“Do Unto Others”

Luke 6:27-38

24 February 2019

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 6:27-38 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=417585896)

 

“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 

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

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

 

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Prayer.

 

I’ve finally found a political party that I can support.

No. It’s not the Democrats.

Neither is it the Republicans.

Though I have a lot of Libertarian leanings, it not the Libertarian party, either.

Socialist? Nope.

Communists? Heavens to Betsy, NO!

 

My politic is the Gospel.

I’d invite you to join me

In making the Gospel your politic, too.

I invite you to place Jesus Christ front and center in your life.

The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

With Jesus as the top priority,

All other concerns of the world are transformed and

Fall into place in God’s order:

Politics.

Economics.

Ethics.

Business.

Law.

Science.

Health.

Relationships.

Family.

All must be reconsidered and reprioritized.

All have their foundations rocked and upset by Good News.

All take their place in a supportive role for the priority:

The ministry, message, and promise of Jesus Christ.

 

….

Rules.

 

Many individuals who decide to follow Jesus

Will look for a black-and-white list of rules to live by:

A Christian direction manual.

For many the Bible becomes this book of rules to be followed.

The Ten Commandment and the Beatitudes,

This Sermon on the Plain, as found in Luke,

Can be stripped down to bare bones

And reduced to a bulleted list.

These are the laws to live by.

These are the approved behaviors for Christian living.

 

It is as if following Jesus was an ethical principle.

The problem with following a simple list of rules

Is that it stunts the growth of faith

And inhibits spiritual development.

Biblical inconsistencies undermine a fundamentalist belief.

We get stuck in the quagmire of righteousness and judgment.

Judgment and fear become the quicksand of a dead-end, failed faith.

 

When we become followers of rules

Instead of followers of Jesus

Rules become the new idolatry.

The Good News of Jesus Christ,

His mercy and grace,

Is drowned out by the noise of schism, inquisition, exorcism, and death.

 

Come with me, if you dare,

And let us discern Gospel more deeply.

Keep the rules, yes,

But let us draw a little bit closer to Jesus.

 

….

Expectations.

 

Many Christians will experience

Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain

And say to ourselves, “Oh, boy.”

“I’m not worthy.”

“I don’t love enough.”

“I’m miserly and don’t like sharing.”

“I’m not merciful to others.”

“I’m way too judgmental of others.”

 

Others will say to themselves, “Yep, that’s me.”

“I try to love everyone.”

“I’m generous.”

“I’m merciful.”

“I try to be non-judgmental.”

“I try to forgive.”

 

Jesus is calling this diverse crowd of followers,

Gathered on the coastal plain,

Straining to hear his words and to be healed by his touch,

To ask themselves

“Am I living up to God’s expectations?”

 

“Am I living up to God’s expectations?”

 

You and me;

How are we doing?

Are we living up to God’s expectations

As outlined and taught by Jesus?

 

It’s nearly impossible to talk about enemies

Without militaristic testosterone laden bravado.

Talking about those who hate and curse you

Brings up painful memories of being bullied and humiliated.

Speaking about those who abuse you

Will be different for survivors of sexual abuse or rape

Than it is for those who’ve never been assaulted.

Abuse opens pandora’s box of pain and trauma.

Love

Can’t be an all-or-nothing proposition.

If it was,

Every one of us would come up short.

 

Love comes from God.

God’s expectation is that disciples of Christ

Are called to spread this love throughout every area of life,

Like smoothing cement from a concrete pour into every area of the form,

Or spreading icing completely covering a cake.

We are called to spread God’s love into every human relationship,

Starting with the easy,

Eventually smoothing love into the most

Painful, shameful, hurtful, broken areas of life.

 

Loving the easy makes it easier to love the less-than-easy.

Loving the less-than-easy makes it easier to love the hard.

Loving the hard makes it easier to love the enemy,

Those who hate and curse you,

Even those who’ve scared you with the shame of abuse.

 

Are we living up to God’s expectations, as Jesus taught?

Let’s talk about mercy.

How merciful are we towards others in this world?

Do we do good to those who are less fortunate than we are?

Are we generous,

to a fault?

Are we generous,

until it hurts?

Do we work to bring relief to those imprisoned by barriers and circumstances beyond their control?

Are we committed to serve, rather than being served?

Are we all in

Righting injustice and ending oppression?

 

Like love, mercy is an essential, core characteristic

Of our loving God,

Placed on display for all the world to see,

In the life and actions of Jesus.

