume.

Be inspired to love Jesus,

Not just by our words,

But through our actions

With acts of love and charity.

Love God and

Love neighbors,

Especially our poorest of neighbors.

Roll up the sleeves and don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty.

Serve the poor.

You’re doing the Lord’s work.

Keep the poor among us always.

Be God’s extravagant love.

Live modestly.

Embrace piety.

Live that you may please God.

Let the rest take care of itself.

Amen.

“‘That Son of Yours!’ The Injustice of Grace”

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

March 27, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

| Centering Prayer |

Oh, my.

Where to start?

The challenges of preaching on this parable of Jesus are many.

1. It’s well known.

Most of us are familiar with it.

2. It’s been interpreted by preachers, professors, video Bible study leaders, and countless Sunday school teachers.

Quality and frequency varies, as does memory and age.

Even still, there aren’t many unturned stones.

3. This parable often arouses the dysfunction of families to bubble to the surface.

Coffee hour, the ride home, and conversation around the dinner table could be interesting today.

It might be painful for many.

My Sunday school experience

Labeled this parable

“The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”

But there is a loving father and a resentful brother.

There are a lot of moving parts and multiple levels of Gospel truths embedded here.

In the original Greek

There are no titles, chapters, or verses in the Gospels.

These have all been added later by scribes, editors, early Church fathers, and translators.

The title assigned to a section, event, or parable

Reflect the author’s bias and

Shape the audience perspective.

How we think about the Gospel is often shaped

By how others thought about the Gospel.

So, what should we title our parable?

Here is my top four titles:

1. “Parable of the Prodigal Son”

2. “Parable of the No Good, Good for Nothing, Rotten-to-the-Core Son”

3. “Parable of Lost Sons”

4. “Parable of a Father’s Injustice”

I started out with 10 titles,

Thinking each would make a good sermon point.

If I went with all 10 we’d be here all day.

I wrote 2 and cut it back to 8.

It was still too long, so

I settled in on 4.

At the end of the day,

Jesus promises to offend everyone

By the injustice of God’s grace.

1. “Parable of the Prodigal Son”

This is the traditional, Sunday school title assigned to this parable.

Prodigal means “a person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way.” (Google search)

It assumes the younger son’s point of view:

He was rebellious.

He engaged in sinful behavior.

He loses everything.

No one helps him.

Life is terrible feeding pigs.

Even non-practicing, secular Jews would find slopping pigs abhorrent.

He plans and carries out a scheme to manipulate his father

With the hope that he will be allowed back home and reinstated as if nothing happened.

The Prodigal Son’s plan is successful.

Moral of the story: no matter how bad you mess up your life,

Your heavenly Father is waiting, watching, and hoping you will return home.

There is nothing – nothing whatsoever – that can separate anyone from the love of God.

It is our Father’s deepest, longing desire that we return home to God.

Can you live with that?

2. “Parable of the No Good, Good for Nothing, Rotten-to-the-Core Son”

This point of view could have come from the grumbling Pharisees and scribes.

Judgment is often decreed by those deemed most pious, privileged, or righteous;

Like card carrying members of the conservative caucus,

The Yacht Club,

Ivy League-ers.

Who would associate

With tax collectors and sinners?

This is the kind of judgment that Pharisees and scribes would have made:

The youngest son is an awful person who gets an awesome party.

If we find ourselves in this group of people

Who work hard to maintain our conservative, righteous credentials,

Along with the Pharisees and scribes,

It’s natural to resent the younger son.

This naturally leads us to question

“What is God’s answer to our resentment?”

Answer: love.

Moral of the story:

God’s love is without regard to prior behavior.

God doesn’t appear to be concerned with

How it plays in public opinion polls

Or what other people think.

Our Father’s love is unconditional, lavish, and abundant.

Can you live with that?

3. “Parable of Lost Sons”

How does a loving Father end up raising two knuckleheaded, hopelessly lost sons?

Growing up the youngest of four

In our Pennsylvania Dutch family,

I know that I got away with murder.

I also know how stubborn and bull-headed I can be.

I could very well be that younger brother seeking to sow my wild oats.

Fact: I don’t like getting my hands dirty.

I don’t like working under a hot sun.

When my brother works sun up to sun down he makes me look bad.

Fact: The younger son does not deserve the inheritance he received.

By tradition and law,

It is all supposed to go to the eldest male child.

Asking for it plays the Father like a fiddle.

Giving it tells me

He is not only soft in the heart,

The Father is soft in the head, too.

My name is “Mayhem” and I star in the Allstate commercials.

At the same time

I could very well be that older brother working out in the field.

Fact: The baby of the family was always Father’s favorite,

And he always gets a free pass.

Fact: That brother of mine never worked a hard day in his life. 

Fact: I was happy when he left.

I hoped he never returned.

Fact: When he did return, no one even had the courtesy to tell me.

Fact: He’s dead to me.

I’m never talking to him again.

To which the loving Father responds:

“‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (15:31-32)

Moral of the story: Finding the lost and returning them home is our Heavenly Father’s greatest priority.

Can you live with that?

