Let me offer a parable: On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew. Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work. The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club. But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded. If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown. (www.bible.ca/evangelism/e-parable-life-saving.htm)
This life-saving station parable is important in showing us why welcoming is such an important concept, and why a helpful understanding of what being welcoming means is important as well. The people of the life-saving station do not become unwelcoming to each other but become unwelcoming to those who are outside of their life-saving station. Those who need rescue are left unwelcome and left out. As it says they essentially stop making rescues.
In our passage today Jesus is not specifically talking about our welcoming of others in this passage. If we read it carefully it is about others welcoming of us. Jesus is speaking to the disciples when he says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.” Therefore we gather that Jesus is talking about other people, that the disciples are meeting, welcoming them. But we must understand that in order to allow others to welcome us we must first be welcoming to them.
This is an interesting case because Jesus is referencing about how we are a “sent” church. We are a church that is sent out to share the word. The church is not meant to be stagnate or inactive. We are not a church that should be staying put or keeping amongst ourselves, rather we are to be a church that goes out and does the work of God in the world. We learn this in part of our reading our reading of Matthew 10 as Jesus teaches the disciples and also from other parts of the book of Matthew, especially in chapter 28 where we hear the great commission that Jesus gives to his disciples as well as to all of us.
Bottom line: We must be the church not only in our church building, but we must also be the church out in the world. The church therefore is the mission of God, and does not merely do missions.
We must learn from Jesus’ ministry and be a church that goes out and welcomes the world into a relationship that Jesus has already begun for us. We even see if we continue to read on into Matthew 11 we see that Jesus goes out. In chapter 10 Jesus is talking to the disciples and instructing them on important matters. However, in the first verse of chapter 11 the author of Matthew says, “Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.”
Jesus was not stagnate, in any part of his ministry, he never stayed anywhere long. Jesus takes opportunities, like he does here in chapter 10, to teach his disciples. However, he immediately moves from this teaching of his close followers, to going out and sharing the word. He also is empowering people around him into following God and share that experience with others as well.
We too have our time of learning. We come here, to church, every Sunday and we learn, but we too must recognize that we cannot just hang around church all of the time. We too must take what we have learned and do as Jesus did with his disciples. We must go with Jesus and teach and proclaim` .We must create that welcoming environment. Going out and welcoming people so that they can welcome us and ultimately welcome Jesus.
For that small group of people in the life-saving station it was the idea of going out that they wanted to hold on to. They still felt a need to go out and to seek out and save the lost and abandoned in the ocean. However, we see what happens when the focus of the life-saving station goes away from its intended purpose. When we stray away from our call to be a “sent” church we too abandon our mission from God to be the church in the world. Like the life-saving station’s original purpose we must also be ready and willing to go seek and save the lost.
It can seem daunting in our society to go out and to spread the message of Christ. Our society is often less than receptive to the message that we are out sharing. That is why Jesus gives these instructions in these three verses. This is not only a teaching moment for the disciples. This is also an encouragement that there are people out there who will welcome you and the message lies in the reward they receive from allowing you in.
Sometimes they welcome you immediately, and sometimes it takes a little warming up in order to get them to let you in. While I was in college I did an internship with a pastor at a church plant. My job each week was to go out and meet 15 people. Now not all of those were people I would have to have deep theological conversations with, but as time slowly progressed I began to notice the people I had met being more welcome of who I am and in turn being more willing to hear what I had to say about Christ.
My initial conversations with these people were hardly ever about God, but as time progressed and they became more comfortable I noticed an opening up.
I also read a story online where the writer recounts an experience of a friend. “The friend told of an interaction with a bagger at her local grocery store. She had been talking with this woman off and on for a year, and upon learning that she no longer worked on Sundays, invited her to come to her church, to their casual, outdoor, come-as-you-are service. Much to my friend’s surprise, the woman responded by giving her a hug!” (www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=969)
These are the things that happen when we leave ourselves open to accepting others. At the heart of this passage is a discussion on hospitality and what it means to truly be deliverers of God’s grace. The hospitality we exhibit leads to hospitality by others to allow us to effect them.
It can be so easy for us to forget what the true meaning of being disciples of Christ actually is. We can become more like a social club much like the life-saving station’s became in the parable. However, we must remember that we are doing God’s work. We are supposed to be out in those dangerous waters saving people. However, we all know the it is not always easy to go out and do God’s work. We see, in stories like our Hebrew Bible reading from Genesis about Abraham, that following God can be very challenging sometimes.
Now God has never asked me for my only son (not that I have one to give), but God has asked me to leave old lives and habits behind to follow the call into the ministry. Sometimes I think what if God had left me alone and let me stay on the path I had been on. What if God had never given me difficult tasks and challenged me…Well I probably would not be standing in front of you today.
God calls us all often times to walk this uncomfortable path. We go on because we understand that our faith in Jesus is what is guiding us and keeping moving forward. We base our steps on the faith we have that God will not lead us astray.
Abraham was a man of great faith who, it seems, would have done just about anything for God. We must be willing to give ourselves to God as well. Now I highly doubt God will ask you sacrifice your children, but there are many other ways in which God asks us to make sacrifices to carry out the mission that is in store for us.
This welcoming pep talk Jesus gives to the disciples is to let them know they are never alone when they go out. The people who accept them have accepted Christ, and therefore Christ is always with them. They must share this message that Christ is within them. We too must take up this responsibility and share this message.
Today in our church is appointment Sunday and as you have probably noticed you have a new pastor. As we begin this journey together I would like to commend you all on your hospitality as Sara and I have gotten settles. You all have welcomed me and as Jesus notes you in our passage today that you have welcomed him as well. However, we are all God’s disciples and we are all sent out. We cannot merely welcome Jesus and then hold onto him for ourselves. We must go out and share him with others and allow them to welcome him as well.
Therefore, as we go forth today we must keep in mind the role that we all play in God’s mission. We must remember that we do not merely do mission’s but we are God’s mission. We are constantly doing God’s work in the world. Whether that is helping the lost or poor, or whether it is through a conversation with a coworker or friend. Having taken up the mantle of Christianity we all bear the mission that God wants us to carry out.
We are a “sent” church. So I tell you. “Go out and share the good news.” Be welcoming so that others may welcome you and in turn welcome Jesus. Amen!!