How can you and I expand our capacity for mercy?

 

How can we expand our capacity for mercy?

 

The first place to start is to get off the couch,

Get out of the sanctuary,

Roll up the sleeves and get our hands dirty in the mission field.

Serve.

Volunteer.

Take a meal, deliver a meal.

Sort, sew, pack, and send.

Muck out, rebuild, and do it in the name of Jesus.

That is the intersection of mercy and love.

 

….

What’s at stake?

 

There is even more.

The expanse and depth of the Gospel politic

Probably knows no end.

I continue to discover more

Every day I immerse myself in the Good News.

 

Come with me and together,

Let us examine what is at stake here.

 

For Jesus the stakes weren’t simply

If people believed him or not.

The stakes of the Gospel ended up getting him murdered.

Jesus was crucified because of the Good News,

Because the norms of this world are upset.

The Gospel is revolutionary.

The primary sign of what is at stake in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Is when the world pushes back;

When resistance rears its ugly head.

 

Resistance is always a sign of God’s presence, work, and will.

The hometown congregation threw Jesus out of the Synagogue.

Jesus was criticized by authorities for healing on the Sabbath and

Violating numerous other Jewish Laws.

Jesus upset cash flow, the Temple treasury, and angered the Finance Team.

Organized religion pushed back, using Rome as their ignorant tool.

Arrest, suffering, trial, humiliation, and death was intended

To put Jesus into the tomb once and for all.

 

We all know that’s not how it ended.

God always triumphs over resistance.

Good News proclaims redemption and salvation.

Good News paints a picture for what living in God’s kingdom looks like.

 

Our partnership with God and with one another

Is at stake moving forward

In our faithful effort to discern and follow God’s will,

As we engage in the sacred task of kingdom building.

Do unto others:

How we treat others

Matters.

How we treat others

Dives to the core of the Christian experience

And maturing faith.

 

God’s kingdom is a land at peace,

Where love and mercy abide,

Where judgment is replaced by acceptance and inclusion.

Expect resistance in our work of kingdom building,

Even as Jesus was resisted.

 

….

Rules.

Expectations.

Resistance.

 

Thus it is with Luke’s sermon on the plain.

Jesus invites us to grow deep,

To mature beyond living by rules.

Jesus invites us to grow deep,

To come into God’s season

In God’s due time.

Amen.

 

“Power of the Touch”

Luke 6:17-26

17 February 2019

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist churches

YouTube Video of “Power of the Touch”

The Beatitudes, as reported in the Gospel of Luke

The Beatitudes, as reported in the Gospel of Luke

 

Luke 6:17-26 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=416985523)

 

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

 

Prayer.

 

Wait. What?

This isn’t the Beatitudes I’m familiar with.

You mean there are more than one?

 

There are four Gospels, after all.

 

Yes, the Beatitudes can also be found in the fifth chapter of Matthew;

But, they are widely different from Luke’s account.

In Matthews account there are 9 Beatitudes and no woes.

Luke reports 4 Beatitudes and 4 woes.

 

Don’t go looking for the Beatitudes in the Gospels of Mark or John,

Because you won’t find them.

They aren’t there.

 

Jesus delivers his Beatitudes in Matthew on a mountain top,

And he taught them to a select, exclusive audience:

Only to his disciples.

In contrast to Matthew,

Luke describes Jesus teaching the Beatitudes on a plane,

A flat, expansive region, possibly along the Mediterranean coast.

He teaches to the group of his disciples and a great multitude of people,

Jews and Gentiles alike,

From all over the region.

 

When Luke makes the effort to spell out

That people from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon are drawn to Jesus,

He is making a theological statement that

People from the other side of the tracks,

People from other races and religions,

People from other ways of life,

People with a different world view

Make up the crowd.

People different from the forever blessed and chosen

Jewish descendents of Abraham

Came to hear him, and

To be healed of their diseases

By the power of his touch.

 

Jesus comes for everyone, without exclusion.

Again, this is a consistent theological characteristic of Jesus

Uniquely spun into the fabric of Luke.

 

The implications of this Gospel reality

Is that when ever

or where ever

the Church collectively,

Or we, individually,

become judgmental of people different than us

We are moving ourselves away from Jesus.

 

Jesus is at the center of a diverse crowd,

And so should we.

That’s where his truth is revealed and people are healed.

 

 

Could it be, as many scholars suggest,

That the Beatitudes from Matthew and Luke are similar

Because Jesus preached the same, or similar, message multiple times

To different crowds

In different settings?

Possibly.

I don’t know for certain,

But it makes sense to me.

 

The underlying message that Jesus is communicating

Is central to the core of his Messianic presence.

Epiphany,

God with us fully as Jesus Christ,

Completely human and fully Divine,

Doesn’t equate blessings with salvation.

There is no equating woes with damnation.

There is no hint of judgment to be found.

 

There is, however,

An upending of expectations;

A reversal of fortunes.

 

Remember in the opening chapter of Luke,

Mary, the mother of Jesus, makes her proclamation in the Magnificat:

The Mighty One, Luke reports

“has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (1:51-53)

 

Expectations are upended.

Fortunes are reversed.

 

Remember earlier in Luke

When Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth to begin his Galilean ministry

He teaches in the Synagogue from the prophet Isaiah.

He stakes out the same ground by reversing fortunes and upending expectations:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (4:18-19)

 

The same upending of expectations and reversal of fortunes

Are woven into Jesus’ sermon on the plane

With his use of blessings and woes.

The least are made great and

The great are made the least.

 

The Greek word for "blessed" used in the Beatitudes is makarios, 

Meaning satisfied, unburdened, at peace.

 

Satisfied are the poor.

Unburdened are the poor.

The poor are at peace.

 

Imagine a world where the poor aren’t living paycheck to paycheck,

Struggling to cover all the bills, and

Feed every mouth at the table.

Imagine a world where families don’t flee violence and poverty in waves of immigration to a foreign land.

Imagine a world where the poor are able to simply live out their lives in peace.

 

It might be hard for us to imagine such a world,

But it’s a vision of God’s kingdom that is crystal clear to Jesus

And he wants everyone in the crowd

To hear and

Understand his vision of Good News.

 

The Greek word for “woe” used here in Luke is ouai,

Meaning a word of warning,

The same word used by many of the prophets:

Judgment is imminent.

Repent or find yourself lost, trapped, or blindsided.

 

Gospel is bad news to the rich;

Who have become rich at the expense of the poor.

Here’s your warning, Jesus proclaims;

Judgment is at hand

Take this opportunity to repent of your ways.

 

Repent, those who are full.

You’re going to learn what real hunger is all about unless you share your abundance with those in want or need.

Because you’re going to get yours.

 

You think this is funny? Jesus asks.

Repent, Jesus warns with a woe.

Repent or you will find yourselves mourning and weeping.

 

The woes that Jesus pronounces

Begs each of us to ask

What it is in our lives that blind us,

That traps us with a false sense of security,

That misguides our trust?

 

Are we blinded by our good health, diet, and exercise routine?

Does a good bill of health from our doctor make us overly confident?

Are the A1C and triglycerides within healthy, normal limits?

Did that EKG indicate you’re good for another 20,000 miles?

 

Here’s the bad news:

Each of us are one heartbeat and one breath away from catastrophe and death.

Cancer and Alzheimer’s will bankrupt the richest in a New York minute.

Stroke and heart disease can make the

Healthiest, wealthiest, captain of industry

Bedbound in a nursing home for years.

 

Place your trust with the Immortal,

The God of Creation,

The God who created you.

Follow your doctor’s orders, yes,

but recognize every physician’s mortal limitations.

With Jesus there are no mortal limitations.

 

Are we blinded by our wealth?

“I don’t need to place my trust in God when I’ve got money in the bank,” it is easy to believe.

Bigger houses, fancier cars, abundance of food and drink

Insulate us to the fact that wealth often

Comes at the expense of others, or,

When our God given generous hearts turn cold.

We see the need but fail to act.

 

Are we trapped by our own ego and popularity?

 

Woe to you, Jesus warns,

“Don’t place your trust in anything: health, wealth, or status.

Repent of your ways.

Place your trust in God.”

 

 

The message this diverse, hodgepodge crowd

Was drawn to hear

Was blessings and woes.

But they were also drawn by the power of his touch

That came out from him

And healed them all. (6:19)

 

The only way to touch Jesus is to be at the center of the crowd,

Making ourselves as close to Christ as we possibly can get.

That’s where the power of healing is at.

That’s where unclean spirits are exercised.

That’s where Good News is proclaimed

and the fortunes of this world are upended with the eternal fortunes of our loving God.

