“So Much Anticipation”

Matthew 21:1-11

April 2, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 21:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

| Centering Prayer |

John Wesley, Methodism’s historical church father,

Reflecting on our gospel Palm Sunday lesson from Matthew wrote the following,

“it is for the comfort of my soul

for the honour of his humility,

and for the utter confusion of all worldly pomp and grandeur.”

Indeed, with historical hindsight,

We are comforted by the fact that Jesus had arrived

At his final.



We know his triumphant entry into Jerusalem leads to his death

And the redemption of the world.

Triumphant entry: Yeah!

Death: Complete despair.

Redemption: God’s plan, necessary pain, all along.

(Pause for contemplation)

The crowd had no clue.

They expected Jesus to be their political solution

To end the Roman problem.

They expected Jesus to lead the rebellion

That sends Pontius Pilate and his legions back were they came from.

They expected Jesus to enter the Temple gate

And cleanse organized religion of all its internal rot.

We expect Jesus to die by Friday,

Less all our Holy Week plans become disrupted and fail.

The crowd had no clue.

Their shouts of acclamation,

Here-to-fore stifled by our Christ,

Less it draw cause for the religious authorities

to prematurely interrupt his agenda

are now allowed to go unrestrained.

There is no longer need for caution;

Jesus knows death is imminent.

The comfort we find in this triumphant entry

Is deeply rooted in the personal reality

That the actions of Jesus,

To suffer and die,

Are for my personal gain.

(Pause for reflection)

When did you and I become so self-centered?

Jesus is looking into a crowd of people shouting Hosannas,

Just as we proclaim at Holy Communion.

He knows who will be responsible for his death.

This same crowd will be the ones who,

In a few short days,

Will shout “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Yet, he humbly sits on a donkey and makes his way

Through the confusion of worldly pomp and grandeur.

Looking into the eyes of your betrayer will give a person chest pains.

For Jesus, looking into the eyes of his betrayers lands him on a cross;

Exposed, bleeding, and dying

Out in the open

In plane sight

For all the world to see.

And so it is

When we lift high the name of Jesus on Sunday

But deny him the other six days of this week

We take our place in the crowd whose “Hosannas” are replaced with “Crucify him”.

Hosanna literally means, “Lord save us”.

Don’t we still want to be saved the other six days of the week?

Or are we content to roll the dice and take our chances?

(Pause to reflect)

Let us not forget our roots!

Jesus came from Galilee

Where he taught, healed, forgave sins, and resurrected the dead.

Jesus came from the town of Nazareth

From which he began a ministry

of reaching out to everyone that society had tossed out and left for dead:

the poor, blind, deaf, mute, diseased, disfigured, prostitutes, and people caught in adultery.

This, and more, define our deeply ingrained roots.

Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength;

And love your neighbor as yourself.

The values of his preaching, teaching and healing

are riding that donkey into Jerusalem this morning.

Let us not forget our roots!

We drag our sorry, sinful, backsliding selves into worship every Sunday

Smug in the knowledge of God’s redeeming grace,

Yet remembering the Christian values that have surfaced and taught to us

Since our earliest memories.

Sitting on my father’s lap;

is that so different than the picture of Jesus with all the children coming unto him?

Taking my place at the dinner table and saying grace;

Is that so different than what took place in the Upper Room?

My mother cleaning up my bicycle induced laceration;

Is that so different than the women who went to clean, dress, and prepare the bloody corpse of Jesus?

Our roots teach us, inform us, guide us.

Listen to what our ancestors have to say.



Though everyone loves a parade,

We should think twice before we take our place in this crowd.

Homicide should never be an aspiration.

OK, so, we aren’t the crowd.

We shouldn’t be the stained, soiled, or deeply flawed disciples

(Lord knows how Peter and Judas end up).

And we certainly can’t claim to be the Christ.

We are left asking, “where is our place in this triumphant parade story?”

What role are to we play this coming Holy Week?

Our role is to be the eyes and ears of Christ this Holy week.

We are to humbly look to the world,

See the need,

And to respond

just as Christ would respond.

Jerusalem was far from perfect;

So too is the world in which we live.

Can we respond with the love of Christ

In the midst of people who hate you with a smile,

People who would knife you in the back while they are singing your praise,

With people who are so superficial that they would toss you away like an old rag?

Can we enter Jerusalem with Jesus

To squirm in prayer and sweat with blood?

To taste and see the temptation to bolt and run?

Can we look upon the one who denies us and love her?

Can we look upon the one who betrays us and love him?

Can we look down from the cross and see our mother crying?

Can we hear creation groaning in travail, as if in childbirth?

Can we hear the rustle of Divine movement in our midst?

Can we hear the needs of the world

And be so moved by love to meet every need?

So much anticipation.

So much anticipation filled the air

At this triumphant entry,

Let us now be his eyes and ears

And journey with him

Into this Holy Week.


“The Point of No Return”

March 26, 2023

John 11:1-45

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church


| Centering Prayer |

Few life events are more painful

than the death of a loved one;

a husband, a wife,

a mother or father,

brother or sister,

a family member,

or a friend.

John’s Gospel narrative today

is 37 verses of Jesus getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead

and six verse of Jesus actually lifting Lazarus out of the grave,

giving him life.

Prior to our passage

Jesus and his disciples had fled the Temple

after the Jews questioned him,

picked up stones,

and threaten to kill him.

Ever looked down the barrel of a gun?

Yeah, Jesus needed to get away

To have a panic attack!

Today, Jesus is found

“across the Jordan

to the place where John had been baptizing earlier,

and he remained there.” (10:40)

This was at least 18 miles away,

as the crow flies

and 3,300 feet straight downhill.

The road between the Jordan River and Jerusalem

snakes back and forth to compensate for the steep slope.

The road today, built on the same path

Jesus would have traversed

is about 33 miles.

What takes 45 minutes by car today,

Took about 2 days to walk

in the time of Jesus.

This is important

because word of Lazarus’ illness

would have made its way to Jesus

two days after Mary and Martha’s brother became mortally sick.

Mary and Martha,

sent their message

“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”


Jesus’ friend, Lazarus,

the brother of Mary and Martha,

must have died two days after his sisters sent notice to Jesus of his illness.

Jesus lingered for two days after receiving the news,

then traveled an additional two days to Bethany,

a near suburb of Jerusalem,

only to find that Lazarus

had been four days dead and buried in a cave,

where his corpse stinketh greatly!

As certain as a spear penetrating Jesus’ side,

this is not a resuscitation attempt

we’re talking about here.

Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha,

all dear friends of Jesus,

has died.

Few life events are more painful

than the death of a loved one;

a husband, a wife,

a mother or father,

brother or sister,

a family member,

or a friend.

We live in a death averse culture.

Intellectually, we all know we are going to die.

Emotionally, we are a train wreck of denial, delusion, and delay.

We say people “passed”

when in fact, they died.

People say “we lost them,”

as if they lost their way home from the market.

We hope to die without struggle;

to “die in our sleep.”

Yet, we know death comes to many

with a lot of pain and suffering.

We send the corpse of our beloved to undertakers

to delay the decay,

clean them up and present them to family and friends

looking like they aren’t even dead;

“oh, he (or she) looks so natural.”

The higher the profile of the person;

the greater the outpour of public sentiment, grief, and nutty conspiracy theories:

– perhaps Elvis isn’t dead!

– shadows in bushes on the grassy knoll proves a second shooter!

Even, low these 40 days of Lent,

this liturgical season is a constant grind

of anticipatory death and grief

that accumulates

and is plowed

into the deepest recesses of our spiritual identity.

We side with Jesus’ humanity

and want the Father to take away his cup,

because, with hindsight,

we know what lies ahead during Holy Week.

Jesus’ weighted keel

gives stability to the narrative of him raising Lazarus from the dead:

“This illness does not lead to death;

rather it is for God’s glory,”

Jesus calms his disciples,

“so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”


Illness and suffering are some of the means

through which God can work.

Resurrection is for God’s glory.

Illness and suffering are tools

through which God works.

When biology and physical fail us

due to age, illness, or trauma,

in my experience,

this is the most important time

to listen for

to watch for

the hand of God

guiding our path;

the whisper of His will

in our ear;

the love of God

wrapping us in His arms.

This six-week period of recovery from my knee replacement

Has been a painful, personal reminder

To watch and wait for God to act,

To weave grace and healing into my life

And into the lives of others.

My pain made me crazy, near suicidal,

Yet, I had to remind myself,

It was “so that the Son of God may be glorified.”

It is through those times of

many dangers, toils and snares

that faith is deepened and broadened,

and as resurrection people

we are invited in

to a closer walk with Thee.

There is no doubt:

suffering is terrible.

Few life events are more painful

than death,

the death of one you love

or one who loved you.

Lazarus lingered with a mortal illness for days.

Jesus was scorned, whipped, stripped, and spit on from arrest to his traumatic death.

No one wants to suffer;

yet, when we do,

it becomes for us an opportunity to

taste and see

the presence of God in our midst;

because suffering is for

God’s greater glory.


In the Gospel of John

this raising of Lazarus story

is the last of the signs

that point to who Jesus is and why Jesus has come,

and begins the pivot to the second half of John,

often referred to The Book of Glory,

which is

Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection.

These signs include

stories of Jesus teaching,

healing and casting out demons,

and beginning to draw large crowds

which captured the attention of Jewish authorities and Rome.

Crowds can incite riots, insurrection, even revolution.

Last week we heard about Jesus giving sight to a man born blind;

more than mere miracle,

but the complete creation of a visual / neural network right before their eyes.

The interrogation by the religious authorities confirms

they are getting nervous about Jesus

winning over the crowds

and converting people away from Judaism

to become his disciples.

But today,


Jesus crosses the point of no return.

More than mere magic,

raising Lazarus from the dead,

in front of such a large crowd of followers,

so publicly

and so rapidly communicated throughout the Passover pilgrims,

demonstrates the fact

that Jesus has authority

even over death itself.

The authority of organized religion would be

forever relegated

to cellars and backwaters,

to cults and delusional movements,

headed for nowhere.

The authority of the Chief Priests, scribes, and leaders of the Temple

surpassed Jesus’ flesh and humanity.

Yet, it is the Divinity of Christ …

… today in full view for all to see …

with the raising of Lazarus

that exceeds earthly authority.

This Divine authority has no limits or end.

It is eternal.

In the mind of the Chief Priest,

Jesus, the man, must die.

We are resurrection people!

We cannot be people of the flesh,

as Saint Paul so eloquently writes in his letter to the church in Rome,

“To set the mind on the flesh is death.”

(Romans 8:6)

The story of Lazarus is the story of resurrection!

He lives another day to later dine with Jesus

while Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume.

The story of Jesus is the story of resurrection!

Less we get too bogged down in the suffering of Lent and Holy Week,

we know from hindsight

we are resurrection people

as soon as Christ steps out of the empty tomb.

Resurrection is all around us!

Our resurrected life

Begins in our mortal living.

In baptism, we are claimed by the God who created us,

and we become a resurrected disciple in the here and now.

In our future death, we are given victory over the grave,

and welcomed home with resurrection into eternal life.

We are even resurrection people

at the consummation of all history,

when time comes to an end,

and we are joined with the Alpha and the Omega.

Resurrection is all around us!

Our Gospel narrative from John

begs us to open our eyes,

to experience

the resurrection taking place in our midst

that the glory of God may be seen.

Old enemies reconcile,

Sometimes to our surprise,

Sometimes in spite of us;

that’s resurrection!

Health is restored,

Pain is relieved,

Cancer goes into remission;

that’s resurrection!

God’s love envelops a grieving family

A casserole goes into the refrigerator,

A note is sent,

Or a plant is left on the doorstep;

that’s resurrection!

… and every resurrection

is for God’s greater glory!

Ask yourself this:

where am I witnessing resurrection this week?

Where are dry bones being knit together and

the breath of the Holy Spirit is breathing life into lifeless bodies?

May your awareness

lead people to Christ and his authority.

May your awareness

be for the glory of God.


“He Opened My Eyes”

John 9:1-41

March 19, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

| Centering Prayer |

I’ve got questions.

1. Does it matter that that this person was born blind, as opposed to being blinded after birth? Would your opinion be different if you had been born blind?

2. Did the man born blind need fixing?

3. Are trials God’s way to punish us for some unfaithful act we’ve committed?

4. Is blindness literal, or a metaphor for spiritual blindness?

5. What was the purpose of this miracle?

6. Why does John take such effort to report all the details of this miracle?

Just because the Gospel has been my life’s focus, interest, and study doesn’t mean I don’t still have questions.

What questions dare you ask?

Let’s first look through a wide aperture,

Take in a wide-angle view of the Gospel.

Today’s gospel slowly

Almost painfully

Unfolds for us

In such a way

That it is a perfect metaphor

For Lent.

Lent begins in darkness;

Total, complete,

Dark-as-dark-as-the-darkest night,

Black-as-the-blackest ink.

The darkness of the wilderness

Is caste by the devil

With temptations

And all that is evil.

For forty days and forty nights

Jesus resists,

And we are given hope

That He just might be the light.

Perhaps the world does not need

To wait in darkness anymore?

Indeed, as Lent unfolds,

Light appears

Slowly, but surely.

And progressively

More and more light creeps in.

The penitent disciple of Christ

Travels the journey

And undergoes an awakening.

Nicodemus sneaks away

Under cover of darkness

To come and inquire of Jesus.

You must be changed

– Born from above –

Jesus teaches him.

For all those who believe in Jesus

Will be saved.

The first sliver of light

breaks into the darkness.

The water at Jacobs well

Is replaced with living water.

He is that living water;

Drink him in

And never thirst for more.

His light is lifted up.

And today,

His light increases in intensity

Such that even those born blind

Still can see.

Time to zoom in,

To listen,

To look,

To explore God’s amazing gift of the Gospel of John.

Chapter 9 is not a miracle story,

Although, it begins with a miracle.

This is a story of enlightenment

Coming to a man born blind.

Receiving his vision

Is just the beginning of his

Spiritual awakening

and awareness.

First his neighbors are amazed,

But they don’t know what to do with him.

So they bring him to the authorities;

The religious authorities.

(How’s that for neighbors!)

His sight divides the opposition.

Some noted Jesus didn’t observe the Sabbath.

Others wondered how a sinner could be blessed.

“What do you say about him?”

they asked.

“It was your eyes he opened,”

they accused.

(And we were led to believe

they were the authorities!

If they were the authorities,

Why would they have to ask?)

He said, “He is a prophet.”

Ah! Here we have it:

The second sign of this man’s

Spiritual awakening.

The man born blind,

The one who Jesus gave vision,

For the first time,

Has now moved beyond the literal miracle.

This man makes his first statement of faith:

“He is a prophet!” He witnesses.

“He is a prophet!” (9:17)

He says

To a less than receptive audience.



Spit balling.

Eliminate all the obvious answers and go with what is left.

Jesus is a prophet.

How’d that go over?

The crowd is

One that will soon join in cries “Crucify Him!”.

The crowd is

One that smells blood in the water.

The crowd is

One that has homicide flowing in their veins.


Witness makes

The light shine brighter.

Note to self: witness make the light shine brighter.

Just as Jacob’s well served as

A baptismal font

And Jesus became himself

Living water,

A means of initiation

Into Jesus’ community,

So too has His saliva

Mixed with dirt

Spread on the eyes

And washed in the pool

Known as Siloam …

… this mud

Has become a baptismal rite

of cleansing,

of joining,

and of eternal life.


And still divided,

The religious authorities drag in his parents.

Fearing their own skin,

The parents only report the facts.

They do not draw conclusions.

The authority’s flaw

Was to call this man back a second time.

With a diverse mix

Of sarcasm, logic, law, and lecture

Our healed man,

With a masterful stroke,

Demonstrates the fact that

He now stands in nearly complete illumination.

“Never since the world began”

the new disciple speaks,

“has it been heard

that anyone

opened the eyes of a person born blind.

If this man were not from God,

he could do nothing.” (9:33)

And with that,

They drove him out.

Jesus immediately seeks him out

To bring the circle round full

to a close.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?

Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

“You have seen him,”

and the one speaking with you is he.”

Illumination is complete.

The final sign of his spiritual awakening has taken place,

with his words,

“Lord, I believe.”

“Lord, I believe.”

“And he worshiped him.” (9:38)

As Lent unfolds,

Light appears

Slowly, but surely.


More and more light creeps in.

Gathering light is poignant in the northern hemisphere.

The days are getting longer.

With gathering light

the penitent disciple of Christ

Goes through an awakening.

How about you?

Are you rising?

Most of us love to muck around in darkness,

Believing no one sees what we are doing.

Some of us love

the penance of Lent,

and would be content to remain forever

in its half-lit world

filled with shadows and doubts.

Some eventually long to return to darkness,

While others become restless

and eager to look ahead

To possibilities that may be further revealed.

We recognize the fact that

Lent is not a place

to make our spiritual home.

Rather, Lent is the journey,

nothing more than a journey,

Of increasing illumination

That culminates when all is revealed

By the eternal light of Easter,

Emanating from the empty tomb

Of our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ.

Where there is light,

There is only Jesus.

And where there is Jesus

There can be no darkness at all.

Be in the light,

Dear friends.

Live in His light.


“A Woman’s Witness”

John 4:1-42

March 12, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 4:1-42

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee.

But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

| Centering Prayer |

There are times the Gospel lesson

Just shocks me

With a new awareness,

With a new revelation,

With a new way of being presented;

Like sticking a wet finger in a light socket.

What new have we learned from this familiar story from John?

I’ve read and heard many sermons based on the Woman at Jacob’s Well

Where the preacher expounded at length

About this woman

Who came from a morally corrupt background,

Met Jesus at the well,

And had her sins forgiven.

I may have even preached a few of those sermons, myself.

Did anyone here today,

Who just experienced the proclamation of the Word,

Hear a statement proclaiming this woman was a sinner?

Did anyone hear Jesus forgiving her

Her sins?


I challenge the modern assumption that this woman was morally corrupt!

She had been widowed or abandoned

By no fault of her own

By five …

…. Count them …

By five different men.

This woman wasn’t a sinner seeking forgiveness.

This un-named woman was a victim of men who treated her like property.

She was abandoned, isolated, marginalized, dehumanized.

There are times the Gospel

Is electrifying.

So, if this isn’t a narrative about sin and forgiveness,

What is this previously-assumed-to-be-familiar Gospel passage about?

In the preceding chapter of John

We heard last Sunday about Jesus in Jerusalem

Being visited under cover of night by Nicodemus,

A leader of the Jews.

(John 3:1)

Jesus is in the seat of power,

Being visited by the personification of power.

That narrative ends with one of Jesus’ most memorable statements:

“God so loved the world …”

(John 3:16)

Today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what the rest of the world looks like.

He’s traveled north, into rural Samaria,

Meeting a woman

Who Jewish society treated as property,

As mixed race,

As abandoned, widowed, and marginalized.

She was the personification of one who has no power.

The contrast couldn’t be more profound.

Nicodemus and the power of the Sanhedrin and the power of Rome,

Vs. an unnamed Samaritan woman at a well.

Jacob’s well is significant.

Jacob met Rachael here.

In the days before

Tinder, Match Dot Com, and online dating,

This is where people came together to socialize, network, and, yes, to flirt.

The local water source was where people congregated.

This woman

Who has no name

Was at the well

To not only draw water,

But to find relationship.

She is seeking opportunities to belong.

She is searching for someone or a group of people

That will add value to her lonely, isolated, tragic life.

And it is here,

At Jacob’s well,

That she meets Jesus.

There are times the Gospel

Just shocks us.

In the Gospel of Matthew we have heard Jesus identified

On multiple occasions

As the Son of God.

At his baptism,

At his transfiguration,

We’ve heard the voice of God pronounce,

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

There are no such pronouncements in the Gospel of John.

There are, however, famous “I am” statements,

The first of which occurs here:

“The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.””

(John 4:25-26)

“I am” harkens back to Hebrew scriptures,

To our Jewish heritage,

To the mountain where God encountered Moses.

I am who I am” the Lord proclaims.

Since then, “I am” is shorthand for Yahweh,

For the Creator and Lord of all.

John takes “I am” and runs with it:

I am the Good Shepherd”

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

I am the Vine, you are the branches”

Today’s Gospel from John is the first pronouncement of Jesus’ identity.

We not only learn who Jesus is,

Yahweh, the Creator, and Lord of all,

John reveals why Jesus has become God in the flesh.

The one and only time the Gospel of John uses the word “Savior”

Is found right here in verse 42:

The Samaritans … “said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.””

(John 4:42)

This narrative from the Gospel of John

Is a Rosetta Stone for his theology,

For the belief of the Early Church community

That sprung up around the Apostle John.

John identifies Jesus as God

And reveals his foundational theme

Of why he has come:

Jesus has come to be

The Savior of the world.

Jesus is calling us to a new understanding of “Savior” and “Salvation.”

Salvation is more than salvation from death.

Salvation is more than being saved into than eternal life.

The Savior of the world also brings salvation from isolation and marginalization.

Salvation is also being welcomed into friendships, relationships;

Into community.

God’s power doesn’t come from force or violence,

It comes from love.

God’s love might be academically explained

To people of power,

In positions of power,

In places of power.

But God’s love is experienced,

God’s love is poured out as life-giving living water

To people who have no power

Who exist on the fringes

Who, through no fault of their own,

Are marginalized by the world we live in.

This woman is searching for relationship

And Jesus gives her what she is seeking.

The major criticism of younger adults,

Millennials and GenX-ers,

Is that the Church has lost its relevance;

That we love God,

But that we’ve forgotten to love our neighbors.

“Go to church on Sunday

But forget about Jesus the rest of the week”

Is a biting, but astute, observation of our children and grandchildren.

Why isn’t the Church feeding the hungry,

Instead of writing a check?

Why isn’t the Church building a wheelchair ramp

For a neighbor newly immobilized,

Instead of hosting a Bible Study or gathered for a meeting?

Why isn’t the Church standing up and speaking out

Against racism, homophobia, and antisemitism?

Instead, many see the Church as judgmental, uncaring, and unconcerned.

Jesus goes to this woman and saves her.

Just as Jesus goes,

So too should you,

For you are the Church.

You are given the permission, the authority, the power of the Holy Spirit to go and save the world.

This essential, foundational passage from the Gospel of John

Prods us to go with love,

With God’s love,

And to make healthy relationships,

Founded upon Christ,

the solid rock upon which we stand.

Love others.

Serve others.

Bring the powerless back from the margins

And give them relationship.

Include the last, least, lost, and left behind into the Body of Christ, too.

The concluding point that is important to make

Is to recognize the result of this woman being saved by the Savior:

She runs back to town and tells everyone

“everything I have ever done.”

The Samaritan towns people were so convinced of her witness

They came to Jesus.

They sought Jesus out.

They invited Christ into their lives

And asked him to stay in their homes for two days!

And Jesus did!

“We know this is true!” They in turn witnessed.

Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.”

This is what the salvation of Jesus Christ does to people’s lives.

Snatching people from loneliness, isolation, powerlessness, and the margins,

Giving and receiving life-giving relationships,

Nurtured by Christ’s living water,

Results in conversion, discipleship, and witness.

Our local church (little c)

And our catholic Church (big C)

Is alive and well today,

In part, because of the salvation of this woman by Jacob’s well,

Her encounter with Jesus,

Her testimony to her fellow Samaritans,

And for her continued testimony

That has trickled down

Generation upon generation thereafter.

Jesus saves.

Because of a woman’s witness,

So, too, dearly beloved, salvation has come to you and me.

Continue the legacy of Christ’s salvation.

Reach out with his love.

Reach out with Christ’s love to the margins.

That’s where the marginalized are found.

Reach out to save another …

And another …

And another …

That, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess

That Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.


“Directing the Wind”

John 3:1-17

March 5, 2023

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 3:1-17

  Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

  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.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “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. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

| Centering Prayer |

When my father

Made the decision to

Walk away from his

Well-paying corporate finance job

In 1968,

I was seven years old.

He left to go back to school

And begin serving as a lay preacher in the new United Methodist Church

When he was forty-two years of age.

The world thought he was nuts.

His family did, too.

I remember in the summer of ‘68

Standing before the front doors

Of his first church,

Aptly named “Open Meadows UMC”

Standing by the wrought iron railing

Looking out across the road

And seeing fields of wheat

in three directions.

It was hot.

The wheat was golden brown.

I could see,

And for the first time I could understand,

Even at the young age of seven,

The connection

Between the invisible waves that swept across the fields

And the blowing of the hot, summer wind.

I will never forget that beautiful landscape

Awash in a sea of wind-swept grain.

In the 55 years that have passed

Since that hot summer day

I’ve learned a few things about the wind.

1. We’d like to believe that we can direct the wind.

Yeah. Not so much.

We can’t.

The winds of March prove otherwise!

Trees crack and fall over.

Debris rocket down the road.

Emergency crews cut up ice encrusted limbs fallen across the road

And utility crews work frantically to restore power.

Though our attempt at planting

Snow fences every fall

May go a long way towards safer roads

The occasional drift

Still finds a way

to make the unsuspecting driver

skid into the ditch.

The unanticipated white out

still cause pile ups

In spite of the best engineering

On the planet.

2. We think we are the only ones

who have wind.

We live in such small, self-centered worlds

Rarely leaving town,

Let alone the region, state, or country.

It becomes easy to mistakenly

Believe that all the world

Beyond our horizon

Is the same

And that we don’t need to be concerned with it.

There probably isn’t wind there, anyways,

Because we can’t see or feel it.

New Orleans becomes one and the same as Iraq.

Kenya might just as well as be Ruwanda or Darfur.

What’s the difference anyways?

We ask rhetorically.

They don’t have any stinkin wind;

You and I both know,

The wind only blows in Rush!

3. I’ve noticed that wind can be both good and bad.

Just as the wind can turn a windmill

Pumping water or generating electricity for the public’s good

That very same wind can

Blow the windmill down

Leading to regional flooding and power outages.

The same wind that brings satisfaction

To children flying a kite

Can bring despair and tears

When the kite gets blown into the trees.

The same wind that dries flooded valleys

Whips the Santa Anna up California canyons   

driving brush and forest fires that consume farms and family homes.

Wind show no favorites

Makes no distinction between

the righteous and the unrighteous.

The same wind that had given me a pleasurable sail

Also swamped my boat.

Allow me to bring these observations

A little closer to home;

To hang some Biblical flesh

On these old bones.

Jesus tells the night stalking Nicodemus,

“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.”

My personal experience

Confirms the accuracy of Jesus’ observation.

We hear the sound of the Spirit.

We experience the Spirit though our senses.

I feel God’s presence and approval

When making the right choice.

And I certainly have felt

The disapproval of God

When I’ve exercised my freedom

To make the wrong choice,

A choice contrary to God’s will.

As you reflect on your own experience,

Would you agree?

The Spirit does affect our thoughts.

It slips into the prayer life.

The Spirit’s desire slides into our conscience.

And sometimes

the Spirit will even smack us right between the eyes

With a reality check.

Everyone experiences it;

But only the few alerted and primed recognize the Spirit’s presence and guidance

For what it truly is.

We hear the sound of the wind

And we are made aware of its presence.

Less I push Jesus’ metaphor too far,

I believe,

Because it is my experience,

That there may be times in life in which

There is no perception of wind.

It may be blowing elsewhere,

But it doesn’t appear to be blowing here.

The Greek root for Spirit

Is pneuma,

Which literally means “breath.”

One can think of pneumonia

As a disease of breathing,

Or pneumatic tires

As tires inflated with air or breath.

What I believe is Jesus’ intent

Is to say that

Where there is

Air and breath

There is the Spirit of God,

Whether or not we perceive its presence.

Unfortunately, his intent

Is often lost in translation.

But it is vitally important to understanding his word:

The Spirit is omnipresent.

It is never further away

Than your next breath.

The problem often is that

We are memory dependent creatures.

We fail to be faith dependent disciples.

We forget;

Especially when times are affluent and abundant.

Like Israel

We forget how close God truly is;

How intimate God has made his dwelling in us.

We forget

Because we become numb in self-indulgence

To perceive the presence of the ever-present Spirit

Of our Heavenly Father.

We don’t know from where the wind comes,

Jesus tells us.

The Spirit is absolutely independent

To make its presence known

Or to remain hidden away

(But ever present).

The Spirit’s presence may be experienced

At any given moment.

This leads us to mistakenly

Believe that we can engage God in a game

Of divine fetch

As if there were no limits

To our petitions and intercessions.

We pray for winning lottery numbers

And when we lose

We whine like spoiled children.

Oh please!

God’s will trumps our will

Ten out of ten times.

When we fail to get our way,

We’ve failed to be obedient disciples.

We have failed to discern or follow

The will of God.

Yes, we are told

To ask

And it will be given.

But where we fail

Is when we are too impatient

to hear the rest of the thought:

We are told to ask

what the will of God is

In each particular setting and circumstance.

This is why

It is easy to mistakenly believe that

God somehow pops into

And out from life,

With seemingly sporadic randomness.

When we ask

“What is God’s will”

we refocus and become aware

of the Spirit already in our midst;

of the Spirit who had never left our side.

We don’t know

Where the Spirit goes.

All the barriers that

We like to place

Somehow get circumvented

By the relentless nature of the Spirit.

Some will be blown over and destroyed.

Barriers are built by humans:

Barriers of class, order, sexuality, gender identity,

religion, faith, values, and belief.

Barriers are created

By the implicit violence

Of assumptions,

Labels of “disabilities” or “retardation,”

Of rich or poor

Or black or white.

Barriers to the Spirit are created

When we choose a broad brush

To paint a world of divinely intentional created individuals.

Three strikes and you’re out

Is a barrier often used

To justify locking someone up

For the rest of their life

Or leading them to the hangman’s gallows.

Yet, we often fail to consider the

Presence and power of the Spirit

Even in the lungs of the condemned.

I have the privilege of experiencing the Spirit’s presence and movement with

Every letter I receive from my incarcerated parishioners.

Consider the issue of homelessness.

Labeling someone as homeless

allows us to inflict the violence of accommodation

because we rarely seek to understand

and correct the underling problems of individuals

that contribute to their homelessness.

So, where does this leave us?

What truth

Does this metaphor convey

That builds a foundation for faith?

1. Ultimately, God is in control; not humankind.

Less we throw up our hands

In self-serving fatalism

Consider the four-thousand-year history

Of our awareness of God’s initiative

Into the human condition.

God has taken responsibility for this creation.

God has made every effort to improve

Our circumstance.

We are in the sorry state of affairs

Specifically because we have failed to be

An obedient people,

Both collectively,

And as individuals,

Present company included!

2. God acts and reacts according to God’s motives.

Not ours.

Sometimes we know God’s motives.

Sometimes we think we know God’s motives.

But mostly, we don’t.

We see in a mirror dimly.

God’s greater plan

goes beyond the horizon of our experience and comprehension.

God’s greater plan

Exceeds the limits of our earthly life spans.

God’s greater plan

May, or may not, be synchronized with our plans.

But know this as true,

Based on our scripture, tradition, history, and experience

God’s greater plan

Is always in our self-interest;

It is always for our benefit.

It is always for the good.

God’s greater plan is motivated by love.

3. Finally, I believe we can take away

from this passage for this morning,

especially as we consider it through the lens of Lent,

the fact that the driving nature

behind the passion and death of Jesus

wasn’t driven by human motives,

as we are often tempted to assume.

It wasn’t.

We can’t blame Pilate or Herod or Judas or the Jews

For what happened to Jesus,

Because it was God’s will

That worked through them

To bring about a far greater divine motive;

A motive that is known in part, and

A motive that remains largely mysterious.

