Welcoming And Being Welcomed

Sunday 2nd July 2017

Matthew 10:40-42

Over the last three weeks I have been preaching from Matthew chapter 10, where the focus has been on what Jesus was teaching his disciples about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. What it means to follow him? Also we have looked at what Jesus tells us about how others may respond to us as we follow him. Today we come to the last part of Jesus’ teaching of his disciples in chapter 10. And it ends in a rather unusual way. It ends in today’s reading where Jesus is talking to his disciples about the role of hospitality in the work of his people.

Jesus says: 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone 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.”

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. Notice who is doing the welcoming here. It is not the disciples who are doing the welcoming, but they are the ones being welcomed.

One of the most well known missionaries of the 20th Century and someone who has greatly inspired me is a woman named Jackie Pullinger. Jackie became a Christian in her early twenties and very early in her walk with the Lord had a great passion for spreading the Gospel. She applied to a well known missionary organisation in the UK to be missionary in Hong Kong, but they refused to support her.  So believing that she was called she decided to go anyway. She paid for a boat ticket and arrived in Hong Kong with no money and no place to stay. Once she arrived she went straight to the slums area of Hong Kong, where she thought the Lord was leading her, and a stranger, upon hearing her situation, invited her into their home. Jackie went on to spread the Gospel to children in poverty and to those involved in a life of crime in Hong Kong, for the majority of her life. And became one of the most well known and well respected Christian missionaries in that area. Her books about her experiences are well worth reading if you get the chance. Jackie Pullinger is well known, but I doubt that anyone can tell the name of the person who took her into their home.

We can easily look back at the past and know about famous missionaries, but I wonder whether at times we miss the importance of those who supported them and welcomed them in to their homes. Maybe the well known missionaries can be overrated, and their support teams who make the mission possible through prayer, planning, and financial support are so often unknown and perhaps undervalued.  Yet these unnamed people have a significant role to play in God’s kingdom and his mission for the world.

God brings others to faith in him often by using unnamed people who provide a thirsty servant a cold drink of water and who we don’t find named in the pages of Church History.

When we read the book of Acts and hear about the beginnings of the Church, I wonder whether we tend to focus on the apostles and what God did through them in growing the church, but if we take a closer look the Gospel spreads through people who seem to have such minor roles and are not really mentioned much. There are people like Ananias, Simon the Tanner, Cornelius, Lydia, Priscilla & Aquila, Sergius Paulus and many more. The key thing about all of these characters is that they played a part in the spread of the Gospel, by their simple acts of receiving others. Their hospitality played a significant role in the spread of the early Church. In understanding how God’s mission to this world works, and how our role as a church reflects his mission, maybe we need to start by celebrating those offering the cup of cold water. Those who hospitably receive the Lord’s people are just as influential, if not more so in the spreading of the Christian faith. “None of these,” Jesus tells us, “will lose their reward.” (10:42) Hospitality plays such a significant role in our lives as disciples of Jesus.

As I thought more about what Jesus said about welcoming, it occurred to me that he was speaking to his disciples about them being welcomed. In other words he was sending his disciples out to spread that Good news, but in order to do this they had to be prepared to be welcomed. It is one thing to be in the position of welcoming others, whether it is into your church, into your home, into your life. When we are welcoming we have the power. We get to make the decisions as to whom we will invite and when we will invite them. We can control the circumstances, the setting, and the surroundings. And we are able to determine when the welcoming will come to an end.

But it would be a different story wouldn’t it if we were to find ourselves on the other side; where we are the ones being welcomed; where we are the ones at the mercy of others; where we are the ones wondering if we will be welcomed or not.

To be on the receiving end of someone else’s hospitality means being open to being vulnerable. To take up someone else’s invitation means to trust, to be willing to accept what they have to offer. Jesus refers to his disciples as “little ones”, the reason being his disciples are vulnerable because they are open to attack, and in the eyes of the world, they can be of little significance. This is as true today as it was for those first disciples. These words from Jesus are a challenge to all his disciples, because nobody likes being vulnerable, but as his followers he calls us to be just that.

In his teaching on what it means to be a disciple of His, Jesus has told things like they are; he has pointed out that the way of the Christian life with him will have joys, but it will be difficult as well. To follow Jesus does mean being vulnerable at times. We are called to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations for His sake.

But as we do this, we do it with the encouragement that he gives us. In today’s reading he gives his disciples great encouragement. He says: 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” His disciples are not alone. Jesus is with them to the point that when the disciples are received by others, the ones receiving are receiving Jesus himself. Wherever His disciples go Jesus is with them. As Jesus says in Matthew 28: 20 … And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he is saying here. Jesus tells us that he and his Father will accompany us in the difficult times as we walk with him.

It is this that we need to remember. It is very easy in our lives to get bogged down by what is going on around us; to see all the negative things that are happening in our lives, but also in the world at the moment. It is easy to see the challenges that are in front of us. Sometimes in the midst of all of this we might wonder whether we can survive. Jesus never promises his followers an easy life; in fact there are times when he is very honest about this in his Word. But he does promise us that He along with his Father and the Holy Spirit are with us, that as we walk with him he goes with us. And because of this others will respond to him. This is what we need to trust: his promise that He is with us. As we do we will be able to step out in faith, to take the risks in life that he asks us to make in following him, which includes welcoming others, but also being vulnerable enough to be welcomed by others.

I encourage each of you in your walk with our Lord to take comfort in his promise to you; to take heart in knowing that our Lord is present in your life. I also encourage you to look at the opportunities that he places before you to reach out to others and to take a step of faith trusting that he is with you and bringing the Gospel to those around you as you walk with him.

