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Giant Pool of Compassion Let Loose (July 2, 2017)

Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 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; 42 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.”

Remember in school when you were assigned a reading that was boring, irrelevant, impossible to understand? You’d turn a page and look at the book, and it seemed that the side of the book left to read was just as big as before? The side of pages read remained pitifully small. One page seemed to make no difference at all. It seemed like this reading will never be done. What’s one page when there are hundreds of pages yet to go?

Jesus, I think, is one who says each page read is important, because each page is part of the whole book. And it’s the book that matters, with each page contributing something to the book as a whole.

I say that because of how Jesus ends his instructions to his disciples in these verses before he sends them out. Some people will welcome you, in which case they welcome me. Okay. Some will welcome a prophet or a righteous person, their reward will be appropriate. Big time actions! Heroes and people that make a difference in the world. But some will just give you a cup of water. That’s it. Nothing life-changing. Nothing heroic or requiring major sacrifice. Just a cup of water. Yet even this small act means they keep their reward.

You see, it’s not the individual acts of kindness or compassion that change the world. Any more than it’s a single page that makes a book. It’s the totality of compassion, and every single act, no matter how small, contributes to the pool of compassion being let loose in the world. It’s the entire pool of compassion that changes the world. And even a cup of water contributes.

Here’s what this looks like. A couple of weeks ago we finished a very successful VBS. It took 44 people at LCM to pull it off. Each contributing something to make the entire VBS experience significant for the 80 kids that came. I can’t begin to list the various tasks, ideas, organizing, ordering, supporting, coordinating, and more.

Some were bigger pieces and some were smaller. Some took a lot of time and some took a little bit. But each person’s gifts contributed. Each person was part of what made VBS fun and beneficial for our neighborhood kids.

That doesn’t include those who donated materials and food items. Some donations were larger and some smaller, but each one was used and became part of showing God’s love to our neighborhood kids.

And that doesn’t include the Sky Ranch staff that led worship and three stations and brought curriculum. Even if you count he Sky Ranch staff, that wouldn’t include the other 50 members of the staff at Sky Ranch that prayed, organized, wrote, and trained those three for our VBS.

Just for one week of VBS, there were lots of different people contributing in lots of different ways. Some were major contributors, and some minor. But each contribution of time, skills, ideas, and energy was part of the whole VBS at LCM 2017. And it’s the whole of VBS that matters to our neighborhood kids. It’s the whole package of love and care that affects them. Every contribution mattered, and every contribution is appreciated. Thank you, everyone who helped, no matter how small that help may seem compared to someone else. You were part of God’s love being shown. You made a difference. Truly I tell you, none of you will lose your reward.

That’s just one week of VBS. As a congregation, we are about compassion and love every day, permanently. It’s why we’re here and it’s what we do. 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 you will lose your reward.

Some people’s contributions to this congregational are large and visible: Council members, heads of big ministries, staff. Other people are behind the scenes and their contributions and help are less visible. Others help in smaller ways less frequently. Whoever gives even a minute of their time to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of you will lose your reward.

Some people in this congregation are regular, major financial contributors. Still others put a dollar in the plate once in a while. Whoever gives even a nickel to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of you will lose your reward.

LCM’s ministry is an entire effort. And no matter how you small may think your effort is, no matter how insignificant you think your contribution is, no matter how little time you take in congregational ministry, it is still part of the whole of what we do. Together. It’s the whole of LCM that matters, and you are part of that. Thank you. 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 you will lose your reward.

So we keep at it. One act at a time, one gift at a time, one contribution at a time. You see, it’s not the individual acts of kindness or compassion that change the world. Any more than it’s a single page that makes a book. It’s the totality of compassion, and every single act, not matter how small, contributes to the pool of compassion being let loose in the world. It’s the entire pool of compassion that changes the world. And even a cup of water contributes. Each page matters. Each page is a contribution. Each page is part of the book, part of God’s library of compassion. And that is what changes the world.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in Sermon

 

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Grace and Love are Messy; They Just Keep Spilling Out (Pent 3)

Matthew 10:40-42

A visitor mentioned to the pastor of the church that the congregation was cold and unfriendly. So at the next service the pastor told the people that starting next week they would take a moment to greet the people around them. Immediately an enthusiastic woman turned and reached out her hand to a man behind her. He was shocked, and quickly told her that sort of thing didn’t begin until next week.