What we know,

What we are told

Is that God so loved the world

That he sent his Son to atone and to save.

It was, and is,

God’s intent

To bring you forgiveness of your sins,

By means of Jesus’ death upon the cross,

And to give you the gift of eternal life,

Won for us

With his victory over the grave.

“The wind blows where it chooses,:

Jesus tells Nicodemus,

“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.”

Because of this passage

We know:

God is in control.

God’s ways are not our ways;

yet this is good,

Because God always acts for our benevolence.

And it is God’s desire

To act because of God’s great love

To bring forgiveness and salvation to our world.


“Life’s Tests”

Matthew 4:1-11

First Sunday of Lent

February 26, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

| Centering Prayer |

Imagine a time and a place far beyond here and now.

Imagine you and I are living in Seville, Spain.

Imagine we are living amid the Spanish Inquisition.

Now, imagine Jesus returned.

Jesus heals.

He performs miracles.

The people recognize and adore Jesus …

Which draws the attention of the Church and its’ inquisitors. 

Imagine Jesus being arrested.

Jesus is tried and sentenced inside an hour

To be burned to death tomorrow morning.

Into our Lord’s cell

Steps the Grand Inquisitor.

Imagine the pregnancy of this moment.

The Grand Inquisitor informs Jesus

That the Church no longer needs him.

In fact, the return of Jesus would do nothing more than

Interfere with the mission of the Church.

Citing our Lord’s decisions not to capitulate to the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness,

The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that

While he is capable of wielding the freedom of choice wisely,

The people cannot.

The masses cannot be trusted with freedom.

This is why we have the Church,

The Grand Inquisitor informs Jesus,

For the Church is an institution where

Only a few are strong enough to

Bear the burden of freedom.

Let humankind live and die happy in ignorance.

Imagine the Grand Inquisitor telling Jesus that he was wrong

To reject each temptation by Satan.

Turn the stones to bread,

As men always follow those who feed their bellies.

Cast yourself down from the temple and be caught by your angels.

That would cement your divinity in the minds of people

And they would follow you forever.

Take control over every kingdom of the Earth

And the salvation of all people would be ensured for eternity.

Jesus, you were so, so wrong, the Inquisitor scorns.

Imagine, for a moment, the silence that follows.

Instead of answering,

Imagine Jesus rising,

Stepping forward, and

Kissing the Grand Inquisitor.

The cell door opens

Imagine Jesus walking away.  

This scene I’ve asked you to imagine

Is the Cliff notes version of the Russian poem

Titled “The Grand Inquisitor”

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky,

As found in his novel, “The Brothers Karamazov.”

When we experience Jesus being tempted in the wilderness

The first Sunday of each-and-every Lent,

We tend to romanticize our Lord’s experience.

Experiencing “The Grand Inquisitor” strips us of all romanticism.

We are denuded of all allusions that

Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness by the Devil

Was a one-and-done item to be checked off

From his list of earthly accomplishments

That needed completed before his Passion and Death.

Forty days and forty nights in the Judean wilderness

Isn’t some sort of naked and afraid reality television show

Where Jesus is competing for daily immunity

Or facing nightly elimination.

Jesus is confronting issues of power and presumption;

Temptations you and I routinely fail.

The experience of Israel wondering in the wilderness

For forty years was a time of testing,

A humbling time for the people Israel,

allowing hunger

To teach them t

hat one does not live

by bread alone.

(Thanks to Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, and Tucker, 1986)

Likewise, Jesus is fasting

And being tested.

Jesus is fasting.

How has your Lenten fast been going?

Oh, you’ve failed already?

Good for you

You’re in good company.

I’m right there with you.

I attempted to fast from anger.

I, too, have already failed.

Turn to your left and right.

They’ve already failed, too.

We’ve all failed

And taken a bite of the Grand Inquisitor’s bread.

Unlike you and me,

Temptation is not some minor morality challenge.

Temptation for Jesus is a high stakes game of life or death.

Temptation is a testimony to his strength.

The greater the strength, the greater the temptation.

Temptation for Jesus

Is between our God of absolute,

Cosmically creative power,

To which all other gods are subordinate,

And the Devil personified himself.

The Devil is unable to even hold a candle

To Jesus Christ,

The Light of the World.

Great temptations are a sign of great power;

Powers and presumptions that must be addressed

In Christ’s Passion journey to the cross.

How does Jesus speak truth to power?

How does he respond to the Devil

Who “took him to a very high mountain

and showed him

all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor”?

– Matthew 4:8

How does Jesus answer the charges of the Council,

The accusations of the high priest, all the chief priests, the elders and the scribes?

– Matthew 14:53

How does Jesus answer Pontius Pilot who asks him

Are you the King of the Jews?

– Matthew 15:2

To the Grand Inquisitor,

Jesus responds with a kiss.

To Pilate, Jesus’ silence is deafening.

All of which begs us to ask,

What is our relationship with power?

How do you and I speak truth to power?

And, what does this say about our faith and belief?

Faith is something more than

Believing the right things,

Reciting the approved creeds,

Or falling in line with official Church teaching.

Faith is more than believing in an unseen God.

The temptations of Jesus in the wilderness

Leads us to view a life of faith

From an entirely different point of view.

Like Jesus

Lead with your strengths.

Your strength is your time.

Prioritize your time and make God your highest priority.

Your strength is your treasure.

Spend wisely, intentionally, deliberately, conservatively, extravagantly.

Spend what God has given you for the glory of God.

Your strength is prayer.

Spend time in prayer.



And listen some more.

Prayer is your great strength,

As it was a great strength of Jesus.

Living a life of faith,

Placing trust in God,

That God will see you through every temptation and trial in life,

Will sometimes make us look foolish.

We will be mocked by great thinkers of logic.

We will be mocked by those who don’t believe in miracles.

We will be mocked by Grand Inquisitors,

And we will be mocked by the Devil himself.

Even still,

We must speak truth to power,

Leading with the strength God gives us,

Leaning on the support of our collective selves

And on the everlasting arms of Jesus.

If Lent teaches us anything,

It is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Jesus is in for a hard landing when he returns from the wilderness.

He’s soon to discover that John the Baptist has been arrested and jailed.

Jesus is going to be arrested himself,

Accused, held, beaten, and eventually killed.

Jesus will lead with his strength,

His love for you and me.

His desire for our forgiveness

And for the redemption of all of Creation.

It is going to get worse before it gets better.

The Church is in for a hard landing

If we don’t repent of our exclusive and dehumanizing ways,

If we don’t cleanse the money changers from our temples and churches,

If we continue to undermine our love of God and our love of neighbors,

If we don’t wholly surrender our will

To the will of Jesus Christ.

Beloved members and friends,

Beloved disciples of Jesus Christ,

Speak truth to power;

Because the greatest power of this earth

Remains subordinate to the absolute power of God, Almighty.

The tests and trials of this world come

In proportion to the strength Christ has already given you.

Stand strong.

Stand proud.

Stand together.

And let us speak of Jesus,

The truth of this world.

Let us speak truth to power.

Truth always wins.

At the conclusion of Lent,

The tomb will be emptied,

Jesus always wins.



Matthew 5:1-12

January 29, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

| Centering Prayer |

Too often we throw around words

As if they are unbreakable,

With little or no regard for their use;

As if they had

no origin, history, or precedence.

We find it easy to insult one another

(sometimes unintentionally)

Employing phrases or words

That are often disproportionate

To the issue at hand

In a stake of one-upmanship,

A fit of rage,

Or an unsightly surge of testosterone.

“Choose your words carefully”

Our mothers rightly taught us.

Do not bring shame to your family,

Or provide evidence of a poor education,

Or an undisciplined life.

What would Jesus do?

Postmodern Christians beg to question

(ad nausium).

The better question is,

What is Jesus saying?

This is probably the better quest to embark,

For this question leads us from

What did Jesus say?

– Past –

to What is Jesus saying?

– Present –

leaving us with the question

What are we going to do about it

in the future?

In other words how does Jesus change our behavior?

