Monday, June 30, 2014

You Are a Treat Matthew 10:40-42

In Mathew today we are hearing a call into service.  Jesus is explaining to the disciples how the whole ministry thing works.  That whoever welcomes one they are welcoming Christ and through Christ welcoming Abba God.  Wow that’s a lot.  Jesus is saying through you one meets Christ, through Christ one meets God…therefore through you one meets God.
That may be a bit much to wrap ones head around but simply put through our actions and reactions and non –action others will see God.  You see this is some of what JJ was addressing last week.  It is through our actions that the Gospel is preached and that Christ is made manifest in this world.
Now one reaction to that may be; “Not me!, you can’t place such a burden on me.  There is no way that I am or ever will be the face of Christ in this world!  I am too flawed, broken, I am mean sometimes, or just had not enough coffee to be the face of anything this morning.”  Those are very legitimate reactions But Christ put a caveat on this face of God thing….
It is when you simply offer hospitality, a gift of cool water to the smallest of these little ones. This could say offer a smile to a stranger on the street.  That smile or a “Good day” may be all it takes or it may be worth nothing.  But here is an interesting thing in these verses it also speaks of the receiver.
It says those that receive a prophet for being a prophet shall be rewarded those that welcome holy people for just being holy people will be rewarded.  You see the reception of the face of Christ, thus the reception of God through you is the other parties reward.
It is through our presence as the Christian it is through our action as Christians that we are promised rewards.  If through that practice we have happened to welcome a prophet, if through that action we have happened to welcome a Holy person…great, all the more reward in Heaven and I should point out, we will not know who we have welcomed until then. Also there is no talk about right living brings rewards right now. Life is what we make of it and good and bad things happen to everyone.
But we know when we have given a glass of water; we know when we have been welcoming.  It is the joy of being Christian that allows us, sometimes without intention, to be the face of Christ in this world.
A lot of this sounds like simple hospitality.  The united church of Christ has a saying No matter who you are or where you are on life’s Journey you are welcome here.
That reminded me to just look at some of things we proclaim as the body of Christ covenanted to each other and to the church in Christian living.  Here is what the united Church of Christ says about our beliefs; (This is taken directly from the website.

“What we believe
We can tell you more about the United Church of Christ with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and Tradition which express our commitments. That they may all be one. [John 17:21] This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.
*       In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential. The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love. Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith. Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Down through the centuries, however, Christians have shared their faith with one another through creeds, confessions, catechisms and other statements of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Evangelical Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Cambridge Platform and the Kansas City Statement of Faith are valued in our church as authentic testimonies of faith. [See Beliefs for the complete texts of some of these testimonies.] In 1959, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many of us use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study. There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word. This affirmation by one of the founders of the Congregational tradition assumes the primacy of the Bible as a source for understanding the Good News and as a foundation for all statements of faith. It recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God's help for living today. The Priesthood of All Believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.
Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.”[1]
A priesthood of all believers, that is a huge each and every one of us is called to be a priest of Christ, a follower and an enactor of Christ on this earth.  We are not just reminded of the possibilities of the rewards for being welcoming, offering simple hospitality we are called to even more than that.
The “what we believe” section goes on to explain; “But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world: To proclaim in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To work for reconciliation and the unity of the broken Body of Christ. To seek justice and liberation for all.
This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.”[2]
This is the challenge put to us today on this gospel reading what are we to do to be hospitable in an inhospitable world?  What does that mean for us as individuals, what does that mean for us as a community?
Let me say this now before we go any further…we are doing it.  We are you are each and every one of you are Christ’s face in this world.  Each and every one of you is a minister, a priest in this world.  How you ask?
Through your gift of time and offerings we are surrounded by beautiful gardens.  Through your gifts of concern and love many have made it through difficult times.  Some, of whom, were in this church and some outside of it.  If you offered and ear, a shoulder a kind word you performed ministry.  Some are called to go to a job everyday and you do the best you can and it sometimes it seems as if it is never enough.  Yet, as long as you are living to your fullest and doing the best you can that is your ministry.I also have some really good news for you when you try and failed.  When you reached out and were turned away.  When you rethink things and wonder if you could have done it differently.  You then too are a member of the priesthood.  For you see there is discernment and learning always to be done.  God did not make us perfect and Christ did not make this Christian thing easy.  If it was easy everyone would be trying it and the world would be...Well … literally heaven.
You know this struggle of being human, seeking God, and trying to be that face of Christ isn’t always easy.  Yet it is what we have been called to, drawn to, want to know more about, and understand better each and every day.  I truly believe that and I think you do as well otherwise, why are you here?

St. Irenaeus back in the early 150’s or so wrote;
The tender flesh itself
Will be found one day
-quite surprisingly-
To be capable of receiving,
And yes, full
Capable of embracing
The searing energies of God.
Go figure, Fear not.
For even at its beginning
The humble clay received
God’s Art, whereby
One part became the eye,
Another the ear, and yet
Another this impetuous hand.
Therefore the flesh
Is not to be excluded
From the wisdom and the power
That now and ever animates
All things. His life-Giving
Agency is made perfect,
We are told, in weakness—
Made perfect in flesh.[3]
We gather as a community in the love of Christ as people have done since the first meal he shared with followers and family more than 2000 years ago. But why, why do we come together Just to hear a preacher ramble on and on?  Well we know that isn’t true for some days the preacher is on fire and inspired and other days he misses the mark and that’s okay cause what may not have fed you in the sermon may have fed someone else and another person may be fed today because you sat with them and shared presence, prayer, and community. Another is fed by the music while still another is fed in the sacred time of Eucharist and every Sunday that all changes about.
But we are here to be affirmed in who we are. We are here as the body of Christ those who come weekly or monthly the Guest and the one who has been dragged here by friends. We are here to be refreshed, renewed and to be loved so that as we leave this place we will have the energy, the where withal to be the one who offers a cool glass of water.
Not everyone can get the analogy of a cool glass of water.  We know where Jesus lived was hot and dry and water though needed to survive was rarely cool less it was freshly drawn from the well.  You have heard the stories and seen images of that time one often went out early in the morn and took water from the well to fill clay jars.  By the time the water got back to the dwelling place it was already raising in temperature. A cool glass of water is not just refreshing but it is a treat.
So we each one of us is called to be a priest of Christ.  Each one of us is called to be the face of Christ.  We know if we are welcoming we will be rewarded and yet that is not of concern for the reward is in the afterlife so we know we need not be concerned with our reward but our action.
As we have prayed many times so I will repeat the prayer of
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[4]

You are the refreshing cool glass of water.  Your are the face of Christ, you are a treat to encounter every day, you are a royal priesthood so as St. Francis said and as this verse we reflected upon today really says Preach the Gospel often, use words if you have too! Amen!

[1] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[2] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[3] Scott Cairns, Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life (Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2007).
[4] Daniel B. Clendenin, The Journey with Jesus poems and prayers, www.journey with (accessed June 23, 2014).

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