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.

“Deny the Self, Take Up the Cross, Follow Jesus”

Mark 8:27-38

16 September 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist churches

 

Mark 8:27-38 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=403758914)

 

Prayer.

 

Good theater has three acts.

A great sermon has three points.

Jesus teaching the crowd with his disciples,

 

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“If any want to become my followers,

Let them deny themselves

And take up their cross

And follow me,”

Is pure gold. (8:34)

 

Jesus is using a technique called an If-Then Statement,

He states a hypotheses and follows it with a conclusion.

This is also known as a Conditional Statement.

As if casting a wide net in search of volunteers he says

IF any want to become my followers,

THEN deny self, take up their cross, and follow me.

 

This approach is the foundation for classical logic and geometry,

Legislation, law making and interpretation.

Today, If-Then conditional statements are

Even an essential skill for computer science and programming.

Using If-Then Statements are fundamental for constructing an Excel spreadsheet.

 

Teaching with this technique is bold.

It’s also revealing.

 

This approach reveals an inner self-confidence

In who Jesus is,

What he intends to do,

And how he will change the world.

 

Let’s connect the dots.

Let’s connect the hypotheses with the conclusion.

I. Deny the Self

“Who do people say that I am?” (8:27)

Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” (8:29)

 

Jesus reveals that he is the Messiah,

Not the Messiah the world had been waiting for,

But the Messiah which God poured into the world

For the world’s forgiveness and salvation.

 

Denying myself is all about

Assuming my God appointed role

In my relationship with God and with my neighbors.

Denying the self is all about eating some humble pie,

Checking the ego and pride,

And putting words to action.

 

Loving neighbors means serving them;

Assisting them to meet their needs before my own.

Denying myself is all about

Authentic, servant leadership;

Service before self.

 

Loving God means serving God;

Assisting God to spread the Gospel and Kingdom to all the world.

Denying myself is all about making

Loving God and

Serving God a higher priority

For my time, talent, and treasure

Than anything else of this world.

My challenge to you is this in the coming week:

Make a list of every time you’ve intentionally placed service before self,

Service to God and service to our neighbors,

Before serving your own self-interest.

Make a list and post it on your refrigerator.

It will help keep you accountable.

It will help keep you following Jesus.

II. Take Up the Cross

Jesus underwent great suffering and rejection.

He was killed and three days later he rose again,

Just as he predicted and taught. (8:31)

 

A common denominator of the human experience is suffering.

Suffering works its way around to everyone, given time.

It’s painful to see the suffering of others,

To experience our own aging, frailty, and pain,

And finally, to endure unto death.

 

It’s hard to put a positive spin on suffering.

 

What Jesus is suggesting in the conditional teaching

About his predicted suffering is that

Suffering affords followers of Jesus

An opportunity to make a connection

Between our suffering

And the suffering of Jesus

During his passion and death.

 

That terrible left shoulder pain I’m going through

Makes me wonder how much Jesus’ shoulders must have ached

As he hung on the cross.

The mourning and grief I feel after my loved one died

Must have been like that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross.

The finality of death

Made real during funeral planning

Must have been brought home

When the body of Jesus was taken from the cross

And cleaned and prepared for burial.

 

Associating our suffering with the suffering of Jesus

Is a special kind of divine invitation

Into a deeply personal relationship

Between Jesus and yourself.

Through this lens,

Jesus is teaching us that even suffering

Is a gift of God’s grace and love for the world.

III. Follow Jesus

Lose your life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel

And your life will be saved. (8:35)

 

Priorities matter.

I’ll not be the one to judge

Where you place your priorities,

But God will.

 

I’m not perfect, though I’m striving for perfection.

Come, let us strive together

For a more noble purpose;

To follow Jesus,

Share his love,

And to spread his Gospel.

 

In my life,

Following Jesus and his teaching is more important than:

1. Hanging out with friends

2. Watching the Bills game

3. My supervisors, my supporters, and my detractors

4. Buying a new car or house

5. Moving up in my career or taking a new job

6. Perfect attendance at school or scoring a 100 on a test

7. Good health and a long life

8. Retiring early

 

How about you?

 

Can you make a list of your priorities?

Where you like to spend most of your time?

Where you are willing to spend most of your money?

 

What can you de-prioritize in your life

And substitute in Jesus in its place?

 

Are you willing to sacrifice everything,

Even your very own life,

All for Jesus,

All for his Gospel?

Priorities matter.

Beloved members and friends

Make Jesus first.

Keep Jesus first.

Promote Jesus first.

That’s what it means to follow Jesus.

That’s the path forward.

 

Amen.