Save the Date – For our August Dining Adventure!

A real church pot luck supper – at RUCC, on Wednesday, August 2nd from 5:30 to 7pm. The table set-ups, and coffee and tea will be here, bring a salad, a main course, or a dessert to share. It doesn’t need to be a big dish, just enough to share with others, it always works out that there’s enough food. If you submitted a recipe for the cookbook, this is a good time to introduce it to us. If not, just come, bring a dish. 

“Nurturing the Mustard Seed”

July 16th, 2017

Matthew 13: 31-35

Sermon by Reverend Brian Devlin

Sermon:

Jesus teaches his disciples in the forms of stories aka parables, so that the everyday people can understand his message. When we begin to grow a garden, we start with a few basic items. These items are seeds, soil, and water. When we take the seed and plant it in soil and continuously give it water, it sprouts into a beautiful plant or tree. This is a continuous process, not just a onetime deal. The garden must be watered and nurtured constantly for the flowers to grow. The area around where the plant was planted has to be weeded so the weeds don’t choke out the plants and kills them.
The same principle holds true in our spiritual journey. Someone plants the seed of spirituality, and continuously waters and weeds it so that our spiritual life will continue to grow. The remarkable contrast between the small beginnings of the mustard seed and the final mustard plant earned it proverbial status in Judaism. The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds in Palestine which grew into a tree which was about 8 to 12 feet tall. Israel, however, was not prepared for an insignificant beginning to the kingdom of God, so this image confused the people of the day. As people, we start out on a small scale and then end up with the larger ones. We start out small, as infants and blossom into large human beings, and the same holds true for the mustard seed. It starts out as a small seed and blossoms into a huge tree.

As Christian people, however, we are called to build the community that God started and to nurture one another. I remember sitting in a Mass many years ago, and the priest started the sermon with “Don’t keep the faith”, after a gasp by almost everyone in the church he said, “spread it”. We have all used the cliché: I’m going to plant a seed of a specific task and see what happens. This is how we get it done, after we’ve planted the seed, we encourage one another to get the task done and finally, the task gets done. I challenge each of us here today, that if there is a specific project that needs to be done, either here at church or at home, to plant that seed, encourage each other and get the job done.

I grew up in the Catholic Church, went to Mass every Sunday, was an altar boy etc., but wasn’t being nurtured. My faith, my spiritual life began to wither. It wasn’t until after a divorce and coming out of the closet as a gay man that I realized I wasn’t being nurtured on my journey. This mustard seed which God planted almost 60 years ago was not being watered and nurtured thus my journey didn’t grow. It wasn’t until May of 1997 that I got ordained into the Universal Life Church and began a public ministry.
I began this ministry by trying to plant the seed and hopefully nurturing it as well by conducting services in a local nursing home for a few years. It is my hope and prayer that the seeds that I planted and nurtured took root and helped the residents to grow.
A year ago, I became the Chaplain for PFLAG which stands for Parents, family, and friends of Lesbian and Gays. I know the seeds of faith have been planted there, and I am continuously working to nurture them for the youth. I remember receiving a phone call from someone whose son had come out of the closet and attempted suicide. I spoke with the person at length and brought them to the Rainbow Youth Group which is a social group where LGBTQ youth can be themselves and be around others with similar interests, and share ideas and support each other on issues relating to being LGBT. The difference this group can make is amazing. The seed is planted and nurtured here, The individual I mentioned has had a complete turnaround since I talked to him and I still keep in touch on a periodic basis.

Another way of nurturing the seed is by preaching the Word of God. Luke 17:5 tells us “ the apostles said to Jesus increase our faith” to which Jesus replied in verse 6 “ if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted planted in the sea, and it would obey you”

There is such power in those words, For the apostles, obedience to God is a duty to be fulfilled and not an occasion for reward, the same holds true for us modern Christians.

In the words of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, he defines champion as someone who does something superbly well. “A famous sports figure tells Dr. Peale how to achieve that—have a goal, make a sacrifice, discipline yourself and have faith in yourself which is made possible by faith in Jesus Christ” (author unknown). These motivational words could and should cause us to reflect on how we accomplish meeting the needs and goals of the community. I encourage us to find someone during this upcoming week and planting and nurture the seed by having a goal, and making the sacrifice, disciplining ourselves and having faith in ourselves that the goal can be accomplished.
Planting and nurturing the seed is not an easy task as we must be nurtured ourselves before we can go and work in the fields and nurture others. How do we nurture others? By coming to church, by listening to the preacher and putting into practice the words of the sermon. To go to God in prayer. These are just a few examples. There are many other things that can be added to this list as well. I challenge us each to add 1 thing to this list.

The parable of the mustard seed, is different from the other parables in that Jesus was using it to teach the apostles. These parables express the small beginnings of something new, and the large increase and growth, in this case, the kingdom of God. The kingdom grows believer by believer. And so, God describes what it is like. “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field”. The phrase the “kingdom of heaven” refers to God’s rule over the earth. It is God’s program for building the church during the time in which we live, the period between Christ’s return to heaven and coming back to be with us. The man that sowed the seed is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the field in which God sowed is the world, or his church throughout the world.

The illustration using the mustard seed which is the smallest in Judea is used to express the small beginnings of the church; how it had its beginning through the word of God and by the action of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s people, and how small their number was at first. In the beginning, the Gospel and preaching were like a grain of mustard seed, little, insignificant and even looked down on. And the circumstances surrounding the Gospel were very discouraging, because it was considered a novelty, lacking common sense and reason, and leading to depravity, Also, violent opposition and persecution came close on the heels of Gospel preaching and believing. This represents my earlier life as I saw it, discouraging, void of common sense and reason with opposition, and persecution. Coming out of the closet that I spoke of earlier and being ordained came with opposition and persecution. Many years ago, I was asked as a gay man how could I be a pastor by some of the opposition. Today LGBT people suffer persecution by not being nurtured in their faith. The mustard seed was planted and never nurtured and therefore it withered and died.

This parable can also be applied to the children of God, which is each and every one of us, as well as to the church. When a person first believes the word of God, their faith in Christ is very weak and small like the grain of the mustard seed. Imagine when we were children and that mustard seed was planted, the child is weak and must take small steps in faith in order to grow. Each step, though, makes us stronger as we grow in the faith and knowledge of God. Likewise experience in the love of God starts out small, the light of knowledge of God’s word is small. So, every child of God must experience growth. The church of God, which sprung up by the preaching of the word, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, was like a small mustard seed. God’s people were small in number in Christ’s time, and for a long time they struggled.

After God’s ascension, the early church made a very appalling figure, because of the persecutions they lived through, the outward poverty of the people etc., but the early Christians overcame the obstacles because they continued to believe in the faith and love of God.

In Conclusion, I would like to read a portion of a poem that has been around for a very long time. It also describes my own journey in attempting to plant and nurture the mustard seed. It also reminds me of how I overcome the day-to-day obstacles of everyday life and continue to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
The poem is called “Footprints in the Sand”:

“Lord you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why then when I needed you most you would leave me. The Lord replied “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” (Author Unknown)

“God’s Gift of Rest”

July 9th, 2017

Matthew 11: 28-30

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

Scripture:

Let us now open our hearts and our minds to this reading of our morning’s scripture lesson, taken from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 11, verses 28 thru 30.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

May the Spirit of Christ now rest upon our hearts as we consider this message from Jesus, regarding the gift of rest.”

Sermon

Today’s scripture is all about rest for our burdens of life.  But, before we get started I want to give everyone here the opportunity to answer a question.  “Is there anyone, anyone at all that are here today who have never been weary?”  “Never had to carry a heavy heart burden?” /David Ewart/ Really, I want to know if anyone doesn’t understand, through personal experience, what it means to be tired, or beat, and perhaps just plain exhausted!  In the course of life’s burdens have you ever felt done-in or worn out?  Have you never carried a concern for a loved one’s health or a friend who is going through some type of treatment?  Well, if you can’t relate to any of the burdens, troubles, or true problems of life that we all carry – then perhaps you won’t appreciate today’s message, because you won’t perceive that you do perhaps need some of this ‘rest’ which Jesus is offering!  If this is the case for you personally, I pray you will listen with an open heart.  For those of you weary travelers, whom are seeking some rest, the hard part is over.  You have acknowledged you are indeed, truly human, with real life situations and concerns which weight you done virtually every day!

