Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Waldron Second Sermon

In case you want to know the texts, I preach from the lectionary. This one is Matthew 10: 40-42, the other one is Matthew 10: 1-8 I think. I'm tired

During the past couple weeks, Lara and I have been encountered numerous times with hospitality. Our refrigerator was stocked with some delicious food when we arrived at the parsonage, someone dropped by a flower arrangement for our dining room table, our yard was mowed for us while I was gone to annual conference, a welcome mat was placed on our doorstep, a churchmember babysat our nephew while the movers came to unload our stuff from the truck…the list goes on and on. What a blessing it is to be made to feel so welcome!

As I shook each of your hands and met you all this past Sunday, I experienced the “open hearts and minds” that also contribute to my sense of the great hospitality of this church. I thank God that I was appointed to a body of believers who are so adept at showing hospitality to their new pastor, and I encourage us all to direct the same outpouring of welcome into our community.

Read green highlighted #1



Hospitality is a time honored expression of our religion, and is written about fairly extensively in our Holy Scriptures. In the stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs, in the prophets, in the books of poetry and wisdom, in the Gospels, and letters, hospitality is celebrated as an activity worthy of God’s name.
In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples, “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.”
Now in this day and age, many of us probably take cold water for granted most of the time. All I have to do to get a cold cup of water is to walk to my fridge and push a cup into the water spout on the door. I don’t even have to open the fridge! Furthermore, my house and workplace are so cool that I rarely feel the dry, cracking sensation in the back of my throat. If we transport our imaginations to the arid hills of Palestine though, we might be able to get a handle on how precious this gift potentially is. It is not a ladle of water, it is not tepid water, it is a glass of cold water! And to a “little one” no less! The high regard that this expression of hospitality conveys echoes very well the love and refreshment that God has in store for us!
What is this reward that Jesus is speaking about? In the Genesis reading, we heard about Abraham and Sarah hosting the 3 strangers, who turn out to be either angels of God, or an expression of the Trinity. Shortly after the three show up on Abraham’s doorstep, he is anxiously running around preparing a meal for them. After the hospitality was shown, the guests reveal an intended surprise—Sarah, even in her old age, will soon give birth to a son.
What a reward! Sarah responds as many of us would—she breaks out into a fit of laughter. Though the visitors don’t quite know why she’s laughing—we all do. Sarah is in her 90s or so, quite beyond childbearing years. This reward sounds pretty odd—it is not exactly something the two are expecting. In fact, it reorients their plans quite a bit—perhaps a bit of a white elephant. How many 90 year old couples are prepared to have a child after all! The reward is that God will use these two according two in the way that God has in mind. The hospitality shown by Abraham and Sarah proved to God that they are willing to act in a selfless way. Though the reward of a son will be a great joy to the two, the real reward is the opportunity to be utilized by God!

It has been my experience that hospitality is not just “open doors,” (to borrow 1/3 or our United Methodist motto). It also involves “open hearts” and “open minds” as well. To be sufficient catalysts for God’s energy, we must be completely at the will of our master, through our actions, through our thoughts, and through our emotions.

Another instance of hospitality occurs on the road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel. Two disciples are walking along a road after Jesus has died, and a fellow traveler joins them for a while, and joins in their conversation. They tell this fellow traveler about their master, and what he had meant to them. When they arrived at their destination, the traveler bids them farewell, but they invite him into their home. As they sit down to eat together, after the whole day of carrying on vigorous converstion with one another, they recognize the man as Jesus. What a reward! The scriptures say that Jesus was known to them “in the breaking of the bread—their eyes were opened—and then the man disappeared from their sight.
The two said to one another, “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
Whoever gives a cup of cold water will not lose their reward! As the three sat down with one another, the two disciples had open hearts and open minds toward their guest. They had shared in conversation those things that were most important to them, and the master rewarded them by opening their eyes.
………..Here read highlighted #2…………..
Creating peace on earth is a task that we commit ourselves to, but rarely know what to do to have any real impact in this regard. Here is something we can do—showing hospitality in this way, we create peace in our small corner of the world. This contributes to the overall achievement of peace in the whole world. What a reward for the people of God!
In what ways are we welcoming our fellow travelers on the journey of faith into this house? How are we bringing the peace and fellowship of hospitality to this community? I can assure you that in the short time that I’ve been here, I have noticed our open doors. We welcome all sorts of community groups into this beautiful facility next door that we built for that specific purpose. This is truly a cold glass of water for our community! We have extended invitations to youth groups from other churches to utilize our basement with its pool table, air hockey, and phooseball. What a cold glass of water for our community! Through our food pantry, we have helped provide for around 15 people in the week that I’ve been in the office. What a cold glass of water for our community! (by the way, This cold glass of water that needs to be refilled!!!) We have welcomed neighborhood youth onto our parking lot for a game of basketball. What a cold glass of water for our community! We are planning a Vacation Bible School that will be open to our entire community, whether or not the kid’s parents want to join the church. Now, when it comes to our worship of the most high---how can we better offer a refreshing glass of water to this community? Are we friendly and inviting to visitors that come through these doors? Are we flexible in our worship culture and social customs that are particular to this congregation, while being true to the body of believers who have established this place? Do we really want to open the doors of hospitality, knowing that the people we invite in may eventually influence change in this house of worship?
I believe we do! Based on the sincere welcome that my family has received, I would be willing to bring a weary fellow traveler to this house of worship for a meal. To put ourselves out on a limb by offering hospitality means that we are willing to be conduits for God’s action. God’s actions may surprise us, we may laugh, or our eyes might be opened to a new truth, but we can rest assured that the words of Christ will not fail us.

2 comments:

  1. This was great - encouraging and probing too.Thanks for sharing it

    I also liked your comments about the girls being served first. Sounds like your UMC local church has a great gift of hospitality and putting the gospel into action.

    We don't use the lectionary, but I've just finished a course on liturgics that's made me wish we did.

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  2. Hi

    You left a comment on my journal asking how I'd found your site. To be honest I'm not quite sure. Probably from someone else's blogroll :)

    the reason I commented was that I was encouraged by what you wrote. I'd recently written about hospitiality - again triggered by another person (lesstravelled.net)- and I've been puzzling over the difference between hospitality and entertaining :)

    Anyway your preaching sounds good. Be blessed

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