4. How about this for a title:

“Parable of a Father’s Injustice”

Maybe, if dad had raised his sons better, they wouldn’t have turned out so rotten?

Where is the mother in the house?

Talk about dysfunction!

All three of them need psychiatric intervention,

To be medicated, and

Sent to long-term care!

No matter how one experiences this parable of Jesus,

It is obvious to all that the loving, patient Father

Does not treat his two sons equally or fairly.

The Father gives to his young buck a share of the inheritance

That belonged to his eldest son.

It wasn’t his to give.

The Father was watching and waiting for his son to return.

He wasn’t out in the field working with his eldest,

Pulling his fair share of the work.

The Father was quick to give his prodigal son

Even more wealth and riches – that weren’t his to give.

He gives him a robe, ring, and sandals.

He gives him his brother’s prize winning 4-H calf.

The eldest son raised him from a pup.

The Father failed to invite his elder son to the party.

Holy cow; no wonder the elder son is angry,

Dug his heels in, and refused to go inside to the party.

There is overflowing resentment towards his Father who treated him unfairly.

“But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’” (15:30)

He’s outraged!

Can you blame him?

Moral of the story: God’s grace isn’t fair.

If God’s grace was fair

The lost would never be found.

The dead would never be raised.

And the only means of redemption and salvation

Would be to work our way into heaven.

I can’t speak for you,

But I’m just not good enough.

The injustice of God’s grace

Reminds us that we are not God;

To pretend otherwise is idolatrous.

Rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Sunshine comes to the good and the bad.

God’s favor comes to the deserving and the undeserving.

The only way for the lost to be found

Is if God’s grace is apportioned according to God’s wisdom,

Not ours.

Can you live with that?

This parable of two sons

Is no more a creative license to eat, drink, and be merry

Than it is to try to earn your way into heaven.

…..

These are the promises of Jesus: no matter how bad you mess up life,

Your heavenly Father is waiting, watching, and hoping you will return home.

Jesus wants us to know these essential truths: our Father’s love is unconditional, lavish, and abundant.

Finding the lost and returning them home is our Heavenly Father’s greatest priority.

Moral of the story: God’s grace isn’t fair.

But it is sufficient.

God’s grace is motivated by our Father’s love

Who desires the lost to be found,

The sinner to be forgiven,

The estranged to be reconciled,

The dead to be given new life.

That’s good enough for me.

Can you live with that?

Amen.

“Time is Short”

Luke 13:1-9

March 20, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

| Centering Prayer |

Lent is a season of many facets.

It points us towards Jerusalem and invites us to travel with Jesus towards mortal confrontation.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere,

Lent is a season where Spring teases us with hints of that which is to come,

While reminding us of the reality right before our eyes:

Slush, mud, and that sloppy mess endlessly wiped away from our windshield.

There just isn’t enough windshield wiper fluid in this world.

Keeping a clean windshield this past week made me think about repentance;

A common thread woven throughout Lent,

Addressed each year through the Gospels,

Especially prevalent and characteristic of Luke / Acts.

Had the presence and actions of Jesus Christ taken place today in our cultural environment

Jesus may have used windshield wipers as a metaphor for repentance.

It might have gone something like this:

‘Consider the slush of Spring,

Salted, plowed, and sprayed upon your windshield.

Your windshield wipers are like repentance;

Every sin and moral failure is wiped away,

Never-freezing fluid cleans and shines.

Just as one is able to see more clearly,

Slush and spray return and gradually obscure sight.

Repentance is needed all over again.’

Silly speculation? Perhaps.

Yet, allow our windshield wipers to remind us

Of our need for continual, repeated, lifelong repentance.

…………

Every preacher of experience will have used the Lenten theme of repentance

To address the issue numerous times throughout their career.

I’ve personally interpreted and preached on this Gospel passage on repentance twelve times.

Yet, the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ,

Never ceases to amaze me.

The more I study,

The more I digest and discern,

The more I reflect and pray,

The more the Gospel opens up to me.

I’m always learning something new,

Which allows me to fall deeper into relationship with Jesus.

New is a model of repentance that reflects maturing spiritual growth,

Which I’ve crafted into my imagination a flowing river

Leading us directly to God.

At the beginning of the journey

Is Christianity 101.

Freshman year.

We step into the boat called the Church

And begin our lifelong journey of faith.

We emerge from our baptismal waters an empty slate;

A clean pallet, upon which our mentors, the Saints, begin to paint.

“Teach them all that I have taught you,” Jesus commanded. (Matthew 28:20)

We begin with a definition:

Repentance means

“the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better.”

(Wikipedia, with reference to: Jeremiah Unterman (2017). Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics. University of Nebraska Press. p. 109.)

Repentance.

Reviewing one’s actions.

Feeling contrition or regret.

A commitment to change for the better.

The God of our Hebrew ancestors,

As recorded in our Old Testament,

Call God’s people to repentance:

“Thus saith the Lord GOD: Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” – Ezekiel 14:6

Self-assessment inevitably leads to the feeling of sorrow

And a desire to return to ways of righteously following God’s will and ways.

Our Early Church ancestors

Use the Greek word Metanoia (met-an’-oy-ah) to describe repentance;

A change of mind and a change of conduct. 

