“To Welcome and Receive”
“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.” (Matthew 10:40-42, NRSV)
Let us pray: Faithful God, your love stands firm from generation to
generation, your mercy is always abundant. Give us open and understanding
hearts, that having heard your word, we may seek Christ’s presence in all
whom we meet. Amen.
It has been two summers now since my last trip to Guatemala. I have
been to Central America a half a dozen times on mission trips in the last twenty
years. One of the most important things that I have learned about travel to Central
America is the all-important packing and information list. It is usually a one page
piece of paper that spells out some vitally important survival tips for the trip. For
example, how much to tip the people who handle your luggage, how to make your
trip safe, what is the appropriate attire, even though it is hot, shorts should not be
worn because it is a sign of disrespect. Make a copy of your passport in case you
lose it. Where and how to exchange money. What immunizations you will need.
Malaria pills, insurance, and liability forms.
The packing list includes all kinds of items: ear plugs, hat, motion sickness
pills, flash light, small battery operated fan, rain poncho, water bottle, camera,
water shoes, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above, mosquito repellent, antiseptic
hand wipes, an extra pair of shoes in case one gets muddy, snack food, and several
other items I won’t bore you with. But if you were going you’d want to know about them.
I am extremely grateful for the detail of the “what to pack” list for
Guatemala. But I can’t help but compare that list to what Jesus tells his disciples
earlier in Matthew chapter ten. He tells them to “Take no gold, or silver, or
copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff.”
(Matthew 10:-9-10, NRSV)
Jesus’ disciples don’t have the luxury of such a packing list. Jesus simply
says “Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Proclaim the good news that the
kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers,
and cast out demons.” He tells them what to do and where to go but gives them
no packing list. He simply says you will rely on the hospitality and kindness of strangers.
This is played out in our two verses of scripture from our gospel reading for
today. And there in our short passage is this one line: “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.” It is such a little thing, don’t you think,
of all the things Jesus says, it is so simple; to give a cup of cold water.
We often hear Jesus’ call to discipleship as an impossible mission. We
imagine it requires a huge sacrifice, and yes, sometimes discipleship is a huge
sacrifice. But this time, Jesus seems to say, it’s nothing more than giving a cup
of cold water to one in need. Or offering a hug to someone who is grieving. Or a
listening ear to someone in need of a friend. Or offering a ride to someone without
a car. Or volunteering at the local food bank. Or making a donation to an agency
like IPM or MEAC Or…you get the idea.
Discipleship doesn’t have to be heroic. It can be small and simple.
Discipleship can be any number of things: acts of devotion, tenderness, and
forgiveness that go largely unnoticed but they keep our relationships healthy and
alive. You see the life of faith is composed of a thousand small gestures and
simple acts. Except that, according to Jesus, there is no small gesture. Anything
done in faith and love has great significance for everyone who is involved and thus
it impacts the world that God loves so much.
You probably have heard as many times as I have Loren Eiseley’s famous
story of “the star thrower” – the one about the guy tossing starfish after starfish
into the sea. When asked why, he replies that if they don’t get back in the water
soon, they’ll dry out and die. Looking at a beach strewn with thousands of starfish,
the other person responds that he can’t possibly hope to make any difference. To
which the guy says – “To the ones I throw back, it makes all the difference in
Exactly. Because Jesus has promised to return to redeem everything in
love, to fix all that is damaged, heal all that is broken and hurt, and wipe the tears
from every eye, in the meantime we are free to devote ourselves to acts of mercy
and deeds of compassion small and large. We don’t have to try and save the
world – that is what Jesus has promised to do! – But simply being aware that even
the smallest act of care and kindness for another person can change everything!
Even a cool cup of water can change the world to those to whom we give it and,
according to Jesus, such acts have endless consequences.
Can you imagine that, that each and every act of welcome, hospitality and
kindness is filled with Christ’s love for the world, a love we can share anytime and
anywhere with gestures that may seem small and insignificant but are vital in the
lives of those to whom we offer them.
The good news is that many of you are already doing this. You are already,
in countless ways making this world God loves so much a little better, a little
more trustworthy, a little more joyful through your gestures of love, mercy, and
compassion. You see, there is no small gesture, no small act of kindness, no
insignificant welcome and it is precisely through these small acts, the cups of cold
water, hugs, helping hands, and listening ears that you are caring for the world God
loves so much.
So, I change you, as we leave this sanctuary today and go out into a thirsty
world and offer a simple cup of cold water, a genuine smile, to a lonely stranger, a
heartfelt prayer to a hurting friend, a warm casserole to a grieving widow, a $20
bill to a hungry person, a second chance to someone who made a mistake, a
listening ear to a confused and unsure neighbor. You get it. Now go and do it.
Let us pray: