Once one accepts oneself and their sin and who they are, they are able to look beyond themselves and see a much deeper and richer world because when we accept our sins we are able to move past them. This was the essence of last weeks letter. This week we pick up where that left off, in the recognition that when we look beyond ourselves we quickly realize that there is a whole world of other people our there.
In Matthew 10:40-42, we are brought deeper into a theme within the book of Matthew, which focuses on the importance of acceptance, as well as service to others. In modern day parlance we call that hospitality.
Unfortunately, in our modern world the term hospitality often refers to being hospitable to the guests that are invited. However, the Mission of God calls us to be hospitable to everyone and to think beyond ourselves.
One of the great lessons I learned last week was the importance of hospitality. I swear they had to have had every Presbyterian in Detroit wandering through the hotels and convention center. Many who were so adept they could answer your question before you even asked and others who gave a pleasant smile and hello. Actually, when you are working as hard as you do at a General Assembly, the smile is one of the most incredible gifts of grace you can get!
In the passage, it implores us to go and connect with others, starting small. It even gives us an example, to give someone who is thirsty a glass of water. I was thinking about that act and the whole welcoming nature of it. Giving away water is not that big of a thing, it is cheap and easy to do. But when it is received, it could mean the world to someone who needs it. The subtext, though, of this passage is that we often forget to do even the simplest of things to serve others.
In the church we often get acceptance and welcome wrong. Many churches will put up a sign that says, “ALL ARE WELCOME” or something like that. While friendly and attentive, the welcome that people receive is often a welcome that is empty. This passage sets a higher standard of acceptance and lets us know that to truly accept another person and subsequently God, you have to put yourself in the place of service.
In other words, no matter what your status is you are called to humble yourself and be a servant to others. More than that, you are called to be a servant with no expectation of reward! You’re called to serve because that is what we are called to do.
Thinking back to last week, that is what the people in Detroit did, and actually that is what most of the commissioners did, they gave their time, their precious vacations, themselves for an intensive week of service, and (for most) not for anything other than following their calling as elders and Pastors within this church. Interestingly, in my ministry, the most powerful and successful ministries are always the ones that focus on hospitality and service. There is a reason why Christ calls us to that way.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen