June 26, 2011
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, or rock and our redeemer. Amen.
40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever 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; 42and 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.”
I can’t help but think about this text as I look around this place. It is easy for us to hear this text and think about how we welcome people into this space, into this building and into the community of Christ. We think about welcoming others in…and how we may be welcoming Christ into our midst as we do that. And while it is important for us to continue to welcome people while we are in this space…think about all the time during the week that you are not in this space. We are the Body of Christ in our homes, in our community, at our places of work and anywhere else that we go.
We hear, throughout Matthew’s gospel that the emphasis is on the disciples being good hosts – caring for the least of Jesus’ family. Which is true for us, as well, that we are to be alert and caring for the least of those around us, the hungry, the sick, the abused, the hurt, those who are excluded.
But in our text today, that is turned around. It is the missionaries who are the ones that are being cared for by others. We, who go out, into the mission field, the world around us, are the ones being cared for by others. We need to be gracious guests. We need to learn to accept help from others.
It is often true that the most caring people can be the ones who are least likely to accept any help for themselves. Just as my mom, the nurse, she is not the best patient.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be both care-givers – the ones who share the love and grace of God - and care-receivers – the ones who receive from others, allowing them to use their gifts. I know, it’s not always easy, but it’s part of who we are called to be as disciples in the world.
I’ll give you an example…
Thursday afternoon I was on my way to a visit and to my pleasant surprise parked next to a car with a Trinity sticker on the back. I thought to myself, oh, we should have a prize patrol or something…some sort of reward for being caught evangelizing to the world about our congregation.
As I walked into the facility, the person I was there to visit was out at an appointment…but I did end up seeing the driver of the Trinity car. I was greeted with a big hug…I was introduced to her co-workers. We talked and laughed. We hugged again, and I was on my way.
Better off, I might add, than when I walked in.
You see, I was there to give care and share the good news with someone, but instead, I was received as a welcomed guest, given the love of Christ through smiles and conversation and empowered to share that good news with others.
I was blessed to be the recipient of love and grace myself.
Sometimes it’s hard to just receive that love and grace. Yet we are called, each of us, to allow others to use their gifts to help us and others.
When others welcome us….as Jesus’ messengers…..there is salvation in that moment. It doesn’t mean that they save us…or we save them…but by our words and deeds, we bring Christ’s presence to them. Just as that woman brought a moment of salvation and grace to me….we do that for so many others that surround us.
It is in both the giving and the receiving that God’s grace is known and shared.
When we are out there…going to school, playing sports, going to work, running errands, you name it….we don’t just represent ourselves, but the church we serve and the God we serve. Lots of people have talked with me about just knowing that as a pastor I bring Christ’s presence with me wherever I go. And yes, there have been times and places where my presence has affected the words and behaviors of those around me…when folks find out I’m a pastor they immediately rethink what they have just said and curb their language.
And representing Christ isn’t a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t go to our heads. I hope that when I walk into a hospital room, that the presence of Christ I represent brings some comfort to the sick and dying. I hope that as preacher and presider, the words and actions are more than just my own, but somehow are the words and actions that Christ would say and do within the community.
How does the community here…look different because we are givers and receivers of God’s grace? What does it mean to us to go out and treat others as if they were Christ themselves? And for that matter, what does it mean to us to be received as Christ was received?
So what does that mean to all of us? As members of the Body of Christ, we all bring the presence of Christ with us no matter where we go. How does who we are as a community of Christ and the ministry we are a part of change if we take seriously the understanding that we – you and me = are Christ’s presence in the world?
I challenge you this week…to keep your eyes open for a few things…
Firstly, look at ways that God has blessed you to be the presence of Christ to someone else…either through prayer, or a hug, or even just a listening ear…and be present in those moments.
Secondly, look for ways that others have opportunities to bless you…to give you a moment of grace, to touch your life or your heart just when it needs it.
As the Body of Christ we are welcomed and called to give and receive…not because of any special reward, but it comes from that love and joy and grace we have already received from God.
So go and share the wealth and abundance grace God has bestowed on us all. And may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.