 

Are you close enough to Jesus to feel his power,

To experience his healing touch,

To see the depth and breadth of God’s grace and love for the world?

If not, why not?

If you are,

Be satisfied.

Be unburdened.

Be at peace.

Be blessed.

Amen.

Eulogy for Harold Granger

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26 January 2019

Grace and peace to you, beloved.

 

We gather this day

To give praise and thanksgiving to God

For the life of Harold.

We gather

To extend to one another our support during this time of mourning.

We gather

To apply the balm of Gilead to our wounds

That the hand of God

Might touch and bring healing to our broken hearts.

 

I approach this eulogy for Harold with sadness, joy, and calm assurance.

 

It is with sad reluctance that we say goodbye

To a faithful husband, loving father, good friend, and a gentle soul.

I’m going to miss you;

We’re going to miss you, dear friend.

 

I am sad that Harold didn’t have more than one opportunity,

When I’d pick him up for lunch with the men of Zion,

To enjoy the easier access of my new car.

I will deeply miss our discussions about the books we are reading,

And what makes their content so engaging.

(Don’t worry, Harold. I’ll finish Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” for you)

 

I am sad that Harold was one of the few people

I was able to talk with about politics, policy, and the electorate;

Without fear of offending or angering him.

My sadness wonders, “Who will take his place?”

 

I am sad that Harold’s keen scientific mind and love for technology

Will be absent from our discussions.

I have been sad, as I know many of you have been sad, too,

To see Harold’s health in decline.

I am sad that Harold’s absence will be a great loss of

A great man of faith, who loved the Lord and loved his neighbor.

 

It is with a joyful heart

That I know Harold inspired countless others

To carry on his example to this generation

And generations to follow.

His passion for excellence in engineering

And his love for technological improvement

Will burn long and bright in my life

And in the lives of many others.

 

His calm, logical approach

to the challenges, trials, and troubles of this world

Will serve as an example of healthy debate, critical thinking,

and the ability to make change when necessary.

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Harold’s love of reading gives me joy

whenever I crack open a new book,

And I hope the first thing you do when you return home

Is to open a book of your choice and start reading, too.

It will make you happy.

 

It is with joy that I got to experience Harold’s love,

His love of Nancy, son and daughters, grandchildren, family

His love of his friends and church family,

And his love of those who are in need

and those who are the least fortunate.

I am so happy that Harold has given us a lasting example

Of generosity, and how simple, kind, acts and gifts

can change the world.

 

I am happy that I had the privilege to be with Harold and his family at the end,

To share the 23rd Psalm,

to anoint him with the oil of healing,

and to lift him up to God in prayer.

I am happy that Harold has faced his final trial

And he now rests in peace.

I am overjoyed that Harold brought happiness into your life and mine.

 

It is with a calm assurance I know

That Harold’s faith was deeply rooted in Jesus Christ.

From his earliest of days until his final breath

Harold believed and profoundly knew

That Jesus claimed him,

Provided the example for a life of righteousness,

Forgave his sins and the sins of the world,

And has now saved him into eternal life.

 

We stand assured that Harold has been saved

Solely by the grace of God through Harold’s faith,

Which led to his acts of kindness, outreach, and love.

 

At the end of the day

I am deeply thankful to God

For sharing Harold with me over these past many years.

I am thankful for the sadness that I feel with his death.

I am thankful for the joy that I feel in his life.

I am thankful for the assurance of faith I possess in his life, death, and eternal life.

My prayer for you?

Is that you share this thankfulness, too.

Amen.

“When the Wine Gave Out”

John 2:1-11 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=414816719 )

YouTube Video of “When the Wine Gave Out” Blizzard Closing, 1/20/19 Oh, my!

January 20, 2019

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

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 Prayer.


40 years ago, I found myself at an elegant restaurant in Elmira Heights;

“Pierce’s 1894” was its name.

I was more interested in my prom date than she was in me.

She was preoccupied with her ex-boyfriend

Who had just dumped her for someone else.

I wasn’t even her second choice; someone else had turned her down.

 

It was awkward.

 

I had been thinking long and hard how I might come to impress her.

Ah! I knew.

I could demonstrate to her my sophistication and knowledge of wine.

Problem was, I didn’t know anything about wine.

My best friend, Garry, coached me prior to the prom:

“Just order a red,” he suggested.

“Carlo Rossi, if you have to make a choice. That’s what mom and dad drink.”