Sadly, there are those who are perhaps too proud or overconfident with their own abilities to overcome life’s challenges, that they will miss out on receiving what is being offered.  Of course, as we get into this discussion we need to clarify, that worriers which weigh heavy on our hearts – are different then daily nuisances or irritations and bothersome things, which we are more than capable of handling on our own! A heavy burden is dealing with a serious attack of cancer.  Or a broken relationship in your life that is weighing heavy on your heart.  Things of these nature are what we are talking about.

Now that we are clear and have accepted that some of these ‘all too real’ life-challenges are things we could use some help with, possibly even some relief from, let’s go a little deeper and see if we can more openly clarify what the root causes generally are!  Take for instance fear, fear is something we all know… all too well!  Many of us are afraid to admit this fact!  What is your greatest fear? When I was still a lad I feared I would fall off my bike… as I grew older that fear left me!  Riding a bike, is one of those things most of us are capable of handling with a little help from a caring parent or older sibling.  There are more difficult fears that we have all faced.  Fear of losing a loved one is one many of us get burdened with.  Fear, in of itself, therefore, needs a more serious look.

“What fears do you live with?”  Is it a fear of heights, or the fear of the ocean, especially when you are on a cruise ship and all you can see in any direction is the vastness of the deep, dark, raging sea!  In the Twenty-First century, many now fear traveling by air.  Do you have a fear that you may end up on a flight that is in jeopardy?  Statistically, despite all the real tragedies and even counting acts of terror around the world these modes of travel are, for the most part, still the safest way to travel.  What we might all want to fear is getting in an accident with that next drunk driver on our highways.  The latest statistic I could find was for the year 2015… there were over ten thousand deaths attributed to drunk drivers.  If you personally know someone that was part of that statistic your heart may be carrying a heavy burden.  These are the kind of burdens that can really weight us way, way down.

Perhaps you fear the next hurricane… maybe we all should.  Worrying about them is pointless of course.  Preparing for one is the responsible thing to do.  Being in one is fearful to be sure.  Realizing your insurance will leave you with a very large deductible, before you can begin to rebuild your badly damaged home, or church, can be a heaven load to carry.  Being in denial of real danger is not the solution to our problems!  Nor can we become naïve’ about our human condition.  The ‘rest’ that Jesus is offering us will not stop us from being human; nor will it stop the next hurricane from damaging our communities.  Yet, Jesus is offering us a way to more fully live – as we travel this mortal journey here on Earth!

Many of us here today, have gotten over our childhood fears.  Granted, as adults we may have some well-grounded concerns of things that are affecting our lives or the lives of loved ones.  However, as adults we have learned how to face these situations without fear.  Good!  Yet, they still weight us way down.  Finding rest from these burdens is something we all long for and or need!  Many times, we feel captive to the burdens we carry through life.  Perhaps we cannot resolve these burdensome situations in our lives, yet we can live through them with a deeper sense of peace… if we accept the help which Christ offers to us.

You may have wondered why I picked such a short piece of scripture for our text today.  It is quite simple, this famous and heavily used short piece of scripture brings forth a soothing, healing offering from Jesus.  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Who among us do not want what is being offered here!  We all have felt the heartache of unresolved issues that seem to have no solution.  Yet, Jesus offers us rest for our weary souls!  It seems so reassuring that our God understands what weights us down and pulls at our hearts everyday!  With this invitation comes a summons, a bidding in Jesus’ words which we are obliged to accept.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  We are being enticed though Christ’s offer to lighten our loads by taken on his burdens.  It seems very difficult to consider this based on what we know of Jesus’ journey.  Yet, it seems Jesus expected our response, our fears and concerns, and thus goes on in his offer explaining to us his understanding of what this means.   “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” /Matthew 11: 28-30/ These words of Jesus, found hidden in this eleventh chapter of Matthew, seem to be perhaps one of those most compelling, yet provocative quotes within these verses from the gospel according to Matthew!

