The theme of this week’s Gospel lesson (Matthew 10. 37-42) is a) a continuation of last week’s Gospel and the instructions for mission and how the mission is to be carried out, and b) now addressed to those who will receive those who will preach and teach, which will enable the mission of God to be carried out in their communities. It is in essence a word to the Matthean churches in the Holy Land about how to do ministry the way that Jesus wants it done.
One of the first things that I noticed about this lesson, is something simple and as I being to play with it, have discovered that it is something rather profound. Welcome and reception are basically the same thing where the Church is concerned. When you welcome someone, you are receiving that person into fellowship. This has profound implications for how we deal with thing like membership. If there is one thing that I know about Anglicans and the ways in which we practice our hospitality, we often fall short of practicing the ways in which are expected where the Scriptures are concerned.
For example, welcoming someone means that they are welcomed into fellowship not just with one or some, but with all. And there is reward for those who welcome new people into the fellowship of the Church – it is a good and noble ministry. It is why I am more and more convince that there is a need for the Church to return to the practice of the Catechumenate. This means that parents and sponsors for baptism in particular as well as those preparing for Confirmation enter into a group where they are taught the Christian faith so that they can be effective in their life and work as a Christian person, both being a disciple and in making disciples to build up the Church community. We are with God who is building for the day that the kingdom will finally come in all of its fullness.
In it all there are images of both promise and of warning. Jesus gives to the community the abilities to heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. He has commanded that the Church combat evil by cast out demons and spirits, to proclaim forgiveness, the coming near of the kingdom and even the power to raise the dead. We are also warned that not everyone will like us, agree with us. There are people who are going to oppose us, both in word and deed. There are going to be people who would beat us and put us in jail. There people who would see us executed and put away so that we cannot do as Jesus did. While there is the potential to see growth and there are also real hazards for those who will preach and those who will host. Being a follower and a promoter of the Christian faith can be and often is hazardous to one’s person and estate. What is more important? Worrying about what people can do to us because they don’t like us or worrying about failing God and what God has asked of us?
The Church needs to offer refuge to those who are proclaiming the word of God and to those who are seeking a righteousness that is not their own. The Church needs to receive those who are perceived as weak and therefore dependent upon the Almighty for what they need. We are called upon by God to make such people family, going well beyond “one off” events that might speak to people and have a real impact on people’s lives by receiving them and treating them like family. We are to create the conditions and atmosphere within the Church community that draw people to Christ and then assist in their growth to maturity as fully developed disciples.
After all, the joy of salvation and living it out in this world is something to be shared with all who will come and participate and not to be hoarded like treasure. We offer food for the soul and water for the person to drink. And the same is worth sharing for life, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.