Great. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

 

The assistant waiter and waitress

Were filling water glasses, bringing rolls, and overall, trying to impress

(which they were), when she asked

“Would you like something to drink?”

“I would like a glass of red wine,” I said rather smugly.

“What kind of red would you like?”

And then, my mind went blank.

I couldn’t remember the brand I had been coached to request.

 

Awkward silence was followed by “the look” and an eye roll.

 

“No worries,” the waitress said, “I’ll send over the wine steward to help you make your selection.”

Thinking the wine list was printed on one side of a laminated paper,

I thought I was saved!

I’d certainly be able to find the brand I couldn’t remember.

“Thank you. That would be nice,” I replied.

 

Whew!

 

The wine steward appeared

And he had a book.

Not a list on a half sheet of plastic coated paper.

He had a book, listing thousands of wines from the cellar.

Terror swept across my face and sweat began to run.

Pressure was building and there was no relief valve.

“I’ll have a Tom Collins,” I blurted out,

Fully exposed as a fraud.

I was so embarrassed.

 

Was this the most embarrassing moment of my life?

I don’t know, but my prom encounter with a wine steward

Certainly makes for one of my top ten!

What was your most embarrassing moment?

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I’d like to think that Jesus threw me a life line,

Because I never had another date with the girl I took to the prom.

I dodged a bullet.

More accurately, Jesus and I dodged a bullet.

 

As I look back in reflection,

It seems to me that Jesus is in the habit of throwing out life lines,

Saving us from ourselves, and sometimes,

Saving us from each other.

 

Often, I’m unaware of his saving grace when it’s taking place.

Often, I’m ignorant that the life line he uses is composed of

The spiritual fabric we commonly refer to as “the Body of Christ.”

 

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That hand reaching out to us?

Perhaps that is the hand of Jesus,

Offered by another fellow disciple,

Who is faithfully acting to fulfill God’s will.

Perhaps that hand reaching out to us

Is not only the substance

But also a sign of God’s amazing grace.  

 

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to take the hand.

 

Are you able to think back

And recognize circumstances when

Jesus threw you a life line?

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Jesus certainly threw the bridegroom in the Gospel a lifeline.

The fact that Jesus miraculously turned water into wine

Was only known to the servants and the chief steward,

Creates a social cover for the bridegroom;

Protecting his pride,

Preserving his reputation.

Could you imagine if he had to go through life

Known as the guy who failed at his own wedding reception?

 

Our Gospel of Jesus turning water into wine

Should vector us back

To a deeper understanding of God’s presence, grace, and salvation

In our lives.

 

This semi-mysterious nature of Jesus’ first miracle

Accentuates the unique purpose and meaning of John’s gospel,

Unlike that of the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

 

John is frying other fish.

 

Consider the contrasts:

Jesus’ mother is not named in John.

There is no narrative of Jesus being baptized in John;

Neither is there a 40 day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.

There is no Passover meal in John;

In its place, Jesus washes the disciple’s feet.

 

John’s contrasting motives and message

Is like bringing Technicolor to black and white,

Computer generated imagery to cartoon flip boards.

In the absence of a Passover meal

We are compelled to explore more deeply

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Our Eucharistic roots;

As only the Gospel of John can reveal.

 

Following John’s masterful theological prelude,

The testimony of John the Baptist, and

Jesus calling his first disciples

(Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, and Nathanael)

It is the mother of Jesus

Who launches him into his mission and ministry.

 

In his opening salvo

Jesus replaces nothing with abundance.

He substitutes empty wine skins with 120 to 180 gallons of high quality wine in stone jars.

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Abundance, John paints on his Gospel canvas,

Is a recognizable signature of Christ’s glory and his ministry.

Abundance draws followers to Jesus.

 

Abundance reveals the manifestation of God.

 

Epiphany is on a roll!

 

The miracle of Jesus turning water into abundant, high quality wine

Is only the first half of our Eucharist roots in the Gospel of John.

We don’t have to seek after bread,

In-so-much, as bread comes and finds us.

In the sixth chapter

Jesus feeds five thousand

With five loaves and two fish.

 

Again, Jesus replaces nothing with abundance.

He substitutes empty stomachs with a crowd of happy and full future followers,

Complete with 12 baskets of surplus barley bread! (6:13-14)

Abundance,

Here in the presence of bread and wine,

Is the sign of God’s glory, ministry, and presence.