Jesus is teaching the crowd,

Preaching a well worn

And repetitively familiar sermon;

Choosing his words very carefully,

‘Making every word sing,’

As my Homiletics professor once taught and encouraged.


He says.

What does blessing mean?

If I, as your friend, say to you,

“Blessings to you,”

You know that you have

my approval

my hope for all things good

to come to you

and those you love.

It is a wish,

A desire,

Filled with goodwill and kindness.

If I, as your pastor, say,

“Blessings to you,”

(as bishops, priests, and deacons have done thousands of years)

then it means something more:

It is a formal blessing of the Church

To be given the special status

As being favored by God.

Being favored by God;

Allow those words,

For a moment,

To sink in.

This does not mean that we should

Go on a quest to win God’s favor

For what we are already doing?

Wouldn’t that be a reflection of

Our will

Surpassing God’s will.

(Not a good thing)

What it does mean

Is that we must

Seek first the Will of God


Submit ourselves to God’s Will


When our submission

Intersects with God’s Will

The Christian life experiences


An infusion of holiness,

The fulfillment of the Divine hope.

We are transformed

From mere observers

Of current events

To faithful disciples laboring

On Christ’s behalf.

We become active participants

In the conversion of the world.

And, isn’t that where we

All seek to be?

Divine holiness and

God’s personal hope

Are given through

the carefully chosen

words of Jesus:


He says,

are the poor in spirit.


He says,

are those who mourn.


He says,

are the meek.

Blessed are the hungry and thirsty.

Blessed are the merciful.

Blessed are the pure in heart.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are the persecuted.

And blessed are you,

when you make a stand,

and take the stand

for me.

I see and hear a lot of people

Who wave their hands in the air

And say

they want to be more holy,


they want to be more like Jesus every day.

Nice words,

I think to myself.

Show me.

It is only superficial talk

If those waving arms are not put to work

Reaching out to those

Most vulnerable

And those

Most in need;

People like those

Listed in these beatitudes.

We give Jesus

Only lip-service

If we continue to accumulate wealth

And leave our brothers and sisters

Further and further behind

Living in poverty,

Fighting over our table scraps.

We fail to be an obedient people

And an obedient Church

If we give a stone

to those who hunger for bread

Or polluted drink

To those who thirst for living water.

We condemn ourselves

When we fail

To search under every rock,

behind every tree,

And to the depths of every cave

For peaceful solutions

To the turmoil and violence

that fills our globe.

In this era that lifts high

The value of self-promotion

And super-sized ego,

We Christians are called

to journey the road less traveled.

We are called to substitute out

The world’s values

And to import

and put to use

The values of Jesus Christ:

Peace and justice,

Charity and forgiveness,

Protection and safety

For the least, the lost, the most vulnerable.

The Holy Spirit infuses these values

Deep within our soul

At our baptism

… this is my blessed son or daughter …

when we share the bread and the cup

… this is my body, this is my blood …

and when our souls leave our worn-out bodies

ascends into heaven,

to be greeted by Christ himself

with words of blessings,

“Well done, good and faithful servant,

Enter now into my heavenly kingdom.”


Is the word the French have chosen;


Or A Dios,

Is the Spanish contraction

Of Vaya con Dios,

Which is

a fond or tender


It is a blessing


Go with God.

When we leave this table

When we leave this place,

Let us bid each other Adieu:

Go with God

That we might take God

into the world.


“You’ve Been Called”

Matthew 4:12-23

January 22, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

| Centering Prayer |

One of the many roles of being a pastor

Is to be an educator.

I’m always searching for new techniques

To help people study, think critically, and engage others

In Biblical, Theological, and Spiritual development.

I’m on the prowl for that new tool for your toolbox;

That educational wrench that assists you

To unlock understanding

Of scripture, commentary, or academic discourse.

The more you and I can learn about our God and sacred texts,

The closer we are drawn in

With God and one another

And the better we understand God’s will for our lives.

One tool for scriptural interpretation is pretty neat:

Read the text,

Go back to the section title

And cross it out.

What would you rename the section, and why?

Today’s two section titles in the New Revised Standard Version are

“Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee” and

“Jesus Call the First Disciples”.


The first section I would rename

“Those Who Sat in Darkness Have Seen a Great Light”.

The second section I would title

“Building the Fellowship”.

What would you call these two narratives from our Gospel?

Jesus had most recently spent the past 40 days and nights

In the Judean wilderness being tempted by the Devil.

He was in the rugged, wild, mountainous territory

East of Jerusalem,

Between Jerusalem and Jericho,

Deep in the lower Jordan Valley,

In the vicinity of where John had been preaching and baptizing.

We begin on an ominous note;

On Herod’s command, John is arrested,

And Jesus, hearing the news,

Retreats 90 miles North to Galilee.

Yes, Jesus begins his public ministry in retreat,

Immediately following his baptism and temptation in the wilderness.

This is important to know:

Where Jesus starts his ministry is vitally important

To understand the deeper meaning of the text here in Matthew.

Jesus left Nazareth where he had been raised as a child …

… he moves out of his parents basement, if you will …

And moves to Capernaum, 30 miles away,

Located on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee,

In the tribal territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Remember the 12 tribes of Israel?

Isaiah had prophesized about Zebulun and Naphtali,

And Matthew repeats it here:

“the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

(Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4)

In our age

where we don’t think twice about summoning light

… we flick a switch or tap our phone …

It makes one wonder why

Zebulun and Naphtali sat in great darkness.

For crying out loud,

Someone flip a switch,

Download a flashlight app,

Light a candle, or something!

Indeed the darkness was all encompassing and complete.

The people of this region

Had become victims of repeated invasions and defeat

At the hand of foreigners.

Violence, death, prison, and exile had visited every home.

Geographically at the crossroads of three continents,

Babylon was the aggressor and occupier in the time of Isaiah.

Prior to Isaiah,

Zebulun and Naphtali

Had been conquered by the Philistines,

The Egyptians, and Canaanites.

The peaceful kingdom of David,

Lasted only for a period of about 70 years

… a thousand years before Jesus.

The Davidic kingdom was the only respite,

The only light,

The people of Zebulun and Naphtali had experienced.

That light was a momentary flash.

Pharaoh and his Egyptians flowed back in a violent expansion of their empire.

In time, the Assyrians swept through the land

And ruled with an iron fist.

The Babylonians occupied the land

Until Cyrus the Great of Persia took control

And allowed exiles to return home.

In generations prior to Jesus

Alexander the Great and the Greeks,

Ptolemy and the Seleucid (pronounced Se-leu-cid) dynasties

Traded punches and rolled through

With military might and horrific violence.

Most recently, is was Rome,

At the hand of Pompey the Great,

Who had brought darkness once again to Zebulun and Naphtali.

Up to the time of Jesus making his home in Capernaum,

There was only a thousand-year-old faded memory of

A brief flash of light

In a land of utter and complete darkness.  

Jesus moves to Capernaum

And a new light dawns.

That’s kind of how it works with Jesus.

Let him move in.

His light shines,

And darkness is no more.

Which is not to say darkness, sin, suffering, and death

Are forever vanquished from your present or future.

The darkness of this world

And the darkness of Satan

Are like predators lying in wait, ready to pounce

At the first sign of personal weakness,

At the first symptom of waning faith,

At the first inclination of growing distance between yourself and God.

Make room in your life for Jesus

And allow yourself to fall in love with him.

That’s what vanquishes darkness.

That’s what grows deep our reservoir of faith.

That’s what gives you and me strength for the journey.

As I mentioned,

I’d title the second section of our Gospel

“Building the Fellowship.”

I refer to the disciples of Jesus as a fellowship

With a tip of my hat to one of my favorite fictional trilogies,

“The Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I swear, “The Lord of the Rings” got me through puberty.

The first of three books is dedicated to building a fellowship

Of individual, diverse characters

Dedicated to the purpose of saving the world.


Kind of sounds like what Jesus was doing, doesn’t it?

Building a fellowship of individual, diverse characters

For the purpose of saving the world.

