Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pentecost 4A

Matthew 10:40-42

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."


Lockdown continues with #StaySafeStayHome, #SaferAtHome and California Governor Newsom's orders to wear masks every time you go out.

Psalm 89:1-4, 14-18

The psalter is the prayer book and the hymnal of the synagogue.

1I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:
4"I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'" (Selah)

14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

15Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.
17For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
18For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Backtracking: this is Matthew's lectionary year

Trinity Sunday – Octave of Pentecost – Matthew 28:16-20

• All authority in heaven and earth
• Go, sent, into all the world – make disciples
• Baptize! Immerse! into the way and the life of Jesus
• I am with you always! Refers back to Emmanuel, God-with-us, at the start of Matthew's gospel

Last week – Pentecost 3 – Matthew 10:24-30

• not peace but division
• Jesus' call of discipleship sometimes puts a disciple at odds with their family of origin or with others they associate with socially, in the workplace, maybe at church
• Jesus creates a new family of his disciples who have experienced the new birth of baptism and who follow his way of justice and righteousness
• to be worthy of Jesus, take up your cross – both the Roman empire's (and other imperial entities) literal cross of execution and giving up our own preferences for the well-being of the other and of the community

Today – Pentecost 4 – Matthew 10:40-42

We're in the 6-month long stretch of the green and growing season of Sundays after Pentecost Ordinary Time that's anything but common and conventional as it emphasizes the church in the power of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of love, of newness. "Ordinary" refers to structured, ordered, arranged, laid out in a pattern.

This is part of Matthew's Missionary Discourse with Jesus' instructions for living in mission as missionaries or "sent people." We also find the miss root in words like missile, commission, permission, missive, emissary. Earlier in this chapter 10 we hear the famous: 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

• Hospitality begins and ends this 3-verse long short snippet.

10:40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

We talk a lot about God's call to us to welcome others, but this passage isn't about that! It's about our getting out there and becoming a guest that others welcome.

In that time and place emissaries, envoys, ambassadors, sometimes a house-servant would represent (re+present / representative) and carry with them the full authority of the person who sent them. It wasn't very different from our elected governmental officials making decisions for us as voters. By electing them, we send those people to serve in our stead in congress, in the state legislature, in city hall. Our vote authorizes them (gives them authority) to speak and act for us. In a similar way we represent Jesus, Jesus represents God.

Reward here is about earned wages, payment you're entitled to, and not a gift of grace.

Prophet, Righteous Person, Little One

Prophets speak God's word of hope and promise for a different future; the end of the old, the beginning of the new, and call people back to the freedom of keeping the commandments. Broadly, a prophet is anyone who speaks for God; that includes us with our baptismal roles of prophet (speaker of God's word), priest (mediator between earth and heaven), and sovereign (caretaker of creation).

Righteous people work for justice, integrity, and restoration of relationships after the manner of prophets. Doesn't that include us?

Little ones are people in any kind of need, so at various times that includes all people inside the church and outside the church. The late Gourmet Chef and Episcopal Priest Robert Farrar Capon insisted God saves only the last, the lost, the little, and the least.

Whichever of these groups you happen to be in at whatever time, Jesus calls people to identify you with Jesus and Jesus with you!

What Now?

I probably can speak for everyone when I say we miss live worship, weekly Eucharist, choir that by now would be on summer break, brunch time tasty eats and interesting conversations, but with cases multiplying and too many people not complying with basic distancing or with the order for masks statewide, I'm in no hurry to return to church campus. We're not going back yet, so what now with these verses from Matthew's gospel?

From what I've observed, everyone at church does their best to welcome visitors, strangers, and returning newcomers to church, and most of us probably do well in our other spaces and places. Sometimes we discern wisely with a good outcome; other times our risk may not yield great results.

But Jesus' words here aren't about our own hospitable behaviors and actions; they're about actions of others related to our presence. This isn't about us welcoming others; it's about others welcoming us. Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells people to shake off any residue of inhospitable situations that may have gotten stuck on you and move on to the next possibility.

This is about getting out there and becoming a guest.

Everyone has vivid memories about surprising welcomes. I've written about the astonishing welcome a group of Tongan United Methodists in A Former City gave me, but I don't believe these verses refer to that general type of situation. I'm not convinced they're about when a family you suspected was down to their last handful of change invited you over for a dinner that turned out to be a royal feast.

• Is it about door-to-door evangelism to invite people to your new church start or revitalized neighborhood programming? That sounds closer, but I truly don't know. Tell me!

Along with asking what type of hospitality in which setting Jesus' words could refer to, an important related question is how persistent does Jesus call us to be before we shake off the dust from that encounter.

• How many times at what intervals do we reach out to individuals and organizations in our attempts to connect? Please tell me your response to this one, too?

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