Elisabeth Johnson tells us, “It is not that Jesus invites us to a life of ease.  Following him will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear.  He calls us to a life of humble service, but it is a life of freedom and joy instead of slavery.” Oppression and Bondage come in many forms and in many packages!  Following in the footsteps of Jesus offers us a pathway which shall release us from much of what weights us down.  We can choose to continue to go it alone, or enter into the life of a willing disciple of Christ.  The rewards of being free to fully live, in spite of the hardship, the drudgery of oftentimes a difficult pathway through life, truly this is worthy of exploration!

One pastor put in his writings this provoking statement: “We all need to wear the yoke of Jesus.  Love of God.  Love of neighbor.  Mercy, love, and kindness.  A faith that moves mountains and carries momentous burdens.” /Edward F. Markquart/ Another pastor suggests to us that moving into the Light of God is well worth the venture!  “Living in light of the freedom and dignity of every person, and especially the poor, is not a ‘burden’ but is, in fact, the way of true rest and true refreshment.” /John Petty/ Many of you here this morning have-been living into these words for quite some time!  Your lives are a witness to this teaching!  I have seen your dedication for others.  Many have observed your peace and serenity as you have lived through some of life’s steepest and most difficult mountains.  Yet, here you are!  Looking for more clarity as to how to ‘indeed’ take upon yourself the yoke of Christ!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quotes from the Beatitudes to put across his point.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’  These followers of Jesus, as if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety.”  This is the burden Jesus speaks of… to love our neighbors with all our hearts!  Reaching out in the midst of our own anxiety to assist another; this is the way!  This shall lighten our own heaviness!
For those of you who are struggling with this, it is not as hard as it may seem. If you have never served a meal to the homeless at a shelter or food bank, give it a try.  Being kind and compassionate may cost you some sweat or a blister now and then, but it sure does make your own troubles seem less heavy!  Over my years as a pastor, I have carried some heavy burdens, there is no question about it.  My heart has ached at the loss of a friend, or loved one.  It was hard to let my mom and my dad go.  I struggled with it.  Some days are better than others.  Yet, I have been blessed to be a pastor.  On my lowest days, I have pushed myself to go visit someone in the hospital or some nursing type facility.

This one day, when my heart was about to break over a relationship that was in trouble, I went to visit this man in a local rehabilitation center.  Over the course of the previous year they had cut off his lower leg and promised him he would be able to have a prosthetic leg and walk again.  He never did.  On this particular day, I went to visit him and his stub was hurting him pretty bad.  Yet, as we chatted I heard from somewhere down deep, his unrelenting faith that God would be at his side no matter what happened next.   He had been a beloved member of the church.  After a few years, and more surgery’s I was about the only person who visited him.  It was not easy making those visits, yet I did.  He always was grateful for my visits and told me he prayed for my ministry and the church.  He died in that bed.  On the days of my visits, I always left with a skip in my step as my heart always felt lighter, and my gratitude for all that I have sometimes overwhelmed me.

The rest that Jesus offers to us, “and you will find rest for your souls,” /Matthew 11: 29b/ is a tremendous gift.  With this gift, you will experience moments of clarity, periods of peace, peace which surpasses human understanding.  You will feel the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders.  It is something you must experience for yourself.  No one can do this for you.  If you put your faith in God, reaching out for guidance from those in front of you, all the while reaching behind you, helping that next fellow or gal, over their next hurtle; you will not have time to focus on your own troubles, and thus they become lighter!  Following in the path of Jesus is like riding a bicycle: you may fall off now and then, but you will instinctively know how to get back up and try, try again!  You want some relief from your burdens?  Start reaching out to others with a desire to carry the love of God to them.  Do this and you will know peace, and you will find rest from your troubles.

Amen.     

“We Welcome You!”

July 2nd, 2017

Matthew 10: 40-42

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Scripture: 

“Let us now open our hearts and our minds to this reading of our morning’s scripture lesson, taken from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter ten, verses 40 thru 42.

Matthew 10: 40-42
40 “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.”

“May the Spirit of Christ now rest upon our hearts as we consider this message from Jesus, regarding the nature of welcoming.”

