A Sermon for The Eliot Church of Newton, UCC
Rev. Reebee Kavich Grash
June 29, 2014
Text: Matthew 10:40-42
Jesus said to them: 40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and 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."
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts together be acceptable in your sight, O God, for you are our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
You know this story.
We are doing a funny, sweet dance of caring and neighborliness with the folks across the street. It began on a cold, snowy morning and I had the wrong kind of shovel. Suddenly next to me there is a guy whom I’ve waved at across the road twenty times but never spoken to, because, ya know, New England. “I have a back saver shovel. Let’s try this.” Our sidewalk is cleared and the next day there is a backsaver shovel on our porch, with a purple ribbon tied around it in a bow. That weekend we make him cookies and delivered them with the same purple ribbon tied around the plate. Now, we are talking when we see each other. One hot day in mid-June there is a strawberry rhubarb pie in our entry way, from their backyard rhubarb. We’ll have them over for supper in July.
You know this story because it’s your story.
The family who just needed someone asking after them, he visited and she called. The lady whose plumbing is broken, he fixed it. The one who needed a ride to church, she gave it. It’s your story.
They were new to town, and she crossed the road and said to them, welcome. She said to them, I know a good dentist and I know a nice church. You were looking for a church and Ken and Mary Lou Gleason-ized you.
You know this story because it’s your story. One was sitting, waiting for her ride, and another sat down beside, just to be company.
You know this story because it’s your story. There was a little one who needed a grownup to sit with during Communion – and she made room in her pew and said, welcome. Join me.
She came early to church every first Sunday of the month for years and years to set the Communion table. And now, another will take a turn: so that everyone who seeks the love and mercy and grace and welcome of Jesus will find nourishment. When this one serves you communion he looks up at you with a smile that tells you: this is the bread of heaven and you are welcome at the table. Taste and see, that God is good and you are welcome here.
He meets the food trucks and brings the food to the pantry every week; they went for the first time last week to serve the meal. Can I pour you a cup of cold water? How about a slice of pie?
You know this story because it’s your story.
It was a hot night in Nashville, at a little church on a busy street. The lights were on and supper was being served in the Fellowship Hall when a stranger came to the door, looking hungry. Come in, they said. Have a glass of cold lemonade. Sit down and eat supper. There’s always enough food for unexpected guests at a church supper. And after the supper was over, he said to them: can I play the piano? And he played a hymn they knew but didn’t know and he sang in a voice deep and well traveled and it was church. This was twenty years ago, I was in high school the night it happened. But here’s the thing: now that church has a food ministry that is still going strong, they call it The Little Food Pantry That Could (look it up).
You know this story, because it’s your story. It’s your story because it’s the story of people who follow Jesus. It’s the story of people who follow the one who ate with strangers and outcasts, who said let the little ones come to me, who threw parties with unexpected guest lists, who broke bread and cooked fish and sent other little ones (disciples) out to serve, and welcome, and love.
That’s what Jesus was doing, just before our verses today. He was naming his disciples, giving them authority, commissioning them. He was sending them, his closest friends, out on a mission to teach and heal and serve and love in his name, with all the trials and challenges - and blessings and rewards that come with that. And because his words to his disciples have become his words to us, we are sent out to serve and to heal and to teach and to love, in his name. We are sent out to see what welcome we will receive; we are taught to open our homes and our churches and offer welcome in the name of Jesus. We are taught to pour that cold cup of water, taught to welcome, sent forth also to graciously receive other’s welcome and hospitality. In Christ we see everyone as equal - in Christ there is no east or west, no Watertown or Wellesley, no Newton Corner or West Roxbury, no slave or free, no Newton North or Newton South, but all are kin to us - and all are welcome here. This is grace: to welcome and be welcomed, because our story is the story of people who follow Jesus.
When we open the doors, and greet the visitor with a smile – when we go out and share a word of love and invitation – when the rainbow flag flies and we practice inclusion and hospitality - when we pour the lemonade and serve the community supper – when we rejoice to have been welcomed – when we are invited – when the table is set for us:
Then this story is our story.
Pray with me:
God of rainbows, God of love: thank you for cold lemonade and welcome tables. Thank you for piano playing strangers and snow shoveling neighbors. Thank you for the welcome we have received in your name. Thank you for the call to welcome everyone in your name.