|Posted by jeffdoucette on July 4, 2017 at 4:00 PM|
Matthew ch 10:vs 40-42
40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 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; 42 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.
So we have talked about welcoming in our congregation…a lot! Through the Affirming process, through conversations over the past months over different situations. Summer time we talk about welcoming relatives…some we want…and well some we could live without. We welcome friends around the BBQ, or for a refreshing beverage on a warm evening in our back yard. We welcome strangers often here in our church both on Sunday and during the week. We welcome new ideas or maybe we struggle to welcome ideas that are not our own or that we do not agree with. We welcomed a whole group of people at our house yesterday for a Canada day celebration. Welcoming is at the heart of who we are as God’s people.
This past Thursday night I gathered with group of people who have become a circle of support for Lynne and Elizabeth Leyland of our church family. Lynne has been working with a PHD student around welcoming and accessibility issues for people with developmental disabilities. Next Sunday I am excited that Lynne and Elizabeth will share their story with us and invite us into the world of welcoming families who live with disabilities of all kinds.
The concept of welcoming is at the heart of our Scripture passage this morning. Matthew’s gospel goes right to point in just two verses and talks about the critical importance of welcoming in the message and mission of Jesus.
All of Chapter 10 in the Gospel of Matthew is about Jesus calling his disciples and preparing to send them out into the neighboring villages. He has invited them to listen to him, to welcome his ideas, his vision of God’s hospitality, of an invitation for belonging. Jesus faced opposition to this message. He got blank stares by times from his disciples, he got raised eyebrows from those standing around listening and more often than not he got open hostility by the local authorities who were not open, nor willing to listen to this concept of hospitality. They refused because it was not about following the their rule of law, of separation of people into groups and statuses. Jesus wanted people to know God had a house with many rooms for all people…those often around Jesus lived closed off in fear of losing power.
You see Jesus would not play those games…because they were not of God, not of freedom for God’s people. They were more about power and structures and individuals closed to God’s spirit. Jesus wanted his disciples to know that this message of openness and inclusion and hospitality came from God. And he wanted them to bring this message and let it seep into every crack and crevice of society. Into every situation in home and work and social gathering. It was not about playing the game of the authorities of exclusion…but changing the rules of the game to challenge the status quo, the whispers, the outright attempts to exclude and divide.
Jesus came with a simple message of Love God, love your neighbor and yourself. This was about letting God and neighbor into our space and believing that you had a space, you belonged even when others told you or made you feel that you did not.
A sense of belonging is so crucial to the message of God’s kingdom. Jesus wanted everyone around him to know they belonged: The Samaritan woman at the well, the Prodigal son, the woman with the hemmorage, the man with the withered hand, the dying 12 year old, Lazarus, Zacchaeus in the tree, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross, Pilot and so on. Jesus’s message was one of inclusion, of welcome of biblical hospitality.
Jesus was about sitting down and asking for a drink of water from Jacob’s well from the Samaritan woman. Jesus was about welcoming home the Son who had turned his back on his father wasting his fortune. Jesus was about turning around when the woman with the hemmorage touched his cloak and commending her faith. It was about refusing to listen to those who dictated what one could do or not do on the Sabbath and healed the man with the withered hand. It was about touching the hand of a dead 12 year old child to breathe life back into her. It was about engaging his cousins Mary and Martha’s faith and calling forth Lazarus from the tomb and his bandages. it was about inviting Zacchaeus down from that tree and inviting himself to his home to eat with him and offer him salvation that day. It was about looking into Pilot’s face to allow him to see that the truth awaited him in the face of Jesus.
It was about welcoming the thief on the cross into God’s kingdom that day. It was about forgiving Peter on the seashore after his resurrection and offering him forgiveness three times for the three times he denied him.
You see Jesus was about those moments of intimate conversation, of an invitation to taste God’s hospitality. And the taste of God’s hospitality was like a refreshing cold cup of water on a hot day that quenched a thirst. Whereas so often these and other figures from the gospel stories had cold water thrown on their hopes and dreams to taste God’s welcome, inclusion, hospitality…this sense of belonging as God’s children.
So often we believe God’s hospitality, God’s invitation to inclusion, God’s invitation to belonging is ours to control. If people are a certain way, believe a certain thing, agree with what we say, keep things as they always have been, do not try and change anything, fit into a set of rules and structures, well then we will distribute a membership card to them allowing them to enter…as long as they also take a box of envelopes or a PAR form.
But that is not what the Scripture passage says. Hospitality, welcome, inclusion, belonging belongs to God and God only. God has made space for us…and asks us simply to move over in our seats and allow someone else into our row, our personal space, our church so they can taste this cup of cold water, this cup of love, of forgiveness, of a seat at the table, of knowing a conversation of hope awaits each one of us.
But we hear stories again and again of people who feel they have had cold water poured over their hopes and dreams of finding a place to be welcomed, to belong. And they have turned and walked away. We all long to be loved to be welcomed to be listened to.
Jesus loved those deep long conversations with people that quenched their thirst to be heard, to be loved, to be welcomed, and to be valued. He never poured cold water over their hopes and dreams and desire to belong.
As a community, let us choose to remember our Mission Statement that we adopted during our Affirming process…we voted to live into the following:
As the opening words of our United Church creed says: “We are not alone, we live in God’s world…”
At Dunbarton-Fairport United Church we promise to :
• Be open to all people.
• Welcome you regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, differing attributes and abilities both physical and mental, cultural identity, economic circumstance.
• Continue to be challenged to greater inclusion and justice seeking for all of God’s creation.
• Encourage all as disciples to respond to the needs of the wider community and the world with both Christian service and witness.
This is what the gospel speaks of today…may we continue to live into this sense of biblical welcome, hospitality and belonging. Jesus did and we are called to follow the example of Jesus.