 

Sermon:

As many of you may know, I was brought up in a Congregational church in western Massachusetts, in a little town called Leverett.  Of course, it was the First, Congregational Church, and my grandfather was the pastor.  In 1957, the church became part of the United Church of Christ, which is the coming together of four denominations.  But, lets save those details for another day.  Now, my grandfather was more conservative than I currently am.  However, in his time, he was a very progressive theologian.  I know this based on a few facts which I have gleaned over the years.

You see, Grandfather Dixon, founded a Christian camp in that area; a summer camp.  During the winter, this pastor would secure promises for children’s scholarships from the wealthier members of the community.  Note, he did not limit his requests to just his congregation!  It was a well-known fact he reached across all ethnic, social and economic norms to get those pledges.  And he wasn’t the sort that made commitments as a pastor that he did not fully buy into!  In other words, he couldn’t be bought with financial pledges!  No sir!  He personally ran that camp the way he firmly believed it ought to be run.  And he did it with the support of a large range of folks in that local region!

During those years, everyone was extravagantly welcome to come and be part of this enterprise.  Scholarships were given to those that needed them.  No one was excluded because of their race or greed!  That’s right, some none Christian children came to Camp Anderson in the summers!  No, they were not excused from going to chapel every-day!  Likewise, no one was excused from helping out, keeping the camping area spotless at all times and every-one got a turn at washing dishes as-well-as assisting in the set up and take downs at meal time!  Everyone got to share in everything that went on in the camp.  Arts and crafts, hiking, swimming activities and over-night camping experiences in what was then called ‘Rattle Snake Gutter.”  Out of curiosity I looked on Goggle Earth the other day and ‘Rattle Snake Gutter’ is still on the world map!  Personally, I never got much sleep on those occasions!  I never saw a rattle snake, but raccoons, bobcats and skunks, and a variety of little creatures, liked where we put our sleeping bags also!

It was quite clear that my grandfather was ahead of his time.  Long before it was ever discussed at General Synod forums or Congregational Meetings, or even hot topics for The Deacons or Spiritual teams of the church to discuss, young people and visitors were always welcome at the communion table.  I can still hear him responding to the exclusion rule the Priest made at my sister’s wedding, whom became Roman Catholic to get married.  Seems us protestants, we were not allowed to take communion and all of us protestant grooms men and bridesmaids, were not allowed to join the bride and groom and take of communion during the service, nor stand within the rails of the alter area.  Neither was my grandfather, a properly educated and ordained minister with standing from the United Church of Christ.  However, he was authorized to not only take communion but to serve it to others, in any church within the United Church of Christ in the country!  Consequently, The Reverend Herbert Dixon, my grandfather, blurted out for all to hear: “At least in my church ‘everyone’ is welcomed to the table, to break bread and drink from the cup of our Savior, Jesus the Christ!”  The Priest did not ban him from the wedding, but they did not cordially chat with one another either!

e was quite the man.  I understand he had a great sense of humor too.  Also, he had a taste for music.  Seems, when he retired in the early sixties in Daytona Beach, he went to the churches with the best music!  Oh, did I mention, his favorite was a Black Baptist church with a large choir.  Guess no one told him there was segregation and such still in place!  I do believe he stood for what we firmly believe in the United Church of Christ today: Everyone is welcome here!  If he had been a bit younger I suspect he would have boarded those buses in Selma, Alabama, with his African American brothers and sisters too!  Standing up for their right to sit in the front of the bus and to drink from the same water fountains as their white counterparts did!

On our own website, here at this our church we have the following words written boldly on the first page!  “God’s Love Has No Strings Attached.”  Further down on that webpage these words are written: “We are a Christ-centered church, open to all people.  Riviera United Church of Christ is a Christ-centered church, open to all manner of God’s people.  Whether red, yellow, black or white; young, middle-age or old; handicapped or able-bodied; gay, bisexual, transgender or straight, you are welcomed and honored here just as you are – a beloved child of God’s.”  It goes on to say: “We are committed to do Christ’s mission throughout Brevard County, the Space Coast and beyond including Palm Bay, Melbourne and West Melbourne.”

