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  • pastoremily5

July 2, 2023

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Jeremiah 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Romans 6:12-23

Matthew 10:40-42


Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you

from the one who calls us to welcome others

as he has welcomed us. Amen


Welcome,

the word appears six times in our short gospel for the day

so clearly it is something important to Jesus,

but it does beg the question,

what does Jesus mean by welcome?


It helps to put this little section of scripture back into context,

it comes at the very end of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples

as he is about to send them out on their own


- we’ve heard from what is called ‘the missionary discourse’ the last few weeks.

Jesus has appointed twelve of his disciples,

given them authority over unclean spirits

and the ability to heal

and tells them to go out to the lost sheep of Israel

heal those they encounter who need it

and proclaim to them “the kingdom of heaven has come near”


oh and they are not to bring anything extra

or even essential for their own comfort and maintenance on the journey,

not an extra pair of sandals or coat,

no bag or even a walking stick,

the disciples are to depend entirely on the hospitality

of those they encounter to meet their needs.


And Jesus knows that not everyone they encounter will be friendly,

Jesus instructs them “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”

And he goes on ‘do not fear, the spirit is with you,

God knows and values you’


and finally he wraps up with these words on welcome,

where Jesus, reinforces to the disciples

that they are representing him to the people they encounter,

just as he, Jesus,

fully represents the one who sent him, to the disciples,

and even the smallest act of welcome is noticed and appreciated.

In this context then

welcome seems to go beyond the friendly greeting

that we often think of,

to include caring for the needs

of those on the receiving end of the welcome.


Needs that might include a cup of cold water sure,

or shelter and food,

or even replacing or repairing a broken sandal,

mending a torn shirt.

And more than even the physical needs

Are the emotional and spiritual needs too

The need to be accepted into a group of people

The need to be listened to, really heard

The need to make connection.


This is a much deeper vision of welcome than we are used to,

than even the disciples were used to,

this is welcome beyond social niceties,

this is in fact the welcome of the kingdom of heaven

the welcome that will be the norm

when the kingdom of heaven comes in its fullness.

A welcome that ensures that all have what they need for abundant life.


Jesus is teaching his disciples about the kingdom,

even as he is having them help share the good news,

and he is teaching them through experience.


And I think it is significant

that the way the disciples will learn about the welcome of the kingdom of heaven

is to the be on the receiving end of welcome,

a position people are often uncomfortable with,

why?

Because it is the less powerful role in the relationship,


think about it,

the one who is doing the welcome

is in the more powerful position,

if you are welcoming someone

it usually means that you are home or a place where you are comfortable

and have resources whether they are material or even relationship resources,

and you have enough power

or are sure enough of your position

to accept one who is outside all of this

and who has a need or desire for some of it,


and if you have the power to offer this

you also have the power to deny all this

leaving the other person with little recourse to change the outcome.


Jesus is having his disciples learn about welcome

by intentionally giving up power,

even the little bit that comes with having a change of clothes.


It really shouldn’t surprise us,

this is what God is doing in Jesus,

as the Christ hymn in Philippians says about Jesus: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)


One of the things that makes Jesus so compelling,

relatable,

even powerful

for us as humans

is that he knows what it’s like to be human,

he has experienced it,

in the flesh,

the good and the bad,

and so we trust him because his knowledge is not just theoretical,

he’s been there

he knows what we need

because he has needed it himself.


If you are always powerful

you do not truly know what it feels like to be powerless.


If you are always the one offering welcome

you do not know what it feels like to be the one in need of welcome.

And if you do not know what it is to need welcome,

how can you even begin to know what the other needs?

especially important if welcome,

kingdom welcome

is ensuring that the other has what they need for abundant life.



As disciples of Jesus we are called To welcome others

As Jesus has welcomed us

Which means seeking to experience both sides of welcome

Serving others and letting others serve us

Providing what we have to fill others’ needs

Humbling ourselves acknowledging that we have needs other can fill.

And in this mutual care

The kingdom of God comes near.



Go out and experience need of welcome,

Jesus tells the disciples,

yes it is a risk

but God knows what you need

and God works through people,

however imperfect they may be,


some will receive you like a prophet,

some like a righteous person,

some may not have much beyond a cup of water

and yet they will offer you what they have

and it will be a great gift,


and you,

you will share with them the good news

that the kingdom of heaven has come near. Amen


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