Friday 27 June 2014

Pentecost 3 Matthew 10:40-42

In Matthew 10 Jesus continues his instructions to his disciples. Are these then for us too or are they specific to that time and context? Jesus speaks  of rewards or wages, of a prophet and a righteous man. These could refer to a group  of religious scholars or teachers who functioned in Jewish society at that time. Recognize and welcome a disciple as a disciple of Christ, accepting the word that they carry, and we will receive the promised blessing that goes with that word, or reward. The prophet and the righteous man  are people who carry a particular teaching. To receive them, and to receive their word, is to receive the blessing associated with that teaching. Jesus then goes on to point out that the same applies to his apostles. To receive the apostles and their teaching, is to receive the blessing associated with their teaching. The reward for accepting the apostles and the good news that they carry from God, is access to the kingdom of heaven.

The person who welcomes a prophet receives the pay of a prophet. He will receive the same reward as a messenger of God will receives. Jesus uses the word disciple, rather than apostle, reminding us that although we may not specifically be "the sent ones", all Jesus' followers are disciples. He uses the term "little ones" or insignificant ones for his disciples. Although the term is often applied to also applied to the vulnerable and disadvantaged and as a term of endearment. Jesus uses it exclusively of his followers. They are the insignificant ones. A cup of cold water for the thirsty is the most important gift that one person can give to another at this time. It is life giving. It is a description of the welcoming of a disciple and the welcoming of their message. When anyone welcomes the little ones, the insignificant ones who come in the name of Christ, along with their message they welcome Christ himself. The word reward is used three times.  We are not told specifically the nature of the reward but it is certainly God's blessing. Hospitality to God's messengers carries its own reward in Old Testament theology.The welcoming of strangers does not go unnoticed by God. This is mission. "Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb. 13:1-2). 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked how it was that she could continue to tend the sickest and most wretched of the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India. She answered that as she looked at each person for whom she was caring, she tried to imagine that she was tending to Jesus’ wounded body – His nail-scarred hands, feet, and side. In each act of caring, the Kingdom of God embraced and reached out through her to the worlds poorest most vulnerable people. 

God remembers each act of hospitality. We are God's ambassadors. Whoever welcomes an ambassador is welcoming the nation they represent. The disciples were ambassadors for Christ and whoever welcomed them into their homes were welcoming Jesus himself. This is mission as hospitality and a fundamental core to the quiet ministry of the monastics during the so called Dark Ages when their hospitals/hospitality carried on the Christian presence and message in supremely practical ways, carrying for the sick feeding the hungry. Maybe it should become our core missiology for the twenty first century? 





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