13TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A
Those who welcome you also welcome me; and those who welcome me, welcome the one who sent me. What does it mean to welcome Jesus?
Sometimes we cling so tightly to doctrines, theologies, ideas, and words about Jesus that the radical nature of the man whose life and teaching changed the world gets lost. Sometimes our own selfish desires about what Jesus can do for us, blind us to the radical nature of what Jesus lived for.
In order to welcome Jesus, we might have to move beyond our carefully held notions about who Jesus is. In today’s gospel Jesus is giving his disciples some instructions about how they are to represent him as they are sent out on their mission heal the sick and preach the word.
He doesn’t have them memorize a creed. He doesn’t give them an animal husbandry book so they can identify sheep from goats. He doesn’t even give them the assurance of salvation. In fact he tells them it’s not about them at all.
Rather, he suggests they have to have the right attitude. As important as family is, they need to understand that what Jesus represents is more important.
I can just hear his disciples saying – Huh? What do you mean? How do we do that? Do we wear special clothes? Do we need a collar? Should we lug the Scrolls of the Covenant around and quote it?
I can see Jesus shaking his head with a bemused smile, as he often does with his disciples – that includes you and me – and saying, Noooo, just welcome people into your lives. Welcome everyone, but especially welcome those no one else does. Even if all you do is give them a cup of water.
Hospitality, it turns out is at the heart of our faith. A Christian is simply someone who is hospitable. Sounds too easy, right? That is until we think about what is required. It’s easy to be hospitable to birds of feather; people we identify with, who might be useful to us, or whom we find interesting. It’s no problem to invite them to our homes for a few drinks and a meal.
It’s another story to invite those of a different feather; people of a different culture, class, or race who can offer no advantage to us. Oh, we might invite them and make them feel at home, all the while wishing they would leave. I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind.
Why did Jesus make hospitality the basis for his ministry? Perhaps because, it’s essential to building relationships. It’s the first step to overcoming fear, finding understanding, and giving respect. Ultimately, it’s the foundation of bringing about a peaceful world.
If you doubt this, I challenge you to think of a time when you were shown unexpected hospitality that brightened your day and may have even changed your life. Jesus lived to change the world and change it, he did - one person at a time. Christ lives in, with, and through us to change the world - one person at a time.
Each act of kindness, each word of welcome, each act of hospitality binds us together in love and moves the universe that much closer to peace. Not the fragile peace that the world gives, but the peace of God that transcends selfishness, greed, hostility, prejudice, tribalism, classism, hatred, and even war.
Peace, which can begin with something as simple as a glass of water or a word of welcome. Let it be so among us. For those who welcome others also welcome Christ.