Matthew 10:40-42 & Jeremiah 28:5-9
INTRODUCTION Some people look at the Bible as primarily a book of rules. And that to be a spiritual person is to learn what the rules are and commit oneself to keeping those rules. This has always been one way to think of what being religious is about. Certainly one can use the Bible that way. Many take some of the ten commandments as being the center of Christian living. Then try to have them put up in public places as if that would make the culture truly more moral. As good a thing as it is to not lie, or commit adultery and to honor parents etc, history shows that keeping any set of external rules misses the deeper meaning and purpose of spiritual living. The people whom Jesus warned the most were people pledged to this view of religiosity. He did not criticize them for keeping such rules but that by making that their focus they did not anchor their lives in the inner attitudes that reflect the nature of God. Matt 23:23 23 New Intnl. Readers Version. "How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You give God a tenth of your spices, like mint, dill and cummin. But you have not practiced the more important things of the law, like fairness, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first. 24 You blind guides! You remove the smallest insect from your food. But you swallow a whole camel!
25 "How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You clean the outside of the cup and dish. But on the inside you are full of greed. You only want to satisfy yourselves. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish. Then the outside will also be clean. 15 "How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You travel everywhere to win one person to your faith. Then you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
|'Head Of Christ, Done From Life'..Rembrandt..mid 17th century|
- Our gospel reading today focuses on one of those timeless attitudes that we are to aspire to and , by Gods grace, model ourselves. We should be filled with gratitude when we see it displayed by others , whether they be of our faith , another faith, or claim no faith at all. Matthew presents it when he has Jesus give these unusual repeating Welcomes. Matt 10: 40-42The Message Trans......”We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who welcomes what you do,welcomes me, the One who sent you. Anyone who welcomes what I do welcomes my Father, who sent me. Welcoming a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Welcoming someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."
- He's saying that the mark of a spiritually developing human is someone who accepts and enthusiastically honors and appreciates a wider and wider range of the earth's people and of life's realities. Such unashamed extravagant welcoming of all kinds of people is the nature and Character of God. This implies we are free to welcome and honor all cultures, faiths and the lives and bodily presence of all sorts of people; we are free to accept and welcome all of creation, all of its wondrous living and non living structures. This includes mountains and plains, rivers and deserts, sky and sea. And also all creatures of the jungle, sea and desert, and even ones under the back porch. It means to live as one who accepts humans in all the ways they come in colors , in languages, in family arrangements, in differing but loving sexual orientations. Such welcoming is how we continually, as our attitude and way of living, bring cups of cool water into the world. The reward, no doubt, that Jesus mentions is knowing one is in harmony with the pulse of God, the creating and welcoming center of the all that is.
3. Such a welcoming human Spirit is forever expecting the gifts of God to come from surprising and unexpected people and places. Who is the messenger of God here? Potentially it is every person and every part of creation that approaches us. Welcoming does not discriminate and declare that some people or some creatures or some life giving activities are more valuable or to be given greater honor and support than any others. Such welcoming and honoring is supported by what the apostle describes as the nature of love. ...I Cor 13. New Intnl. Readers Version.4 Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. 5 It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people's wrongs. 6 Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. 7 It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. ...in other words love always welcomes others, life and the world. To welcome is to delight in seeing the basic needs of fellow people and fellow creatures being met in daily living. To welcome means to care for, to protect; to be, regarding people and creation, a true conservative. ....to know the value of continually giving and receiving cups of cold water in the flow of life. Again the reward Jesus mentions is knowing one is seeking to be in harmony with the pulse of God.
CONCLUSION: The Jeremiah reading underscores that another foundation stone in the spiritual life is that of seeking peace within all of reality. It is to be a peace seeker. The meaning seems to be saying that a prophet who speaks of peace is very unusual and will likely not be trusted until the peace she predicts and urges comes to be reality. But what if a prophet says peace will come? Only if it comes true will he be recognized as one who has been truly sent by the Lord." Jeremiah 28:9
Prophets who are only able to see the ways that lead to war, famine, and ill will against other kinds of people are not the final and truest prophets of the Lord. The prophet whom the Spirit led person should hope for is the one who is able to believe in and point people to the ways of peace or to the ways of welcoming all people and all of creation , to welcome the full range of life for self and others. The spiritually maturing person will be drawn to the prophet who is able to show the way to peace. And when such peace happens , only then, this passage is saying, will the world have experienced the voice of a true prophet of the Lord.
How to Welcome a Day...Landon Saunders
Once there was a man who found a treasure map. He rose before dawn and went to the place where the treasure was buried, measured off his steps according to the map, and by torchlight he dug right where the "X" on the map marked the spot and he found the treasure chest.
It was covered with mud, so he held the torch close, and through the mud he saw the letters, "T-O." "To whom?" he wondered. He got out his toolbox, scraped off the mud and he found that it wasn't "to" anyone-that the treasure chest was etched with the word "today." Very curious, he thought, as he went to work on the lock. He struggled and sweated trying to open the lock. Then, just as the first rays of light were beginning to reach him, he got the chest open. As he leaned over to look inside, he was blinded by the bright light of the sun reflecting off of what was in the chest. He realized that the chest was lined with mirrors, and in the same instant he saw his own face…and the sunrise!
At the bottom of the chest was a leather-bound book, obviously of great age. He opened the book with feverish intensity. The first page said:
"You've discovered the greatest treasure any human being can possess. You have discovered today. A day is the only package the gift of life comes wrapped in. Take today, and learn everything you can about what it takes to cherish a day-to cherish today, for you will never find another one like it. Realize that today is the right place for you-not yesterday and not tomorrow-but today. And, as you realize this, you will be in the valley of love and delight."
This last phrase reflects the words of that beautiful song, "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, we will be in the valley of love and delight."
I love that story. I love that he sees his face and the sunrise at the same instant. But I love most the words, "a day is the only package the gift of life comes in." I love thinking of each day as a package-a package of life. How should we open such a package? Why is it that we so often fumble with the string, the bow, the wrapping paper, and never get the day opened? Never getting the day opened, we begin to measure our lives in other, less interesting ways.