John the Baptist called for people to repent.

Jesus called for repentance. (Matthew 4:17)

Jesus instructs his disciples to proclaim repentance. (Mark 6:12)

Peter calls on people to repent in his Pentecost sermon. (Acts 2:38)

Paul calls on both Jew and Greek to repent towards God. (Acts 20:21)

Obviously, the beginning of repentance is an important early step

In the journey that leads us to God.

The behavior of the world,

And our sinful behavior,

Must be recognized and assessed.

We must experience the sorrow that follows;

Sorrow that comes from the heart,

That comes from disappointing God.

Sorrow must drive a growing, burning desire

For moral transformation with a stubborn intention

To never again fail God.

Christianity 101. Repentance begins with moral transformation.

But that’s not where it ends.

……

Christianity 201.

Are you ready

To grow with the flow and

To be brought closer to God?

Turn on your windshield wipers.

Repent.

Rinse.

Wipe.

Repeat.

A clean windshield allows us to see more clearly the reality that surrounds us.

Repentance allows us to see clearly

The hazards and dangers of the world.

Repentance allows us to see clearly

A safe way forward, an escape from the mortal realities of life.

Repentance allows us to bring into sharp focus

The purpose and meaning

Of Christ’s Passion, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.

It’s impossible to interpret the times without the ability to see clearly.

“You see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.” Jesus teaches (12:54)

Clean off the windshield so you can see the clouds!

Repentance makes it clear to see the randomness of suffering and death.

Planes fall from the sky and people die.

Eighteen were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them.

The tyrant Pilate killed Galileans and mingled their blood with Temple sacrifices.

Random. Senseless. Suffering.

Repentance makes this crystal clear:

We all die. Age 6 months, 21 years, 59 years, 94 years.

Bad things happen to good people, to bad people, to all people.

Our mortality is shared with everyone else in God’s creation.

Here’s the Good News:

We’re alive right now.

Take advantage of this moment and repent, Jesus encourages us,

“Unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” (13:5)

Repentance can only happen in the here and now;

You can’t repent after you die.

Time is short.

This breath and this heartbeat is a gift from God;

Take advantage of it.

Repent now.

This is what we can see with a clean windshield:

Repentance brings into focus the actions and meaning of Jesus.

With our repeated repentance we can come to a deeper understanding

Of Christ’s love for us,

The generous and abundant gift of atonement,

Substituting our sins for his death upon a cross.

Repentance allows us to see, confirm, and claim God’s promise;

The eternal gift of salvation,

Victory over the grave and a promise that

The river of faith leads us into an eternal presence with God.

Wow.

Repent.

Repent often.

A safe way forward is clear.

Follow the Way;

God’s Way forward.

……

Keep those windshield wipers working

And use your wiper fluid lavishly.

Christianity 301 is right around the next bend.

Repentance makes clear an individual characteristic of a Christian life.

What is often overlooked,

But can now be clearly seen before us,

Is the reality and power of communal repentance.

What happens when more and more of the world’s population

Engages in the repeated acts of individual and collective repentance?

The Kingdom of God advances.

The Kingdom of God grows in strength.

The Kingdom of God welcomes home new disciples of Jesus

And the world is transformed.

Like a rolling snowball that grows with increasing size

The momentum of the Kingdom of God grows with such power and force

That God’s Kingdom will not be deviated.

God’s Kingdom will only have one eventual and certain outcome.

Stand confident in this fact:

There is nothing that you or I can do that will derail or bring to destruction God’s Kingdom.

We are freed with creative license to facilitate and participate in Kingdom growth.

So, let’s repent; and get to work!

Stand confident in this fact:

The outcome of God’s Kingdom is certain;

God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. (11:2)

Bank it.

Count on it.

……

Our senior year culminates with graduation;

What John Wesley called

Christian Perfection.

Perfection is a complete state of clarity, purity, and love.

Perfection is what we strive for with every act of repentance,

With every wipe of our windshield.

Perfection is the example we attempt to set for those who come behind us.

Perfection is God’s gift of being forgiven,

Being re-made righteous,

Striving to maintain perfect righteousness.

Perfection is God’s gift of salvation,

Living in eternal love and presence of God.

Perfection of the world is God’s deepest desire.

……

Jesus calls you, me, and the world, to repentance.

“Turn back, oh man. Forswear thy foolish ways!” Jesus sings in the musical Godspell.

Assess yourself.

Raise your self-awareness. 

Taste bitter regret.

Rise to the commitment of moral transformation.

Repent, Jesus commands.

As that sin is forgiven and wiped away

See the world more clearly.

Time is short and the length of our lives is unknown and sometimes arbitrary,

So, repent now. Repent repeatedly.

With repentance comes clarity:

See the dangers, trials, and snares before us.

See the path God gives us to safely make forward progress.

Repent, Jesus so desires,

That we may see clearly and journey boldly

With Christ

To his cross and empty tomb.

Repent, beloved.

Repent knowing that

Repentance advances God’s Kingdom, that

Repentance brings us to Christian perfection, that

Repentance brings us home to God.

Amen.