(Ordinary 13) by Local Preacher Adam Biddlestone
Matthew 10 : 40 – 42
Last Saturday (24th) I attended the opening of Methodist Conference in Birmingham. The main focus for the Saturday afternoon is the induction of the President and Vice-President, with each giving their address to Conference. So, this year Rev. Gill Newton and Deacon Kerry Scarlett were inducted. In giving their address, they outlined their joint theme for the year ‘hidden treasures.’
We all experience and encounter ‘hidden treasures’ in our lives as Christians, one of the many places being passages of scripture which can so easily be hidden or lost in the bigger Biblical narrative.
The gospel reading for today is just two verses, verses I don’t recall having really read or preached on before. They come at the end of a chapter which Matthew devotes to Jesus sending out the twelve. Matthew reminds readers of their names and their core work as Jesus’ representatives and gives them various instructions, including where they should go and not go, what they should take and not take and the reality and enormity of the task before them, including its joys and challenges, its rewards and risks.
The closing verses highlight the representative nature of the disciples’ work and by association of our work as Christian disciples today. As Christians we have different experiences about how people we meet react to our faith, when we feel welcome and valued, Christ is welcomed and valued too, so too is God.
The disciples are told be reliant on the hospitality and generosity of those they meet as travelling disciples, this is in part a reward for their work. Those who receive and welcome them will similarly not be unrewarded.
The closing words of Jesus are, ‘if someone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’
There is some debate about the precise, original wording of Jesus, as to whether the original words are ‘who is my disciple’ or ‘in the name of my disciple.’ When I arrive at a church to preach, I always check that there is a glass of water, to quench my thirst and especially enjoy those churches where a nice refreshing cup of tea is served after the service. A cup of cold water is a basic offering, it costs little and requires little effort to provide it. Whatever the original words and intentional meaning of Jesus, we need as part of our discipleship to offer welcome and hospitality to all who come into our buildings and those we meet on the road. Warm and welcoming spaces are a model of this welcome and hospitality, where warmth and company will be as, if not more important, than refreshment.
What opportunities are there for our churches to welcome and invite or for us to take that hospitality out into the community?
Calling God, bless us as we offer hospitality to friends and strangers, help us to generous in the use of our buildings and resources and courageous in taking your love and word out into the communities we serve. Amen.