Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)
Psalm 89:19-52 (Evening)
Matthew 10.24-42 NRSV: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Today’s Gospel reading is one of those where it doesn’t hurt to read the paragraphs preceding it. Matthew 10 names Jesus’ disciples, and traditionally, “discipleship” is the preaching point. As we get to the end of our reading, however, we see that the thing that is most demanded of us is to be lavishly hospitable, trusting that God loves us and cares for us–even in our most tension-filled times.
Following the Gospel means to go against the flow–not just the world’s flow, but our own. I was thinking about that recently when I had one of those days that suddenly went sour. You know the kind of days I’m talking about–those days where something happens in a moment that colors the next several days, or in their more extreme moments, weeks to months or years. It may be something as little as an unexpectedly humiliating moment or as large as a major personal or financial loss, an arrest. So many things in our life hinge on a moment–a police siren, a knock at the door, a summons, a single phone call–that turns our world completely upside down and backwards.
Our tendency following those moments is to be inhospitable in some way. Some folks act out and behave badly. Others go deeply inward and hide in their personal darkness. It’s a time when we feel profound depression, shame, or guilt, with no room to give of ourselves. Rather, we feel we deserve to take. Our personal “flow” is to circle the wagons, bar the door, or strike out at the first person who gets too close. Yet, I believe, discipleship is the practice of learning to find a way to continue to give of ourselves when we feel a little stuck in the mud, or even when we are wallowing in our tar pit of despair.
That’s an interesting set of turns of phrase–“welcoming prophets in the name of a prophet,” and “welcoming righteous people in the name of a righteous person.” I have to confess I’m not very perceptive when it comes to who’s a prophet and who’s righteous. My prophetometer is more or less broken, and my righteososcope seems rather obscured. However, our reading from Hebrews today sheds a little guidance there. We are not asked to be good at our discipleship; we’re only asked to be diligent with it, “so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.” Since we don’t know who the prophets and the righteous necessarily are in our lives until some later point in time, perhaps the more diligent tack is to simply be welcoming to all, and live in the hope that it will be revealed–even when things don’t feel terribly hopeful in the present moment.
Jesus speaks in our reading today of a God who notices the most nondescript of the nondescript little brown birds, extrapolating that if God notices something that small, we can rest assured that we are noticed and loved. Discipleship, as Jesus describes it, is less about saving the souls of others, and more about a transformational way of living and giving–one that transcends both a broken world and our own broken spirits. It all starts with hospitality.
What broken piece of the world is crying for your generosity and hospitality–even if you’re not in the mood?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid