The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8A (June 26, 2011)
LessonsJeremiah 28:5-9 Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1) Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42
Semicontinuous Series Jeremiah 23:1-6 St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)
Prayer of the Day O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
10:40 [Jesus said,] “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.”
St. Matthew 10:40-42. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Simple Acts of Service
I am amazed, sometimes, how complicated congregational life has become these days. We have Mission Statements, and Vision Statements and stated Congregational Values. We organize ourselves into a structure that includes an Executive Team, an Administrative Team, a Mission Team and a dozen other Ministry Teams. We combine the efforts of paid staff and elected leaders and volunteers to make it all happen. All this, of course, is in place so that we can be as focused and effective as possible.
It seems wise to continue to put this kind of effort into guiding our life together; every congregation should be as faithful and targeted as they can be, thoughtfully using the resources available to them. But now and again I read a Gospel lesson like the one appointed for this weekend, and it causes me to doubt that all of my complex theories about congregational life are the answer to our needs today.
It may be that the answer we need is much simpler, and much more tangible than all of that. It may be that as we welcome one another with grace, and as we do the simple things that extend God’s love to the world, that we then are doing what Christ has called us to do. We then experience him in our midst. We then are those who will not lose the reward: the reward of living in the presence of our Lord.
This Gospel suggests that to be faithful in ministry — to experience the presence of Christ here, in this place — we need to offer simple, practical, tangible gestures to the world around us.
That may mean opening up our Vacation Bible School to members of the community, without expectation, simply desiring to touch them with God’s grace. That may mean establishing an evening coffee house for High School Students on the labyrinth courtyard, creating a safe and nurturing place for younger members of our community to gather. That may mean developing a sister-church relationship with an inner city church that is struggling to stay alive. That may mean packing an extra lunch once in a while, and sharing it with a street person who has set up on a freeway off-ramp. That may mean volunteering from time to time at Covenant Cupboard, and sharing food with a hungry family.
These aren’t complicated ministry plans. These aren’t goals that take special knowledge or tremendous resources to meet. They don’t take complicated structures, and extensive mission statements. They are activities that simply call for a caring heart, and a willingness to see the needs that surround us. They require only a desire to take seriously what Jesus took seriously, knowing that as we do so, he will be there.
It is in the simple gift of a cup of water to “one of these little ones” that the presence of Christ becomes reality in the midst of believers. May the ministry that takes place through our church more and more include giving of ourselves to the world around us — in simple, yet practical ways. And may we become less focused on our own needs, and more aware of the blessing that we can be to the world when we reach out in Christ’s name.
As we turn ourselves in that direction, we may well become aware that the presence of Christ is with us, and the power of God enables us. The task is clear: care for the world. The reward is equally clear: Christ is made present among us, and will indeed bless us in our serving.
David J. Risendal, Pastor