How many of you have a welcome mat outside of the front door of your house? A welcome mat usually has two purposes. It’s used to encourage people to wipe their shoes off so that they won’t track dirt or mud into your home or business. And, they are placed outside your door as a sign to let people know that they are welcome to come in.
In Matthew 10:40-42, Jesus talks about welcoming people. Generally, Matthew emphasizes the disciples being good hosts, but in this passage, he turns that around. The disciples are the ones being cared for by others. Similarly, as modern-day messengers of God, we need to be gracious guests and accept help from others. Often the most caring people are the ones who are least likely to accept any help for themselves. As Christians, we need to be both care-givers and care-receivers. We need to allow others to use their gifts to help us. Each and every act of mercy contains Christ’s love for the world. It is a love we can share anytime and anywhere with any gesture, no matter the size.
The identification of the littles ones in need of a cup of cold water elevates the least powerful member of the community of disciples (of which all Christians are members today) into a position of equal importance to that of prophets and righteous ones. At the beginning of the commissioning of the disciples, Jesus sent them into the mission field without any means of support and defense-no money, no travel bag, no change of clothes, not even a staff or sandals. They were completely dependent, first on God and then on the hospitality of the communities that received them. Their vulnerability and dependence were the key to the success of the mission.
Similarly, when we are given the same commission, we are sent out without any means of support or defense, except that which is provided by God or the people who receive our message. We are dependent on others. Our vulnerability and dependence is the key to the success of our mission.
Jesus teaches that receiving His messengers or prophets is the same as receiving Him, and that receiving Him is the same as receiving His Father. The One who is sent represents the Sender. The same reward given to the prophet will also be given to the one who receives the prophet.
God is honoured when we do acts in His name. He is honoured when we receive prophets because He is a prophet. He is honoured when we receive a righteous person because He is righteous. He is honoured when we give a drink of water to a disciple because He is a disciple. When we receive a messenger, we receive Christ. God will reward us for everything we do in faith in His name. The simplest deed in discipleship in Christ will be recognized by God. God doesn’t only reward “big” jobs or “important” works. He loves to give and He loves to reward obedience, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us.
Someone once wrote to Billy Graham and asked if missionaries do any good. The writer said, “Our church has been raising money to help build a health clinic where some of our missionaries work. To be honest, though, do projects like this actually do any good? That country is very poor, and one little clinic isn’t going to change anything.”
Billy Graham replied:
“Yes, a project like this may seem like a drop in a bucket compared with the overwhelming needs of that country. But it won’t be a drop in a bucket for that community! We take so much for granted in our society, but what if your nearest doctor or hospital was 50 miles away, and you had no way to get there? That’s the situation millions face in our world, and the problems can only be solved one step at a time.”
“The clinic your church is helping to support will not only bring physical health to this village, but it will also be a beacon of spiritual hope as it points people to Jesus Christ. God loves the people of this village just as much as He loves you and me, and He yearns for them to come to know Him and love Him just as much as He does you and me.”
We can say, “That’s not my problem!” and shut the needs of others from our minds; or we can say, “I can’t change everything, but I can do something about the pain at my elbow.” For example, two friends were walking on the beach covered by starfish washed ashore by a high tide. The starfish were destined to die soon in the burning sun on the sandy beach. One man began picking up starfish and gently tossing them in the ocean. The friend said, “What are you doing? What difference does it make? You can’t begin to save all of them.” “True,” the other man said, “but it makes a difference to the ones I save.”
It is the same with those we can help. We don’t have all the answers, but as we come to grips with the enormity of the problem, it’s amazing how we begin to see the needs and hear the Holy Spirit say, “Help, here!” or “Do something about this!”. When we do that, we can and do make a difference.
Christ lives in His people. They become His ambassadors. How they are treated is how He is treated. Welcoming His ambassadors is the same as welcoming Him. Jesus equated Himself with God. He also knew that God gave Him authority, and He claimed that authority. Hospitality is a witness to the unconditional love of Christ. That lifts us up and saves all who would be saved. It’s open to everyone.
When we look at the world today, we don’t see much hospitality. Too many of us hide in upper class or gated communities. Too many of us change the channel when we see poor people on television. Too many of us change stations or turn the radio off when we hear stories about poor people. This does not mean that hope is dead. On the contrary, hope survives. It is all around us, especially in this parish. All of our outreach programs are unsung stories of faith at work, not just for the people they serve but for the vehicle of love they provide for us.
The “little ones”-both the poor and those who are new to the faith-are our guests of honour. They might be angels in disguise or even Christ Himself in disguise. We are urged to welcome them as we would welcome Christ. As Christ said when He gave us the two Great Commandments, we are to love God and love people.
How different would our ministry be if we took seriously the understanding that we are Christ’s presence in the world? How different would our ministry be if we remembered that we are treating other believers the way we are treating Christ?
Not all of the rewards we will receive will be positive ones. Can we have positive ones without negative ones and vice versa? Can we have all the blessings of believing without the persecution and suffering? Can we have the resurrection to new life without the suffering and dying to self? Can we have the crown without the cross?
What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come through our church doors on our own initiative and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them? What would happen if we truly believed that we bear the presence of Christ to every person we encounter, in every home, workplace, or neighbourhood we enter? What would happen if we saw every conversation as an opportunity to speak words of grace, every interaction as an opportunity to show Christ’s love for our neighbours?
Our task is to see Christ in everyone and attend to the Christ in everyone-the stranger, the enemy, the friend, the spouse, our sibling, a politician, even someone who believes differently than we do. Christ is in everyone. When we regard everyone as Christ, then maybe they will see the Christ who is in us.
The simple act of leaving our personal comforts to care for the needs of another demonstrates the love Jesus shared with us when He left the ultimate comfort and joy of heaven to live life here on earth. Serving another person is inconvenient. It takes time, energy, personal resources, and sometimes, personal discomfort. It is so much easier to look away and assume someone else will do it. Jesus invites us to serve Him by caring for the needs of others. Today and every day the invitation remains. How will we respond?
Hospitality is crucial to the gospel message because unless we change our point of view, unless we change the state of our hearts and minds about those that society oppresses, unless we can see others as children of God, then we can’t fulfill our orders to share the Good News of forgiveness and healing, of justice and mercy, of righteousness and hope.
How about in our churches? Do you think that people are always welcome at our church home? Do we speak to those people who are visiting our church that we do not know? If someone comes to our church and they are dressed different from the way we are dressed, do we make sure that they are made to feel welcome?
Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me.” If we turn that around, we will understand that if we do not welcome others into our homes and into our churches, it is the same as if we are refusing to welcome Jesus. We wouldn’t do that, would we?
Well, let’s put the welcome mat out — and let’s be sure that we mean it!
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1299)
- The New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew and Mark. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Ins.; 1982; p.18)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- “Did Jesus Claim to Be God?” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Billy Graham, “Do Missionaries Do Any Good?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
- Dr. Harold Sala, “How Rich Are You?” Retrieved from www.guidelines.org
- Leslie Snyder, “Uncommon Courtesy.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
- Brian P. Stoffregen, “Exegetical Notes: Matthew 10:40-42.” Retrieved from www.crossmark.com
- Elisabeth Johnson, “Commentary on Matthew 10:40-42.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Stanley Saunders, “Commentary on Matthew 10:40-42.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- David Lose, “No Small Gestures.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- The Rev. Dr. Dan Leon, “A Crucial Cup of Cold Water.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- “Welcome.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com