 

Abundant nourishment

Is provided before we are aware of our deeper hunger.

Abundant sustenance

Satisfies our every need.

Abundant excess

Ensures our future, eternal life in the presence of God.

 

The abundance of God’s grace,

As revealed to us in the signs and symbols of bread and wine

In the Gospel of John

Are named by our own John Wesley

In the theology of our Methodist roots:

Prevenient grace,

Sustaining grace,

Justifying grace, and

Sanctifying grace.

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 The entire Gospel of John becomes our Lord’s Eucharistic meal

Meant to convey

The overwhelming, eternal abundance of God’s grace.

 

Wow.

Let that sink in for a moment.

 

God must really love us and

Care for us.

God is willing to do anything to save us;

Even dying on a cross.

 

The last observation I’d like to make about

John’s opening miracle narrative of

Jesus turning water into wine

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 Is the fact that God shows up at an unexpected time,

Pouring forth abundant, exceptional quality wine

From the wrong vessel – a 20 or 30 gallon stone jar. 

Jesus isn’t pouring premium wine from a Baccarat decanter

Or even a fancy French bottle.

He’s using a stone jar meant for catching water runoff.

There is something beneath box wine!

 

Holy discontinuity!

 

This reveals a subtle, but consistent theological thread

In the Gospel of John:

God shows up when least expected

And in the midst of the most unexpected circumstances.

 

This is my experience.
Is it yours?

 

As you think back over the course of your life,

This miracle should serve to pry open memories of

When God showed up,

Becoming manifest in your life,

When you least expected

In the midst of the most unexpected circumstances.

 

Think about it.

Epiphany is pretty awesome! Eh?

Yes, God is.

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On this day

And in this passage

May the Gospel direct

Us to the life line Jesus is throwing to us.

May the Gospel vector

Us to the amazing, abundant, overwhelming grace and love of God,

Revealed in the gifts of bread and wine.

May the act of turning water into wine

Remind us that God shows up;

God shows up,

Perhaps when we least expect it,

But when we need him most.

Amen.



















“Christianity’s Contradiction”

Mark 12:38-44

11 November 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 12:38-44 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=408599693)

 

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

 

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

 

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Prayer.

 

Christianity is full of contradictions.

If you haven’t noticed,

You haven’t been paying attention.

 

I recall a seminary professor teaching our class that

A church building is a reflection

Of the God the people worship.

 

A modest building would reflect a simple, unpretentious God.

A cathedral would reflect a majestic, powerful, awesome God.

A fully accessible building communicates a God that welcomes and accepts everyone,

While a building full of stairs tells some that “you’re not welcome here.”

A stone-cold building,

Like an altar that is set back or separated from the congregation,

Reflects a distant, unapproachable God.

A pulpit that is high and lifted up may mean the primacy of scripture,

Or it may mean class and clergy privilege.

A building in disrepair, cluttered, or not clean communicates

That we’ve surrendered to apathy,

We’ve thrown in the towel, and

We’ve just given up believing in our God.

 

What does our building say about the God

In whom we place our faith?

 

I believe in a majestic, powerful, awesome God,

Yet, I’d rather we be serving meals for the hungry

And building homes for the homeless

Than buying a pipe organ or installing Tiffany stained glass.

 

I believe in a loving God of mercy and grace,

So, it just about kills me to see that it is costing us $12,000 for a new furnace to be installed this week.

I’d much rather see our resources used to expand worship attendance;

Making disciples of Jesus Christ

For the transformation of the world.

 

I’d much rather see church funds used to send short term missionaries abroad to feed and clothe families, build houses, fit people to wheel chairs, and communicate the fact that

God loves them and we love them, too.

 

But, winter is coming.

Our sanctuary has to be heated.

 

Christianity is full of contradictions.

Disciples of Jesus have to make choices.

Often those choices are hard, sacrificial, sometimes contradictory.

 

The choices we make

Communicates the priorities we make in life

And the God in whom we believe.

 

I choose to wear long robes when leading worship.

It was a decision I made years ago;

Fully aware of Jesus teaching about the scribes in the Gospel of Mark.

Unlike the scribes,

I chose to wear liturgical clothes when leading worship,

Not to draw attention to me,

But to reflect a reverence and respect in my approach to God.

Yes, the money used to pay for this stole

Could have been used for the poor;

Instead, I made the intentional choice

To purchase these robes, stole, and cincture

That you may approach God with the same level of reverence, respect, and awe of God as I do.

 

The question that must be addressed is

Who benefits; myself or God?

Let there be no misunderstanding,

These robes are not meant for your benefit or mine.

These robes are solely meant to benefit the Lord.

 

The choices we make

Communicates the priorities we establish

And the God in whom we believe.

 

It is my choice to talk about money and giving.

Stop complaining that all you hear from going to church

Is begging for money.

I choose to address money and giving because

The Bible has 900 more references to money than to sexuality.

(Pulpit Resources, 2003)

I address money and giving because

It is the most frequently cited topic that Jesus preached and taught about.

I address money and giving because Jesus teaches

“Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” (Matthew 6:21)

 

Money and giving is called stewardship;

And it is Gospel.

 

My wife, Cynthia, and I made the decision a long time ago

To tithe to the church.

Ten percent of our income is given in a charitable contribution to the churches I serve;

That’s before taxes, before other bills are paid, before we have any left over to spend on our children or ourselves.

It took us a while to get there, like it does most people,

But now that we tithe 10% of our income to the church, there is no going back.

 

Allow me to be crystal clear;

I’m not boasting.

We don’t tithe to make ourselves look good in your eyes or anyone else.

We don’t give to support a budget or program or a building.

We don’t contribute out of obligation.

 

We tithe because

Our trust is in the Lord,

Who has provided, is providing, and we are confident that the Lord will continue to provide for all our mortal needs.

 

We tithe because

The grace and love of God needs to be shared,

The Gospel needs to be propagated,

Jesus Christ must be glorified.

 

We tithe because

God’s kingdom must be spread,

For this generation,

And for generations to come.

 

Tithing is way more satisfying than any luxury we might like to imagine.

The happiest people on the planet are those who are generous,

Who give to the tithe, and beyond.

 

I personally invite you to join my family in living the tithe.

The tithe boldly proclaims, our trust is in the Lord!

The tithe boldly makes the stand that this is God’s kingdom!

And it is a kingdom of

Love and grace,

Justice and peace

Forgiveness and salvation.

 

Disciples of Jesus are asked to make choices;

Choices that are sometimes hard, sacrificial, or contradictory.

 

Our choices have meaning.

Our choices mean something.

Our choices communicate what we value,

What we believe,

In whom we place our faith.

 

The widow gave “out of her poverty everything she had, all she had to live on.” (12:44)

Where would her next meal come from?

That was not her concern.

She had no need to trust in her own resourcefulness.

Her trust was in the Lord.

She believed the Lord would continue to provide

She was confident that she would be fed.

She gave everything.

And so can we.

Amen.

"All Things Are Possible"

Mark 10:17-31

October 14, 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 10:17-31 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=406368106)

 


 

Prayer.

 

I’m not getting in.

You’re not getting in, either.

 

If

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle

Than

For someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,

Just as Jesus proclaims,

Then, we,

Like the original disciples,

Are doomed.

 

We are doomed.

Everyone go home.

Last one out, turn out the lights and lock the doors.

 

Scaring potential disciples away with a message of impossibility

Wouldn’t make Jesus a good United Methodist.

 

When approaching the Gospel of Mark

The best strategy is complete honesty.

 


 

The Gospel cannot be managed,

Despite the fact that

This is our first inclination.

Here is a sample of some of the classic attempts at managing Jesus,

Most often employed by

Snake oil preachers

Slinging a prosperity gospel:

·        The rich man became rich because he followed the law, therefore, follow the law and get rich

·        Nobody can actually keep the law, therefore, nobody can give up everything, either

·        Giving up everything was a command only to this man, not to us

·        This command only applies to the rich, and we all can think of someone more wealthy than we are

·        Give it up, but know that God intends to reward you a hundred-fold later

Some would call this “weasel exegesis.”

Others would call this “hermeneutical contortions.”

I’ll simply call it “dishonest.”

 

Don’t manage the Gospel

No mater how painful it might bite.

Just own it.

 


 

 

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17)

The problem is in the question.

The man’s question implies that there is something he can do

To inherit eternal life.

If there was something he could do

Everyone would be doing it,

And we wouldn’t need Jesus.

There is nothing he could do.

Likewise, there is nothing we can do

To inherit eternal life.

The only means to inherit eternal life

Is to believe in the saving action of Jesus –

Being resurrected from the dead.

 

….

 

The Gospel truth can be found in our Lord’s response.

