By the Rev. Darren Miner
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For the last few weeks, we have heard Jesus instruct the twelve Apostles before sending them out on a mission to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. Today, we get the final bit of instruction. It deals with the rewards of hospitality.
Now, we are accustomed to admonitions for the church to be more welcoming to visitors. And that’s particularly hard to do these days. Recently, a new phenomenon called “Zoom-bombing” has raised its ugly head. People either join Zoom meetings uninvited and then yell obscenities. Or they politely ask to be invited, and then yell obscenities. This has happened to several churches in the Bay Area. One church that had videoconferencing enabled had to watch child pornography till the host finally found the button to halt the church service. The current thinking is that each person who asks to join our worship should be thoroughly vetted in advance. Not an easy thing to do!
But today’s Gospel reading isn’t about that, at least, not precisely. It is not about us welcoming other people; it is about other people welcoming us. Jesus begins by promising that anyone who welcomes one of the Apostles as they roam the countryside preaching the Gospel will be rewarded. For when they welcome an Apostle, they welcome Jesus. And when they welcome Jesus, they welcome God.
All this would seem to be unrelated to our present circumstances. After all, the original twelve Apostles are long dead. But Jesus’ teaching didn’t stop there. He went on to say that anyone who welcomes a prophet will be rewarded. Again, there are a few prophets in the world today, I suppose, but surely none among us! Again, Jesus’ teaching didn’t stop there. He then claims that anyone who welcomes a righteous person will likewise be rewarded by the Almighty. Now, I think this might begin to strike home for us at Incarnation. I know for a fact that there are righteous people in our midst. But Jesus extends his teaching even further. He finishes by announcing that anyone who offers so much as a cup of water to the lowliest of Christians will be rewarded in Heaven. Well, folks, that final promise covers all of us here. Jesus promises that anyone who welcomes us as followers of Jesus will be rewarded.
But they won’t be rewarded unless they welcome us. And they can’t welcome us unless we reach out to them. Now, in this time of pandemic, you cannot literally go out and spread the Good News, at least not safely. But you can still use the telephone. You can still send an e-mail. Terri Taylor wrote to me recently. She had noticed that the parish’s website doesn’t invite strangers to join our worship. She was right. As I mentioned earlier, it is almost impossible to do the recommended vetting with a complete stranger.
Here is where you come in. You have friends and family and neighbors and acquaintances, people who require no further vetting. You have the ability to reach out to them and to invite them to our Sunday conference call. Maybe they will say, “No, thank you!” But just maybe, in this time of isolation, they will welcome your invitation to join us in worship. Just maybe, they will welcome the opportunity to be part of our little community of faith. If they do welcome you and the message you bring, Jesus has promised that they will be rewarded in Heaven. But none of this can happen, if you don’t reach out as a disciple of Jesus and invite someone!
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.