Our Gospel narrative from Matthew

Describes the calling of two brothers,

Both fishermen on the Sea of Galilee,

Peter and Andrew.

Jesus went from there and called

A second set of brothers,

James and John, sons of Zebedee.

The two brothers and their father

Are in a boat mending their nets.

Jesus calls together his fellowship of fishing brothers

With the invitation,

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

– Matthew 4:19

The word “immediately” is used in the case of both invitations.

Immediately they left their nets …

Immediately they left their boat and their father …

… and they immediately followed him.

Quick. Clean. Decisive.

That’s the way I like to do my shopping.

“Get your stuff and get out.”

Much can be speculated about what caused

Peter and Andrew,

James and John,

To make such an immediate

Life changing decision to follow Jesus.

Was it the invitation to fish for people?

Perhaps we could stop people on the street

And invite them to join us in fishing for people.

If it worked for Jesus, maybe it will work for us, too?

If this were true, our church would be packed every Sunday

And we’d be preparing for a building addition.

Was it the way Jesus looked? Or how he approached them?

Perhaps each of these four brothers

Had been asking themselves the deeper questions in life.

Perhaps they had been searching for answers.

Maybe they had been looking for direction.

I mean, fishing, day in and day out,

Under a hot sun or in a tempus storm,

Kind of gets old after a while.

While feast may be the up-cycle,

Famine was certain to visit every fisherman on occasion.

We might never know

What caused Peter and Andrew, James and John,

To drop everything and to accept the call.

Perhaps a different tack

Might shed light on the question:

What is it about Jesus that drew YOU to him?

Perhaps it was the witness of another?

Or a similar invitation to follow him and fish for people?

Maybe you, like me, are filled with deeper questions

About life, death, suffering, love, sin, evil, and God.

Perhaps Jesus rose to the top of your vat of questions

And provides the only reasonable answer that resonates with you.

I’d suggest two other possible answers why you and I have decided to follow Jesus.

1. First, we have a natural need for a divine companion.

I can’t tell you why,

Nor can I back up my opinion with data,

But it is my observation

That few of us want to go through life alone.

Others might provide friendship,

But only God incarnate is capable of providing

The necessary presence, power, and direction

That will take us through this life

And into the next.

2. Secondly, I suggest you and I have decided to follow Jesus

Because this is God’s will for our lives.

As one standing in the Wesleyan tradition, known as a Methodist,

I would call this Prevenient Grace.

God knows our need before our awareness.

God meets our needs prior to our needs being made known.

In other words,

Perhaps it is God that brought you along the path that led you to Jesus Christ

Because God knew you needed Jesus.

You and I need Jesus

To be the center and joy of our lives.

The invitation to join the Fellowship of Jesus

May have been the whisper that

Resulted in you coming to your baptismal waters.

There is one, last, thought I’ve been chewing on this past week

About this passage I’d title “Building the Fellowship.”

Many times we focus on the question,

What did Peter, Andrew, James, and John see in Jesus

That led them to abandon their lives and to follow him?

Turn the question around, and let’s ask,

What did Jesus see?

What was it that Jesus saw in these two sets of brothers

That led Jesus to believe

That these were the ones

He needed to build his fellowship?

… to build his church?

It’s pretty obvious

Jesus didn’t start building his fellowship

With the same strategy

A new president would use to build a cabinet of ministers, advisors, or confidants.

Jesus didn’t go directly to the smartest, most powerful, elites of his world.

Jesus didn’t go to influencers, politicians, or the wealthy.

Jesus bypassed the seminaries and graduate schools,

Temples and thrones,

The marketplace, industry, and every other institution of power.

To start building his fellowship

Jesus chose to go

With simple fishermen.

Did Jesus see within Peter

His characteristic of opening-mouth-and-insert-foot

As a beneficial character trait

That he needed for his group of disciples?

Maybe he saw within Peter

The potential for becoming

An effective preacher, witness, and leader

In the first-generation church?

Perhaps Jesus knew that the genesis of his church

Needed to expand into modern day

Turkey, the Balkans, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia?

… and Andrew was just the right person to do it?

Quite possibly Jesus had the foresight to know

That James was the one he wanted

To bear witness to his Transfiguration?

Maybe Jesus considered all the rest

But decided that only James could bear the burden

Of being the first to be martyred for his faith?

Maybe Jesus looked upon John,

Loved him,

And knew that he would be the one

He could count on to comfort his mother

As she witnessed his crucifixion?

In a similar way,

I’d suggest our Gospel asks us today

“What is it about YOU

That inspired Jesus to call YOU to join his fellowship?”

Is it your willingness to witness?

To invite?

To march?

To demonstrate?

Is it your willingness to preach?

To open prison doors?

To collect and distribute food to the hungry?

To make friends and build houses for people without four walls and a roof?

Is it your capacity to love, and to be loved?

To get on the floor with a toddler

And play and laugh with joyful abandon?

What is it about YOU

That led Jesus to claim YOU

As his own?

Dearly beloved,

Invite Jesus into your life,

To make his home in your heart.

Let the light of Christ shine

And chase away all darkness in your life.

Look to Christ.

Listen to his call.

Respond with confidence and determination.

Take part in this fellowship Christ has called together

Known as the Rush United Methodist Church.

The Lord has an eye on you.


are being called to do great things.


“Our Wesleyan Affirmations”

– From Paragraph 102 of “The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church”

These are our core beliefs, as members of The United Methodist Church:

(Four readers. Seated center of the chancel. A common microphone is passed as each reads)

1. With Christians of other communions 

we confess belief in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

This confession embraces the biblical witness 

to God’s activity in creation, 

encompasses God’s gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, 

and anticipates the consummation of God’s reign. 

2. The created order is designed for the well-being 

of all creatures and 

as the place of human dwelling 

in covenant with God. 

As sinful creatures, however, 

we have broken that covenant, 

become estranged from God, 

wounded ourselves and one another, 

and wreaked havoc throughout the natural order. 

3. We stand in need of redemption, the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

4. We hold in common with all Christians 

a faith in the mystery of salvation

 in and through Jesus Christ. 

At the heart of the gospel of salvation 

is God’s incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth. 

1. Scripture witnesses to the redeeming love of God 

in Jesus’ life and teachings, 

his atoning death, 

his resurrection, 

his sovereign presence in history, 

his triumph over the powers of evil and death, 

and his promised return. 

2. Because God truly loves us in spite of our willful sin, 

God judges us, 

summons us to repentance, 

pardons us, 

receives us by that grace 

given to us in Jesus Christ, 

and gives us hope of life eternal. 

3. We share the Christian belief that 

God’s redemptive love 

is realized in human life 

by the activity of the Holy Spirit, 

both in personal experience 

and in the community of believers. 

4. This community is the church, 

which the Spirit has brought into existence 

for the healing of the nations. 

1. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are forgiven, 

reconciled to God, 

and transformed as people of the new covenant. 

2. “Life in the Spirit” involves diligent use 

of the means of grace

such as praying, fasting, attending upon the sacraments, 

and inward searching in solitude. 

It also encompasses the communal life of the church 

in worship, mission, evangelism, service, and social witness. 

3. We understand ourselves 

to be part of Christ’s universal church 

when by adoration, proclamation, and service 

we become conformed to Christ. 

We are initiated and incorporated 

into this community of faith 

by baptism, 

receiving the promise of the Spirit 

that re-creates and transforms us. 

4. Through the regular celebration of Holy Communion,

we participate in the risen presence of Jesus Christ 

and are thereby nourished for faithful discipleship. 

1. We pray and work 

for the coming of God’s realm and reign to the world 

and rejoice in the promise of everlasting life 

that overcomes death 

and the forces of evil. 

2. With other Christians 

we recognize that the reign of God 

is both a present and future reality. 

3. The church is called to be 

that place where the first signs 

of the reign of God 

are identified and acknowledged in the world. 

4. Wherever persons are being made new creatures in Christ, 

wherever the insights and resources 

of the gospel are brought to bear on the life of the world, 

God’s reign is already effective 

in its healing and renewing power. 

1. We also look to the end time 

in which God’s work will be fulfilled. 