Simply put: “Everyone is welcome here!”  And no, we are not going to fix you once you settle in so that you conform to our ways or our choices for living.  Our budding theologian, Angie Wright said in her sermon two weeks ago, “we are called to love one another not judge each other!”  She said it correctly!  Everyone is welcome here and we are committed to not judging you for your choices, nor shall we judge your orientations, either sexual or otherwise!  Judgment is left up to God.  My grandfather clearly believed this back in the sixties when I was a teenager, and he lived his life as a power of example for others to follow.  Today, we, as members of the United Church of Christ, believe in these concepts of equality and stand firmly together on many such social justice issues!  We celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ, marking this anniversary mile-stone – sixty years – after the birth of the United Church of Christ!

On the first page of the web-site for our national church “The United Church of Christ,” we find this description for “Who We Are” as a church.  It begins boldly: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

“We believe in extravagant welcome.  This is why we insist that God’s communion table is open, not closed, and God’s gift and claim in baptism are irrevocable.  We advocate justice for all.  Our congregations extend hospitality as a sign of God’s inclusive love.  We teach that evangelism – offering bread to those in search of it – is God’s mission.  Our perspective is global, not provincial.  We work with – not against – people of other faiths.  Why?  Because God is still speaking,” /The United Church of Christ, Website/Who We Are/

This weekend marks our entry into what we Americans call the fourth of July week; the actual day July 4th falls on Tuesday this year.  “Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. /Wikipedia/ As an American, I encourage everyone to proudly celebrate, with our brothers and sisters this historic event.  This is not a time to clarify if you are blue or red on some political map; rather, it is a time to come together, being hospitable to your neighbors and remembering the true meaning of this historic event!  We as practicing Christians, need to humble ourselves and recognize that independence is what has fostered our privilege to worship freely, without government intervention dictating to us: who we are, and what we believe.  Remembering, the historical fact, that these United States came to be because of social and religious oppression.  We have strived to overcome these obstacles through our historic struggle for independence.

These struggles continue.  This is why Jesus’ message to us this morning is so powerful!  It, is a simple message.  I have chosen only three verses.  However, it is the first verse, verse forty, which truly says it all!  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” /Matthew 10:40/ This statement is believed to have been delivered by Jesus as he taught the people and his disciples the basics of honoring God and the pathway to heaven.  These words were meant for everyone who heard them.  Common men and women.  Mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren.  Hebrews, Romans and even slaves and eunuchs who served the concubines of the elite.  There is every reason to believe that Jesus spoke to all the people, not just his inner circle of twelve chosen disciples.

Notice how in verse forty-two Jesus clarifies the simplicity of an extravagant welcome!  It doesn’t need to be dressed up in fine lines and silks; nor need there be a spread laid out of the finest of foods.  No, Jesus points to the simplest of things “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.” /Matthew 10:42/ “These are the basics of Christian hospitality… no surprises… nothing fancy… just an active awareness that all these “little ones” are our guests of honor… the honor of Christ.” /David F. Sellery/ Whom are the little ones to which Jesus refers?  I believe he is referring to those who are lesser than the one extending hospitality.  For in the context of this passage, Jesus was preparing the disciples to go out into the surrounding communities and spread his teachings and the things he knew they would come to know about him.

When we extend the hospitality to others in the name of Jesus, as Christians in the Twenty-First Century: “There is no small gesture… cups of cold water, hugs, helping hands, and listening ears.” /David Lose/ So when we ask ourselves, where do we start or how do we continue to offer an extravagant welcome to those around us, we may find ourselves asking this question: “How can I extend hospitality to other Christians, especially those in need?” /Larry Broding/ As we reflect on this question, as modern Christians, we need to expand this subject to include non-Christians as well.  Jesus’ love and welcome does not stop with one group of people!  He welcomed the Samaritans, the sinners, the leapers, the prostitutes, and even the despised tax-collectors of that time-period!

As we gather at the table today, let us warmly welcome everyone to join with us, sharing in this simple meal, bread and unfermented wine.  In the same manner Jesus and his heavenly father shall welcome us!

Amen.