Sermon given for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, July 2, 2017 - Matthew 10:40-42
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever receives 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.”
Jesus is never one to get in a war of personality. He isn’t going to be one upped, compared to you or anyone, to think that there will always be someone else more impressive, more famous, more intelligent. For Christ, he really doesn’t care. The fear of the sinner is that we won’t be able to come to the gates of the New Jerusalem, at the end of days, the end of time, when all has died, and all has been made alive and say – don’t you know who I am? Because Christ will say to you – that’s my line.
We live in a culture infected with the cult of personality. This idea that who someone is, as a professional, or a position, or a name has overridden our lives to make everything revolve around what it is that person does for a living, or how often there name is in the spotlight. Never thinking that this cult following takes us away into a fantasy land that can become dangerous.
Think of all the products peddled by celebrities of every stripe. Shampoo by this actress, cars by this actor. A restaurant owned by some 1980’s rock singer. Endorsements becoming the key to making money for many companies because we live under the delusion that if we use the same clubs as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, or Jordan Spieth, somehow we will be able to play like them. Sucked into that vortex of prominence given to people just because they are famous, not because they actually deserve it.
So too with politicians. We line them up as our saviors. The right ideology. The right views. Our views. Speak of them as though they walk and water and will never fail us. That their poop doesn’t stink. Making excuses when they say or do despicable things because we want to grant them redemption, see them in the best possible light, even if it may be a little dim.
Pastors aren’t immune either. The most notable churches in the country have mostly become cults of personality around a certain preacher or teacher. Even small churches, because we pastors aren’t immune to the desire for fame and fortune. Wanting to be important in the Kingdom of God rather than useful. Thinking that what we have to say is rather important because of us, instead of the One for whom we speak.
This even reaches to us. To families. To friends. To our own cliques. Our own strata of society. Last Sunday the text was all about the divisive nature of Jesus. How, in some ways, the disciple of Christ is not one who can tow the party line because Christ has no party except that which involves the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ.
You hear it here – Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Welcoming someone because of something they say or do. Welcoming them in their name. Receiving a reward commensurate with a prophet’s pay. The danger is that, that is a prophet, not Jesus.
Or the righteous person - Whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous. Welcoming one we think righteous, in the name of the righteous person or as a righteous person. The righteousness of that person becoming the talk. That awesome or righteous person becoming the focus, not the one who justifies, or calls righteous, the unrighteous.
Instead, Christ speaks and says - Whoever receives you, receives me. Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. There the xtn life, the life of faith, loses itself and becomes a life of regular submission, of inferiority. The Father sends the Son to send you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You being marked out as those belonging to another, not speaking of the Kingdom for your own sake, not living for your own sake, but that of Christ.
Then it is no wonder that Christ turns our attention away from prophets and righteous people to the mikros. The little ones, the small ones, the least ones, the ones without titles, without superior virtues, the looked-down-upon-ones. The ones you least expect. The ones who seem like not so good disciples. But the ones we think to be last are the very ones Christ desires. Those who thirst and need that cup of cold water to quench a thirst for forgiveness and love. And all they can do is drink.
I recently had conversations with two of our beloved people who I looked and saw in their eyes this thirst; this need. One spoke of pain and grief. Fearing for what has happened. Needing a refuge and not finding it. Another having gone through the valley of the shadow of death and now has come to a new place. A place of resurrection out of the slavery that our sins, and the sins of others, can construct.
Both in need of that cool glass of water in the heat of the day. In the heat that comes with life in this world. Needing to have a thirst quenched. One still is waiting for a cup, that cup of hope. The other has been given what Christ gives and now has been reborn into a living hope.
Beautiful Micah is about to be washed in some cool water. The least of these, the little one, is about to be drowned in this water given to him in the name of Christ. Not in my name. Not in the name of his parents, but the name of this God who looks to the little ones, and says – You belong to me.
Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
A not-overthinked-faith. A faith founded on the God of the thirsty. The God of the small. A faith not founded on who we find important but upon the One who finds us important. A faith that is yours. Because of a God that is yours, you children of the Father, bought by Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen