June 28, 2020

Sunday Online Worship June 28, 2020

Passage: Matthew 10:40-42

June 28, 2020 Sermon

Gospel Lesson: Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

In my Bible there are little captions usually in italics that describe the passage that you are about to read.  They’re all through my Bible and this morning is no exception.  As I read to you shortly Matthew -10:40-42, the caption that is over top of this entitles this passage as “The Reward for Hospitality.”

Now Jesus is finishing his discourse about sending the twelve disciples/apostles out to cure diseases, have authority over unclean spirits and to cast them out and to help people get well.  The disciples are not sent far.  They are staying in the neighborhood.  “Don’t stray into Gentile territory,” Jesus tells them.  Tell them the good news.  You know, the kingdom of heaven has come near.

He reminds them again to cure the sick and to raise the dead even.  To cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, just the stuff that Jesus has been doing since they first met him and all along this journey.

Then Jesus tells them don’t take any payment for what you do.  Don’t take anything else along with you.  Travel light.  No extra sandals, no extra tunics, no extra clothing of any kind.  Don’t take an extra staff to help you walk.  Just take whatever’s on your back and what’s in your hand and go.

And depend on the hospitality of those you encounter as you go from village to village and town to town.  And he says then, if a house receives you, let your peace fall upon that house.  If not, just shake it off and move on, it’s not your concern.  Don’t take it personally.  Don’t carry that on to the next house and the next village.

But get ready to be beaten up, rejected, or even possibly arrested.  You’ll encounter hate and persecution, just run to the next town and start all over again.  Don’t be afraid, Jesus says, but you are going to encounter hardships,  even within your own families, over me, Jesus says.

You will be blamed for causing strife in other families where family members decide to listen to you or me, to follow me, Jesus says.  It’s a heavy cost for folk to be disciples in that time in that place even still today.  If you acknowledge me before others Jesus says, I will acknowledge you before my father in heaven.

So then we get to this caption, the reward for hospitality.  Hear these words, Jesus is speaking, whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.

And whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.  And whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous.

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.  Reward?  What does he mean by reward?

Is that like when I go to Kroger’s and I checkout with my groceries and I give them my Kroger card and I get points on it or when I go and get gas, I get 10 cents or 20 cents off every gallon of gas that I buy when I am filling up that one time.  Those are rewards.  Right?

Is that what this is like or when I used to get my hair cut the lady that cut my hair gave me a little card and every time I went to their shop whether she cut my hair or whoever and I would pull my card out and they would stamp it and after 10 haircuts or something like that I’d get a free haircut.  It’s the same way with a cup of coffee in some places, we all have those little things, right?  Those are rewards.

But where’s the reward for the disciples?  Jesus has just told them that they’re lives are going to be pretty miserable while they are on this mission trip.  They are going to encounter hardships, yet Jesus is talking about the rewards that the people who are hosting them and helping feed them will receive.

What rewards are we talking about?  The rewards of a prophet?  The rewards of a righteous person?  Even the one who just gives a cold drink of water will not lose their reward.  That’s kind of hard to understand.

These folks were welcoming, receiving and offering hospitality to these itinerate apostles that Jesus had sent out.  When you offer hospitality it’s about making space for someone.  And it’s not just a space for them to lay their head or sleep or a place at the table so you can share your meals with them, but it’s all of that.

It might be repairing a sandal or offering a gently used pair of sandals if there’s have completely worn out.  Or maybe helping them sew a tunic because they only got to take the one on their back with them.

Or perhaps maybe offering them a hand-me-down.  Or maybe to gift them with a new one and certainly quenching their thirst.  And helping to refresh them as they travel.

The disciples do the things that Jesus gave them the authority to do.  They do that throughout the day I imagine and then they come back at the end of the day to the host who has offered them space.

They invariably would have to visit, that’s part on the culture in first century Palestine and the Middle East.  They would talk and visit even at meals and perhaps laugh and of course, tell stories.  That’s not just an Appalachian thing, folks.  Although we certainly do live in to it, don’t we?

They are telling stories and you know that the hosts are going to hear all the Jesus stories that the disciples have to tell and you know they’ve got a ton of them.  There’s a Jesus story for everything.  Can you imagine them sharing that with their hosts?  You know, their hosts in showing hospitality will be very attentive and curious and will listen to the stories that their guests will share.

But also as good guests they will listen to their hosts and they will be curious about them and their families and their livelihood and the things that they enjoy and talk about such as going to synagogue and what that’s like and a little theology.  They may talk about their beliefs and share who they believe Jesus is if they even know who Jesus is at this point.

As they do this, something begins to happen in building this relationship and that seems to me to be the mutual reward.  Is that the reward Jesus is speaking of?  Where people begin to be in this relationship and they start to become friends.

Not just acquaintances, but friends who know and care about one another.  Even if they don’t exactly hold the same set of beliefs.  There’s a sense of mutuality and a sense of respect for one another.  A caring for one another.  And actually liking one another when you spend time together in that kind of setting.

When they all got back, or when some of the disciples ran into other disciples on their way along, do you think they were counting points, like how James and John were always comparing themselves with one another?

Do you think they were saying did you convert anyone today?  How did it go last week over in that little village over there or that little town over there?  Did you convert anybody?  Jesus, on this trip, didn’t really make conversion a thing?  Really it wasn’t a thing until Pentecost, right?

So the answer to the question, did you convert anybody, was no.  Each disciple or apostle made a few good friends, perhaps some lasting relationships, and a lot to think about both ways.  The question I have is did the hosts see a reflection of Jesus in the ones that Jesus sent as the guests of these hosts and did the guests see a reflection of Jesus in their hosts?

Part of hospitality is being curious not confrontational, not at all.  To ask and be curious about how, when, why, seeking understanding of each other, which goes both ways, back and forth.

I love St. Francis’ prayer that is often recited, but especially the one line that comes to mind is the petition that says “Lord, help me to seek understanding rather than to be understood.”  Think about that.  Help me seek understanding rather than be understood.

Making space for these strange itinerant apostles wasn’t only a physical space or sewing a tear in a tunic or repairing a sandal or giving them some food or water or a place to stay but is also listening, making a space in their mind and in their hearts to listen and to learn.

To adopt?  Well. . . maybe, maybe not, but certainly develop a relationship and possibly plant a seed.  Jesus’ words to the ones he was sending and to the ones who will welcome and receive them promises that if they had been welcomed, so has Jesus been welcomed by the host and also God the Father who sent Jesus has been welcomed and received by that host.

Maybe we as hosts also should not be afraid of the itinerate stranger in our lives with whom we cross paths.  The question that I have for today is, will we look for Jesus in these, and will they see Jesus in us?

Even a cup of cold water given to one of these in the name of the disciple, truly Jesus tells us none of these will lose their reward.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.