Sermon for 5 Pentecost, Year A Based on Matt. 10:40-42 By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson "Welcoming Jesus"
Sermon for 5 Pentecost, Year A
Based on Matt. 10:40-42
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Hospitality! In today's gospel, Jesus reminds us of a very profound privilege, and, along with that, a tremendous responsibility. He tells us that we represent, we symbolize him before others. He tells us that the reverse is also true: namely, that others represent and symbolize him before us. Jesus assures us that he himself is present in our lives when we welcome others into our midst. He is also present when others do the same for us.
Jesus is present each and every day in the hospitality that we offer others and others offer us. How often do we realize this? What a privilege and responsibility! What a challenge! What a joy, gift and blessing!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it very well in his book, The Cost of Discipleship: "The bearers of Jesus' word receive a final word of promise for their work. They are now Christ's fellow workers, and will be like him in all things. Thus they are to meet those to whom they are sent as if they were Christ himself. When they are welcomed into a house, Christ enters with them. They are bearers of his presence. They bring with them the most precious gift in the world, the gift of Jesus Christ."
" And with them they bring God the Father, and that means indeed forgiveness and salvation, life and bliss. That is the reward of their toil and suffering. Every service people render them is service rendered to Christ himself. This means grace for the church and grace for the disciple in equal measure. The church will be readier to give them its service and honor, for with them the Lord himself has entered into their midst."
We are Christ bearers before others in our homes, in the church, in school, at work, in the whole world. What would happen if, every day, we were always conscious of this truth and did our best to put it into practice? When we offer and receive hospitality Jesus is made present. This truly is the most precious gift we could give to anyone!
Most of us probably don't find it too difficult to offer hospitality to our family and friends ~ but what about the stranger, the homeless street person, the bag lady or, going all out, the enemy? How often do we welcome these and similar people who have fallen through the cracks or who are labeled outcasts in our society? Do we give them the gift of Christ's presence? Do we have the eyes of faith to see in them Christ's presence to us?
Theologian, Kosuke Koyama, was correct when he observed:" Our society, even the religious community, works on the basis of mutual invitation. Lutherans invite Lutherans. As long as we conduct ourselves in such a way, we have the convenience of speaking our own religious and cultural language. Intellectually and spiritually we live comfortably. But Jesus is not enthusiastic about it. The real meaning of hospitality is found in inviting someone who cannot repay you, someone who is unfamiliar to you. Then the concept of invitation ~ hospitality ~ receives a Christ related meaning. Christ is the Hospitality of God toward us. He invites all of us,from all languages and cultures, to the great feast, the Lord's Supper, the feast which none of us can repay."
" Christian mission hospitals that specialize in meeting the medical needs of the poor are doing what Jesus commanded. The free distribution of food, clothing, shelter and medicine in areas devastated by war, famine and earthquake is what Jesus was talking about. These all point to Christ, who invites us as the Hospitality of God."
Several of the so-called experts who research and study Christian churches that are classified as healthy and growing, have observed that the majority of them are friendly churches, which offer hospitality to others. They are churches that live by the principle: there are no strangers here, only friends whom we have not met.
According to Andrea La Sonde Anastos: "To be faithful disciples, we need to push the boundaries of what we find comfortable and easy. It is hard for many of us, but with God's help it is not impossible. It can start in the smallest of ways. When the beggar holds out his hand or his cup for a coin, you can put it in his hand rather than dropping it in the cup. You can touch him. You don't need to say anything. That may take more time and more experience. But you can touch him, and you can meet his eyes. You can smile. As you walk away, you can remember that you have just seen your brother."
"To be faithful disciples, we need to push the boundaries of what we find comfortable and easy. It is hard for many of us, but with God's help it is not impossible. When the bag lady steps onto the crowded bus, you can rise and give her your seat. You can extend to her the same courtesy you would extend to your mother or grandmother, or to the elderly woman in the mink coat. You can recognize and honor her humanity, not because she has done something marvelous, but simply because she is. As you step off the bus to go to your office, you can remember that you have just met your sister."
So, the next time you give or receive hospitality, remember to rejoice in the other person's presence; remember that it may very well ~ unknown by you ~ make all the difference in the world to you person who receive your hospitality; remember the reverse is also true ~ someone may be the very presence of Christ for you in an unexpected time, place and manner; remember that the giving and receiving of hospitality is the best gift of all because it is the very presence of Christ himself. "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." Amen.
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