The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 8A (June 29, 2014)
Lessons:Jeremiah 28:5-9 Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1) Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42
Semicontinuous Series: Jeremiah 23:1-6 St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)
Prayer of the Day: O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
10:40 [Jesus said,] “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.”
St. Matthew 10:40-42 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
A Cup of Cold Water
I was having coffee with a friend the other day. As we visited, we watched a man in a wheelchair struggle with a fairly large package. It was balanced on one arm of the chair, while he used the other arm to propel himself across the parking lot. He was rounding a row of cars, presumably heading towards his own car, when the package caught the rear end of another vehicle, and crashed to the ground. He repositioned his wheelchair, leveraged himself against a curb, and tried to get the package back up on the arm of the chair, but just wasn’t able.
As we sat there, wondering if we should get up and help, someone beat us to the punch. An elderly lady, with packages of her own, walked over to him and struck up a conversation. After a few moments, she placed her packages in his lap, helped him ease his own back onto the arm of the wheelchair. The two of them then continued around the corner, out of our sight.
It was a touching moment. Two strangers (at least they seemed as though they were strangers) were united by one’s need, and the other’s kindness. Two strangers were drawn together by one’s willingness to receive help, and the other’s willingness to offer it.
In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is preparing his disciples for ministry. He is about to send them out on their own. Their responsibility will be to bring his presence with them, and share the essence of who he is with any who will receive it. This seems a rather complicated thing to do: how do offer someone else’s presence, especially if that person isn’t there.
But Jesus tells them plainly how to do this. They will go from town to town, carrying on the ministry he had begun, knowing that whoever welcomes them, welcomes him. And, whoever welcomes a prophet or someone who is righteous — whoever gives a little one a cup of water in his name — none of these will lose their reward. Jesus teaches the disciples what the rest who believe in him will soon learn: in extending those gestures of kindness and love in his name, his presence becomes real in their midst.
It is in welcoming one another in the name of Christ, that Christ is there among them. It is in offering a cup of water to the thirsty (or food to the hungry, or clothing to the naked, or medical help to the ill, or comfort to the bereaved...) on his behalf, that they are able to be with him even when he isn’t traveling with them. Jesus calls all of his followers (the twelve, and those who will listen to them) to do in his name the simple, faithful acts of kindness that bring his presence into their midst.
In other words, they are to take seriously what Jesus himself takes seriously: to study God’s Word, and be changed by it; to more clearly follow in the example of their Lord; to care for others: the poor, the sick, the lame, the possessed, sinners, children and the like. And as they do so, they will not lose their reward. What will that reward be? A life lived in the presence of their Lord. In the meeting of these needs, they also met Jesus.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why is Jesus preparing his disciples to carry out ministry on their own?
- What are the disciples facing, as they think about their future responsibilities?
- How will his presence continue to be part of the early church’s life and ministry?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- Who comes to me in God’s name, that I might consider welcoming?
- What small act of kindness have I seen, that makes me aware of God’s presence?
- With whom might I share a “cup of cold water” — to touch with kindness?