Pentecost Four 28th June 2020

READINGS of the DAY

Genesis 22: 1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6: 12-23
Matthew 10: 40-42

SERMON 

+In the name of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning everyone. The Lord be with you.

In the Gospel reading today we heard Jesus’ final words of encouragement to the twelve as he commissions them as ‘apostles’ and prepares them to be sent out on mission.
Right throughout Chapter 10 in the Gospel according to St Matthew, we hear Jesus give instructions along with warnings about dangers involved in being His representatives.
He empowered the disciples for ministry and designated them “apostles” – which simply means – designating them as “sent-ones” – or His representatives – people who are “sent” by Jesus and in His authority.

First, they are instructed to go into the regions of Judea and preach about the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus in places that Jesus would then go and visit. They are authorised to preach the good news of the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons in His name (10.7-8). He tells them to travel lightly and rely upon hospitality (10.9-13).
He also prepared the apostles for hard times as he told them he was sending them out “as sheep in the midst of wolves”.(10.14-16)

They are warned that in being Jesus ambassadors – they will be hated for His name’s sake and will at times come under fierce persecution. Yet they are also assured that they will never be alone and Jesus charges them to remain steadfast and strong in the faith – as they pick up their cross and follow Him. (10.19-20, 38).

And this brings us to the last 3 verses of Matthew Chapter 10 that we heard this morning, as Jesus concludes His commissioning of the twelve with words of encouragement.

Jesus says “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 shall receive a prophet’s reward. And whoever receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, they shall by no means lose their reward” (10.40-43).

What wonderful words of encouragement for the fledgling missionaries at the end of such a serious commission!

Jesus promises blessings for all who give His ‘sent-ones’ a good reception. And the word receive conveys the idea of receiving someone in a kind way – in a welcoming and supportive manner.

St Paul gives us some helpful examples of this in his letters to the early Christians. He writes to the people of Galatia saying:
“You know that it is because of a physical infirmity that I first preached the gospel to you; though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an ‘angel’ (or ‘messenger’) of God, even as Christ Jesus (Galatians 4.13-14).

In other words, the people of Galatia received Paul and Paul’s message as if they were receiving Christ himself.

And another example of Paul being received in the name of Jesus is shown in his experience at Thessalonica as Paul writes to tell the Thessalonians how thankful he and his co-workers were for their hospitality and welcome.
In 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2 Paul writes “We constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as the word of men, but as what it is, God’s word, which is also at work in all believers. (1 Thess. 2.13).

And in the 3rd Letter of John, we are given a brilliant example of how we can become partners with the ‘sent-ones’ of Jesus as they engage in their ministry, by opening our hearts to them – and then send them on their way with what they need – in order to continue the work that Christ commissioned them to do.

John writes of his gratitude to Gaius – who hosted some of the workers that John had ‘sent out’ to help spread the Gospel when they ones who were sent out returned and reported how welcome they had been made by Gaius.
John wrote:
“I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth. I was overjoyed when some of the brothers and sisters recently returned and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the travelling teachers, even though they are strangers to you, they have testified to your love before the Church. You do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God, for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from the non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.’
(3 John 4-8)

So, in the words of Jesus and in the words of His apostles we see the personal connection and solidarity that exists between Jesus and His “sent-ones.” And this solidarity leads Jesus to regard any kindness shown to His representatives – as if it were a kindness offered to Him personally.

In the New Testament, a great deal is made about love for others – love for neighbour and welcome of stranger. However, Jesus is not speaking in our reading today of indiscriminate hospitality. His final words to the apostles on the eve of being sent out by Him, are to a specific Christian action.

Jesus says “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matt 10.40). And here Jesus is saying something very important about Himself. Jesus clearly states that He too is a “sent-one”.
He makes it very clear to his Apostles and so to all of us – that He was sent by God the Father. He did not come of His own initiative and authority – but rather in His Father’s name and in accordance with His Father’s will.

As Jesus walked upon the earth – He came as a ‘sent-one’ from the Father – for the sole purpose of doing the Father’s work.

In the Gospel according to St John, Jesus said “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me – and to finish His work (John 4.34). “For I have come down from heaven – not to do my own will – but to do the will of the One who sent me.”(John 6.38).

Everything that Jesus did on earth was as a “sent-one” of God the Father.

And He goes on to say:
“The works which the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.” (John 5.6-37); and
“I am One who bears witness of myself – and the Father who sent me bears witness of me.”(John 8.18).

Jesus does nothing apart from the will of God the Father. And we are invited to realise that Jesus sends out his apostles and missionaries in His name and under His Father’s authority – in accordance with His Father’s will.

So when Jesus sends out his apostles in His name, to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to the entire world – they go in the authority of the One who sent Jesus.

Just before Jesus went to the Cross he prayed to His Father on behalf of His sent-ones saying “Father, as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (John 17.18).
And after Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples and said “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you. (John 20.21).

Jesus tells us just how much values those whom He calls and sends.

And the good news is that Jesus tells us that for every act of kindness – even the smallest act of hospitality extended to his sent-ones – will be received by Him personally and the blessing shall not be lost.

The good news for us all today my friends is that just as in days of old, Jesus still strengthens us for mission – and tells each and every one of us – that we have a highly valued part to play in his Kingdom work.

For even if we are the ones on the receiving end of that work, Jesus tells us that we have a very important part to play – in receiving and welcoming His ‘sent-ones’ and we will be truly blessed.

What a friend we have in Jesus that he ends such a serious lesson with good news for all people.

Let us pray:
Almighty God,
We thank you for your faithful disciples in every age.
May we and your whole church remain steadfast and faithful in all things.
As we are fed by your Word, make us strong in your service.
In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.