Welcoming Christ

June 28, 2020

Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever even gives a cup of cold water…”

In 2016, a movement began at an ELCA congregation in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Jessica McClard launched the grassroots mini pantry movement, when she planted the Little Free Pantry Pilot, a wooden box on a post containing food, personal care, and paper items accessible to everyone all the time no questions asked. She hoped her spin on the Little Free Library® concept would pique local awareness of food insecurity while creating a space for neighbors to help meet neighborhood food needs. Little did she know the impact that it would have just four short years later. There are nearly 1200 registered locations on the mini pantry website, which includes locations in 6 different countries. Grant it, these are just the registered ones. Perhaps, you have seen the mini pantries around Richmond. Near the beginning of the pandemic we have found ourselves in, the Richmond Lions Club installed four mini pantries to provide for the community.

“Whoever even gives a cup of cold water…”

In the gospel lesson this morning, Jesus concludes his instruction to the disciples before they are sent out to proclaim the Good News. Jesus has welcomed the disciples into his sphere of influence and now he engages with them to instruct them into not only welcoming others but also being welcomed by others into their homes and communities. When Jesus speaks of welcome, he also implies that they should receive and be received. Whoever receives you, also receives Jesus.

This is a powerful reception into being connected with God and the start of a relationship that will grow over time. Jesus welcomes us in first so that we can hear the Gospel through various means. We can hear it at church. See it out on the street. Experience it in the words and compassion of our friends and neighbors. All these avenues have their foundation in Christ.

As humans, we make this difficult.

Somewhere along the way my studies, I learned the word, Anthropocentric. For those of you that may not be familiar with it, it means putting the human person at the center, the end all be all, of what we do. When we focus on ourselves, we begin to love humankind over and above God. Examining the predominant culture in the United States, we live in a highly me-focused culture. It is an anthropocentric worldview that dominates our thinking and actions. We have a desire to be in control of everything and it is difficult handing it over to God or any other type of authority figure. When we come at things with an anthropocentric worldview, we let our pride, ego, self-doubt, and the like keep us from connecting with each other except in self-interested ways. When we read scripture then, we can let our own bias get in the way of truly hearing the word of God. We carry this bias so closely to our hearts at times, it makes it difficult to open ourselves up to welcome and be welcomed by others.  

Jesus brings us an open invitation to be received into his love freely with nothing required on our part. This is something as Lutherans that we should be fully aware. When Martin Luther was reading Romans, he came to the epiphany that the grace and mercy of God is a gift and we are welcomed by Christ in this way.

Christ then invites us to be transformed by that welcome as we are received into a deep loving relationship with the Trinity. And, just as Jesus prepared to send the disciples out to welcome and receive, we are sent out to welcome and receive others in our communities. As we are received openly in Christ, we too should receive others openly without any expectations on our part for something in return.

This welcoming can be difficult in times when we have been isolated. Yet, we are also living in the twenty-first century with the gifts of technology to share the gospel in new and exciting ways. Just as people are welcomed to the little pantries, we can welcome others to hearing the Word of God and sharing the love of Christ.

Who have you brought a cup of cold water to these past few months?

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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