Matthew 10:40-42

Over the last three weeks I have been preaching from Matthew chapter 10, where the focus has been on what Jesus was teaching his disciples about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. What it means to follow him? Also we have looked at what Jesus tells us about how others may respond to us as we follow him. Today we come to the last part of Jesus’ teaching of his disciples in chapter 10. And it ends in a rather unusual way. It ends in today’s reading where Jesus is talking to his disciples about the role of hospitality in the work of his people.

Jesus says: 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone 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.”

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. Notice who is doing the welcoming here. It is not the disciples who are doing the welcoming, but they are the ones being welcomed.

One of the most well known missionaries of the 20th Century and someone who has greatly inspired me is a woman named Jackie Pullinger. Jackie became a Christian in her early twenties and very early in her walk with the Lord had a great passion for spreading the Gospel. She applied to a well known missionary organisation in the UK to be missionary in Hong Kong, but they refused to support her.  So believing that she was called she decided to go anyway. She paid for a boat ticket and arrived in Hong Kong with no money and no place to stay. Once she arrived she went straight to the slums area of Hong Kong, where she thought the Lord was leading her, and a stranger, upon hearing her situation, invited her into their home. Jackie went on to spread the Gospel to children in poverty and to those involved in a life of crime in Hong Kong, for the majority of her life. And became one of the most well known and well respected Christian missionaries in that area. Her books about her experiences are well worth reading if you get the chance. Jackie Pullinger is well known, but I doubt that anyone can tell the name of the person who took her into their home.

We can easily look back at the past and know about famous missionaries, but I wonder whether at times we miss the importance of those who supported them and welcomed them in to their homes. Maybe the well known missionaries can be overrated, and their support teams who make the mission possible through prayer, planning, and financial support are so often unknown and perhaps undervalued.  Yet these unnamed people have a significant role to play in God’s kingdom and his mission for the world.

God brings others to faith in him often by using unnamed people who provide a thirsty servant a cold drink of water and who we don’t find named in the pages of Church History.

When we read the book of Acts and hear about the beginnings of the Church, I wonder whether we tend to focus on the apostles and what God did through them in growing the church, but if we take a closer look the Gospel spreads through people who seem to have such minor roles and are not really mentioned much. There are people like Ananias, Simon the Tanner, Cornelius, Lydia, Priscilla & Aquila, Sergius Paulus and many more. The key thing about all of these characters is that they played a part in the spread of the Gospel, by their simple acts of receiving others. Their hospitality played a significant role in the spread of the early Church. In understanding how God’s mission to this world works, and how our role as a church reflects his mission, maybe we need to start by celebrating those offering the cup of cold water. Those who hospitably receive the Lord’s people are just as influential, if not more so in the spreading of the Christian faith. “None of these,” Jesus tells us, “will lose their reward.” (10:42) Hospitality plays such a significant role in our lives as disciples of Jesus.

As I thought more about what Jesus said about welcoming, it occurred to me that he was speaking to his disciples about them being welcomed. In other words he was sending his disciples out to spread that Good news, but in order to do this they had to be prepared to be welcomed. It is one thing to be in the position of welcoming others, whether it is into your church, into your home, into your life. When we are welcoming we have the power. We get to make the decisions as to whom we will invite and when we will invite them. We can control the circumstances, the setting, and the surroundings. And we are able to determine when the welcoming will come to an end.

But it would be a different story wouldn’t it if we were to find ourselves on the other side; where we are the ones being welcomed; where we are the ones at the mercy of others; where we are the ones wondering if we will be welcomed or not.

To be on the receiving end of someone else’s hospitality means being open to being vulnerable. To take up someone else’s invitation means to trust, to be willing to accept what they have to offer. Jesus refers to his disciples as “little ones”, the reason being his disciples are vulnerable because they are open to attack, and in the eyes of the world, they can be of little significance. This is as true today as it was for those first disciples. These words from Jesus are a challenge to all his disciples, because nobody likes being vulnerable, but as his followers he calls us to be just that.

In his teaching on what it means to be a disciple of His, Jesus has told things like they are; he has pointed out that the way of the Christian life with him will have joys, but it will be difficult as well. To follow Jesus does mean being vulnerable at times. We are called to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations for His sake.

But as we do this, we do it with the encouragement that he gives us. In today’s reading he gives his disciples great encouragement. He says: 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” His disciples are not alone. Jesus is with them to the point that when the disciples are received by others, the ones receiving are receiving Jesus himself. Wherever His disciples go Jesus is with them. As Jesus says in Matthew 28: 20 … And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he is saying here. Jesus tells us that he and his Father will accompany us in the difficult times as we walk with him.

It is this that we need to remember. It is very easy in our lives to get bogged down by what is going on around us; to see all the negative things that are happening in our lives, but also in the world at the moment. It is easy to see the challenges that are in front of us. Sometimes in the midst of all of this we might wonder whether we can survive. Jesus never promises his followers an easy life; in fact there are times when he is very honest about this in his Word. But he does promise us that He along with his Father and the Holy Spirit are with us, that as we walk with him he goes with us. And because of this others will respond to him. This is what we need to trust: his promise that He is with us. As we do we will be able to step out in faith, to take the risks in life that he asks us to make in following him, which includes welcoming others, but also being vulnerable enough to be welcomed by others.

I encourage each of you in your walk with our Lord to take comfort in his promise to you; to take heart in knowing that our Lord is present in your life. I also encourage you to look at the opportunities that he places before you to reach out to others and to take a step of faith trusting that he is with you and bringing the Gospel to those around you as you walk with him.