Hospitality is a huge biblical issue. Hebrew culture was assumed it. It was a culture that was aware of strangers, travelers, the lost, the poor, the grieving. Jesus understands his culture, and he’s sending his disciples out into that culture as missionaries. At the beginning of Chapter 10, Jesus say to not only tell culture about kingdom, but show them. Last week in the middle of chapter 10 he point out that there are consequences to doing this that may be difficult.

Today, Jesus talks to his disciples about being guests in the culture. Jesus understands that as these disciples go into towns and villages, the people of that culture will be the ones providing a welcome. The disciples are told by Jesus that they (the disciples) are the guests and the culture is hosting them.

Get to the particulars in a minute, but for now notice how opposite of that concept we are in the church today. We have come to believe the kingdom has come to us, and that we are the hosts for those who want to join us. Reverse of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. He never told them to go build churches and wait for people to come to you (or even to invite one or two). He told them they are the guests in whatever culture they find themselves. As they welcome you, they will experience Christ who is present in you. You go to them and meet them on their turf. They’ve got home field advantage. You have to give them the chance to welcome you, not the other way around.

We’ll discover what that means once we get the whole context.

Look at this reward business. Welcome a prophet, receive the reward of a prophet. Welcome a righteous one, receive the reward of a righteous one. That word “reward” means to get what’s appropriate. Work in the field, you get what a landowner would pay. So, really, as the culture welcomes a prophet, they get what a prophet would give them. As they welcome a righteous person (one of Jesus’ disciples), they get what a righteous person would bring. So as they welcome you, they get to know and experience God’s vision that you bring—that’s part of who you are. It simply spills out of you.

If that isn’t good enough, we get this cup of cold water. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple . . .  “Whoever” is still the culture. “One of these little ones”—Matthew only uses the word one other time in reference to people, and he’s referring to the least significant. The unimportant. The ones he sent his disciples to be among– the sick, the lame, the possessed.

“In the name of a disciple” = in the character of, or in the nature of one who bears the name of Christ.

So if the culture shows grace and mercy (cup of cold water) to those who are in need (the least significant) because of you, they’ll get what happens as a result – see the kingdom, the reign of God. Be sharing in that.

 

That’s the covenant into which the church is baptized. The church is the yeast in the cultural loaf. We are sent into the culture with the authority to be present in the culture in Jesus’ name.

And we begin by experiencing that right here. We experience mercy and compassion with one another right here, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with mercy and compassion.

We experience forgiveness with one another right here, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with forgiveness.

We experience love, warmth, and generosity in this place, and are then reminded that we are filled to overflowing with love, warmth, and generosity.

As we experience the vision of God among ourselves, we are reminded that we are filled to overflowing with the vision of God and therefore it spills out of us in our culture.

At the beginning of each worship time, we ask you to introduce yourselves. Not just to be nice, but to remind ourselves that the hospitality of God is shown to all: prophets, disciples, and those who others consider least important. We are filled with forgiveness and love, and sent out with that spilling out in a culture that needs to experience it. And we begin by experiencing all this with one another right here.

Others may or may not welcome us. That’s not the point. As people who are filled with God’s love, forgiveness, and grace, we simply spill out into the culture that which has filled us as we gather around God’s Word and sacrament.

When you go, love as you’ve been loved here. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven here. Show mercy as you’ve been shown it here. Because 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.

Go be yeast; go spill Christ in the neighborhood by your presence. Spill God’s mercy, kindness, love when you leave this place. Be mindful of the first person you meet after leaving this time of worship. You are sent to them. Trust that they catch a glimpse of the vision of God because of you. You are called by God, and marked with the cross, you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t help it. It’s spilling out of you.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Sermon

 

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