This prospect gives us hope 

in our present actions 

as individuals 

and as the Church. 

2. This expectation saves us from resignation 

and motivates our continuing witness and service. 

3. We share with many Christian communions 

a recognition of the authority of Scripture 

in matters of faith, 

the confession that 

our justification as sinners 

is by grace through faith, 

and the sober realization that 

the church is in need 

of continual reformation and renewal. 

4. We affirm the general ministry 

of all baptized Christians 

who share responsibility 

for building up the church 

and reaching out in mission 

and service to the world. 

1. With other Christians, 

we declare the essential oneness 

of the church in Christ Jesus. 

This rich heritage of shared Christian belief 

finds expression in our worship, sacraments, words, and music.

2. Our unity is affirmed 

in the historic creeds 

as we confess 

one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. 

3. Grace pervades 

our understanding of Christian faith and life. 

By grace we mean 

the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action 

of God in human existence 

through the ever-present Holy Spirit. 

4. While the grace of God is undivided, 

it precedes salvation as “prevenient grace,” 

continues in “justifying grace,” 

and is brought to fruition in “sanctifying grace.” 

1. We assert that God’s grace is manifest in all creation 

even though suffering, violence, and evil 

are everywhere present.

2. The goodness of creation 

is fulfilled in human beings, 

who are called 

to covenant partnership with God. 

3. God has endowed us with dignity and freedom 

and has summoned us to responsibility for our lives 

and the life of the world. 

4. In God’s self-revelation, Jesus Christ, 

we see the splendor of our true humanity. 

Even our sin, 

with its destructive consequences for all creation, 

does not alter God’s intention for us—

holiness and happiness of heart. 

Nor does it diminish our accountability 

for the way we live. 

1. Despite our brokenness, 

we remain creatures 

brought into being 

by a just and merciful God. 

The restoration of God’s image in our lives 

requires divine grace 

to renew our fallen nature.

All: We are united,

Some stronger,

Others, weaker.

All united. 

We are united as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We are united as United Methodists. 

We are united as members of the Rush United Methodist Church.

Our New Year’s Resolution is 

to lead people to Christian discipleship 

for the transformation of the world;

To love the Lord our God with all our mind, soul, body, and strength, 

Through worship, praise, and thanksgiving;

And to love our neighbor,

Near and far,

Friend or foe,

To love without expectation of anything in return.

If you are not yet one of us, 

Won’t you join us?

“The Word”

John 1:1-18

December 25, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

| Centering Prayer |

“In the beginning was the Word.”

The great philosopher John Locke observed

that words are “the sensible marks of ideas.”

In today’s gospel we learn that God has a new idea;

Indeed, God has a history of developing new ideas.

If God has a signature line, it would be

“I have a new idea!”

Experiencing our gospel fresh

Makes us think back to the original idea

From the words,

“In the beginning…”

Our gospel author intentionally calls to mind

The idea of Genesis;

That God was, and is, and will forever be

a God of creation.

Creation is God’s idea.

It is more than a plan.

It is God’s way of doing business;

An essential core of God’s divine nature.

God transformed an idea into action

And six days later the world as we know it

Was birthed and brought into being.

Our gospel author known as John

Tells us that God’s creation was fully God’s own.

God was, and is, responsible for every atom,

And all the space in-between,

in the cosmos.

Our divine Creator has a hand in

– Nature: earth, fire, air, and water

– Life: plants, animals, and humans

– Being: personality, conscience, and soul.

Being a God of new ideas,

Of always being in the business of creating,

Means that God is never stuck in the past,

Content to be a prisoner to what was,

what has been,

or how it was always done before.

And neither should we.

John paints a portrait of a forward leaning God,

Always on the cutting edge

Of transforming today’s dreams and ideas

into tomorrow’s reality.

It was, and is, an evolutionary leap forward

From just creating things

To creating life.

Yes, God evolved.

The idea that carbon-based cells

Can be filled with divine breath

And spring to life is simply astonishing.

God brought together physics and chemistry to create biology;

That the Holy Spirit might breath life into the world.

God has an intimate hand in the creation of each and every life,

– From seed to sperm,

from egg to mitosis,

from blood to every beating heart –

God has, and continues to be,

the one and only source of life.

Left to its own ends,

Life is pretty chaotic, unorganized, and ultimately meaningless.

Life without direction becomes self-centered, self-serving, and self-absorbed.

We live, we work, we procreate, we die.

We create artificial means to gauge success, such as money, property, or things.

But, at the end of the day,

life ends,

the body returns to ashes,

and everything we’ve accumulated is redistributed to the next generation.

Even God is able to see the futility of life lived inside a spinning wheel.

God’s new idea was to call, to covenant, to command, and to provide directive council.

It wasn’t enough to set the world into motion

Only to step back and watch the chaos begin.

God jumped in, made covenant with our father, Abraham,

To forever be our God, and we, God’s people.

God sent Moses,

Gave us Law, a framework for living together in peace, justice, and faithfulness.

Righteousness became our new salvation;

Life lived in complete harmony with our creator.

The Lord gave us direction,

Speaking through the voice of chosen prophets,

in an effort to reveal God’s divine will.

Judgment was quick, but just and fair.

One would think this would be a great plan;

An idea so good it would be

The last idea God would ever have to implement.

Yet, from the beginning,

From the very start,

When humans received the gift of personal will and free choice,

It is as if we’ve been in an eternal struggle with the very one who has given us life.

We are tempted to sin,

drawn to the darkness,

insistent on exercising our will.

We’ve never been able to let it go,

Let it be,

Or to just let God.

What was needed was a new idea.

Life by itself wasn’t sustainable.

God’s new creation,

Reported by John,

Is light, the light of all people.

God’s new idea,

Was to bridge the chasm between heaven and earth,

Directly enter this world through Mary’s womb,

And to become the guiding light;

that will overcome the darkness,

that will save all people.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

God’s new idea was to send us his son, Jesus.

The Word of God

Became the Flesh of God.

Instead of speaking through others,

God came, was born Jesus, and did the talking himself.

More than just talking, Jesus did the dying and the resurrecting, too!

In doing so,

Life took on new meaning.

Life became fulfilling.

Life took on a new purpose.

No longer are we simply meant to live, to breed, and to die.

We are meant to love, and to be loved

– to love our God, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies.

We are meant to forgive, and be forgiven

– to make things right with those we have crossed, to make things right with our God.

We are meant to save and to be saved

– to live forever redeemed, restored, and perfected eternally giving glory to God.

Moses brought the Law.

Jesus brings grace;

Not a free pass, mind you;

Healing and restoration for all those we have broken

If only we ask for forgiveness

and desire to not sin again.

The light of Jesus reveals truth wherever it shines.

Secrets are no more.

Nothing can hide,

For darkness is no more.

The last vestiges of temptation and sin are conquered.

All is revealed to God

Who stands as our eternal arbitrator.

Grace and truth defines Jesus Christ

Just as creation is the signature of God.

Where does this leave us today?

2023, merely a week away, will be a new year,

filled with new opportunities,

yet, filled with the same old temptations.

The Word didn’t become flesh for us to continue to live in 2022,

1990, or 1965, for that matter.

God’s new idea is made into flesh

To bring love to the new year,

To spread forgiveness of sins and proclaim pardon in 2023,

To be God’s grace revealing God’s eternal saving truth in 2023.

Take a look at the people around you.

They may appear to be the same old family members and friends.

But each is filled with God’s new creation, new ideas, new possibilities for the New Year.

Ask yourself, “how is Christ working though you to bring love, redemption and salvation into the world?”

God is not only creating something new within you,

But something new within each and every one of us.

Take a look at this bread and this wine we are about to consume.

It may appear to be the same old communion served the same old way.

But in this bread and in this wine

– in this body and blood of Christ –

is grace

is the illuminating truth

that will not only sustain you,

but will continue to light your way today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.

Dearly beloved,

God is about all things new.

God is in the business of creating life.

God is in the habit of creating light.

The old?

The former things?

They have passed away.

Behold, Christ has come.

Christ is come.

Christ will come again.