This Sunday’s Gospel message from Matthew invites us to explore in depth the quality of the welcome that we offer to one another within the Body of Christ, the church. But with it we must also reflect on the welcome we offer to those who are not yet a part of this body. As Jesus speaks to the disciples here, He is preparing to send them out to preach the message that “the kingdom of Heaven is near.” He is giving them authority to heal the sick, to raise the dead, and to drive out demons in His name. Christ knows that He is sending the disciples into a difficult situation, as they will surely face much opposition along the way. So, Christ urges others to be hospitable to those who come in his name. During times of persecution, hospitality was especially important, and could even be dangerous. Jesus says to all who will hear that those who provide hospitality and show kindness to God’s people will be greatly blessed.
So the question is, who are God’s people? To whom, exactly are we called to be hospitable? Obviously, this passage implores us to be welcoming to missionaries and those who carry the good news of Christ around the world. Christ calls us also to serve the poor, the outcast, the sick, the lost, the sinner. These are all people of God as well. These too are bearers of the Christian message, and they need our hospitality as much as any other!
Have you ever given much thought as to what keeps you coming to Holy Apostles? What is it that you love about this church? There are certainly many different factors that bring us into a certain church. But I think that when it comes to those things that keep us at a church, it boils down to the fact that this is the place where we experience the love of God in Christ Jesus in the most real and tangible ways. This is our family. They care for us when we are going through difficult times. We share with one another the love of Christ in the same way that we have experienced Christ’s love ourselves. I think it’s fair to say that we experience from one another genuine hospitality.
But just as much is the church is about serving one another, it’s even more so about serving the world in Christ’s name. If we are really being hospitable and welcoming in the way that Christ teaches us to be, we would extend those acts we do for one another out into the world. We would build relationships with those we don’t now know. We would serve our neighbors in the way we serve one another. This is what our Presiding Bishop calls “The Jesus Movement.”
More and more we find that people are drifting away from church. So, the question for us today is, as the faithful of Christ, how are we going to follow his example and serve those beyond the walls of the church. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles. He waded right in and helped out.