July 2, 2017

The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew the 10th Chapter…..

Glory to you, O Lord

Jesus said to the 12: Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 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.”

The Gospel of the Lord….Praise to you,. O Christ

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable

in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer…Psalm 19.14

Have you ever greeted a good friend and went to kiss them on the right cheek and they went to kiss you on the same side? It’s like ….Hi, oops, uh,Hi!  Or one of you moves in to give a hug and the other moves in to give a kiss. One of you ends up kissing the air and the other one’s arms don’t quite know what to do, right? … Each of us have individual styles of receiving family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.  However we may display our hospitality, receiving and welcoming friend, colleague or stranger, Jesus is telling His disciples [then and now], that we represent Him, and that He represents “the one who receives us”.  Jesus reminds us not only of our privilege, but also of our responsibility – as an ambassador of Christ.

Today’s reading continues St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teaching of His disciples, as He journeys closer and closer to Jerusalem; His final destination.

Jesus has been walking them, thru’ the paces of discipleship. But Jesus doesn’t keep His disciples in a classroom and teach Mon – Fri, from 9 -5; rather, He takes them on field trips. Jesus epitomized the “object lesson”. He not only taught verbally, but He also physically showed the disciples what to do, how to do it and why to do it.

As you may know, the Hebrews lived in isolated communities and although there were 12 tribes, each tribe was contained within its own district. One reason for this self-imposed segregation, was because they were waiting for their Messiah to come from the line of David; blood line was a way that kept the generations pure. There were other reasons too, mostly they had to do with cultural taboos  regarding ritualistic bathing, restricted foods and religious purity.

Jesus, the rabbi/teacher, also took the disciples to the other side of the tracks, you know- the bad neighborhoods – where the pagan/gentiles lived! The believers of other God’s, the non-believers, and those with mixed Jewish bloodlines. So you can understand the dissent it caused the Religious leaders, it was an affront to their whole way of living.

As a hospital chaplain, I am privileged to visit with Patients and their families when they may be at a vulnerable time in their life. As I chat and pray with them, I feel honored that they chose to share their fears and hopes with me. I often am humbled and truly feel God’s presence as we talk and pray – – and sometimes the patient will say they felt God answered their prayer by sending me. But the truth of the matter is: Christ is already there. I didn’t bring Him, He brought me, and I see Christ in their eyes as they speak of the strength the patients & their families draw from –  in the midst of the ordeal they are going thru’.

I’m sharing this experience with you not to boast, but to encourage you to connect your own experiences of God’s presence when being hospitable or when receiving hospitality. It truly is a joy!

In fact, let me tell you how I came about to attend St. John’s.

  1. First, I went on the internet to research where Lutheran churches were

then I :

  1. checked out a church’s outreach ministry work, listed on their website
  2. I got directions and worship times and attended services
  3. Then I checked out the pastors preaching styles
  4. I also checked out the feeling I got from the congregations
  5. And finally, I hopped from one church to another till I felt at home.

Do you remember my first criteria for choosing A church [to attend]?

HINT: It wasn’t spoken in plural terms.

If you guessed the outreach ministry /or social ministry work– listed on the church’s website, you are right!

I wouldn’t even have gone to a church if their outreach ministry wasn’t active.  It tells me that the congregation sees itself as a light in the community and the world. I want to be part of that light.

As Christians, we are called to be bearers of God’s presence, bringing with us the most precious gift in the world – ‘the gift of Jesus the Christ.” I’m here because I see THAT happening in St. John’s.

We have a thriving outreach program here at St. John’s. I would like to lift up your ministry as you sew, knit, shop and drop off groceries, present financial offerings, offer clothing, blankets, supply health packets, support Renatha, assist with Irena’s legal fees, you visit, call or send cards to our members who are homebound or ill, in need of transportation, provide assistance with seasonal chores – and other open-hearted acts of kindness – that are so appreciated by the recipients. …the list can go on and on… It’s also important to lift up those members who are employed in – not for profit institutions who minister to those in need thru’ their employment: teachers, distribution agency workers, pantry and soup kitchen workers; this list can go on and on….too!

As you do these open-hearted acts of kindness, you need to remain aware that you are doing Christ’s work. As a modern-day disciple, you are continuing Christ’s ministry and are a co-creator with Christ, in this earthly kingdom. You need to allow the Joy of the Lord to fill your heart as you perform these needed tasks. There is nothing wrong with being joyfully aware of the good you are doing in Christ’s name, because the joy will helps continue – the sometimes difficult work that is needed in this difficult world.

As we bring Christ before others in our home, in the church, at school, work, or play, in our neighborhood and in the world – – Jesus is made present. This truly is the most precious gift we can offer! Who could deny the joy that brings?

Most of us probably don’t find it too difficult to offer hospitality to our family and friends, but what about the stranger we sit next to at the Dr’s office, the youth playing on the front walk, the neighbor we meet across the back lane, the fellow worker on the assembly line that speaks a different language, the fellow student in a wheel chair? How often do we welcome others who have fallen through the cracks or who are labeled outcasts in our society? What would move us to give them the gift of Christ’s presence?

Hospitality is risky business. An open heart and an open home or church could be a target for unpleasant experiences. Let’s face it, “different” causes glares, discomfort – – rudeness?

But, it can also precipitate unexpected surprises: new friends, a richer culture, a broader spectrum for solving problems or creating new ideas, again, the list can go on and on!

Being hospitable to loved ones is not very difficult, unless of course, it’s a one-way street!  Right! We all have at least one relative like that! I think the real meaning of hospitality is when we receive someone into our lives with an open heart – – who is un-familiar to us – – then the concept of hospitality is truly Christ centered.  Jesus -our Host – is the epitome of the Hospitality of God -toward us!

People with different languages, cultures, ethnicities, and religions:  all, ALL are God’s  children, and all are welcomed into His earthly and heavenly kingdom.

Christ is God’s hospitality toward us. God gives Himself fully to us in His Son Jesus the Christ. In fact, Jesus did not spare His own life to show us how much He wants us to be with Him for all eternity. But, God doesn’t only give Himself fully to us. He also fully receives us and accepts us as we are. In Christ we experience a two-fold hospitality, and we can extend that hospitality to others ……Amen.

Let us pray,  welcoming Jesus,  as a part of Your body [here on earth], may St. John’s Church continue the ministry You set before us: receiving our brothers and sisters near and far into our lives , our homes and hearts,  through a thriving outreach program, so that those in need will see Your love for them…. As You call us, may we respond, Here I am Lord……..and the church says, Amen

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