 


 

Jesus response is based on the man calling him Good Teacher.

Only God is good, Jesus points out.

Humankind is stained with temptation and sin.

We are a broken people when measured up to the law.

Everyone is.

Everyone fails, no exceptions.

Point One: Only God is good.

 


 

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

In fact, this is the only person in the Gospel of Mark

Who is identified as one whom Jesus loved.

Jesus loved the one who walked away.

 

We don’t know what happens to him,

For we never hear from him again.

It doesn’t mean

He doesn’t make his way back into the life of Jesus.

Quite frankly, I believe he would have,

Perhaps as one at the foot of the cross,

As one who looked in the empty tomb,

Or as one of 3,000 baptized by Peter

In the second chapter of Acts. (Acts 2:41)

 

One way or another,

This man would find himself before Jesus once again.

Standing before the eternal judge,

Jesus still loved him.

Jesus loved him enough to die for him.

Jesus loved him enough to win victory over the grave for him.

Point Two: Jesus loves even those who walk away.

 


 

“You lack one thing,” Jesus tells him.

One thing.

The one thing wasn’t rigid righteousness following the Ten Commandments.

One thing was lacking.

“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.” (10:21)

This was the ONE THING:

Place the needs of the poor before your own needs.

If a neighbor is hungry and you’ve got food;

Share it!

If a neighbor can’t afford to fix a hole in their roof;

Pay for it!

If neighbors are poor because of systemic injustice;

Fix it!

If our neighbors are poor;

Give it.

 

Loving our neighbor is a higher priority than our wealth and accumulations.

Let’s get our priorities straight, Jesus is telling us.

Are we content with the presence of poverty

To the extent that

We are willing to walk away from Jesus?

I’m not; and I don’t think you are, either.

Point Three: The needs of the poor, the last in this world, are a priority over mine.

 


 

Of course, it’s impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

Just as it impossible for any of us to do anything to enter the kingdom of God.

Good works isn’t an entry pass.

However, this is God’s kingdom and God makes the rules.

If God wants you in the kingdom, you’re in,

“for God all things are possible.” (10:27)

 

Know this to be true:

Throughout history and throughout scripture,

God has demonstrated time and time again,

That God wants you in his kingdom.

God longs for you.

God desires a relationship with you.

 

“God so loved the world.”

“God sent his only beloved Son.”

“God doesn’t want the world condemned.”

“God wants the world to be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

Point Four: God loves you and wants you in God’s eternal kingdom.

 


 

Jesus carefully observes that “for God all things are possible.” (10:27)

He doesn’t say that all our petitions will be granted.

That would relegate God to the status of a dog fetching a stick.

We are no master.

God is the master,

And the sooner we learn our place in the God / human relationship,

The sooner we can come to peace with suffering and evil.

The cosmos and all that is in it are God’s own creation.

Thankfully, our God is loving and generous.

Point Five: God is capable of all things and acts according to God’s own plan.

 


 

It’s almost as if Peter is whining;

Because he is.

It would be great to hear a recording of his complaint!

“Look, we have left everything and followed you.” (10:28)

When Jesus begins with “Truly I tell you,”

The TRULY means it’s the honest truth

What he’s about to say.

Listen up!

 

Sacrifice family or vocation

For the sake of Jesus or

For the sake of the Good News

And your needs will be taken care of …

… in abundance.

Even our desire for eternal life will be satisfied.

 

Jesus makes a promise;

Our response is simply to take him at his word.

That’s called faith.

Point Six: Have faith; Jesus will support us and Jesus will save us.

 

There you have it;

The honest, unmanaged truth about the Gospel.

 

….

 

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Only God is good;

Even still, do your best to follow God’s laws

And know that only God can save us.

 

Jesus loves even those who walk away;

And so should we, too.

Our love for another this day

May become a seed that takes root and bears fruit some day in the future.

 

Place the needs of the world,

Specifically, the needs of the poor,

Before our needs.

Serve, without the expectation of being served in return.

 

God loves you

And is looking forward to spending an eternity with you.

 

God is capable of all things.

God always acts in God’s historical interest;

Which is

His love for creation and humankind.

Therefore, expect great things!

 

Place your faith in Jesus.

You are loved.

In the end, there will be no end.

Your table will overflow.

All will be abundantly satisfied.

Everything will be okay.

 

This is God’s kingdom.

We are members of it.

And it goes on forever.

Amen.