A Provocation: Fourth Sunday After Pentecost: July 2, 2017: Matthew 10:40-42

Matthew 10:40-42
10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 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;

10:42 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.”

A Question or Two:

  • What is a prophet’s reward?
  • What is a righteous person’s reward?

Some Longer Reflections:

Again a scene about welcome.  This time the welcome is shared, distributed.

This is also a scene about reward, which is tied to welcome, and therefore is shared and distributed as is welcome.

It makes sense that those sent out are linked with those who sent them, whether it’s the disciples or Jesus, all are linked to God.  Notice, therefore, that all parties in this scene are part of the project of turning the world right-side-up.  God sent Jesus, and that means that the Messiah’s project is tied to the act of original Creation.  Jesus sent the disciples out, and that means that anyone properly called a disciple is an agent of messiahship, a partner in righting the world.  And anyone who extends hospitality to such a person is directly welcoming messiahship into the world.  This little verse is establishing a web of allies in a dangerous world.  Matthew’s narrative world opens itself with a genocidal murder: Herod, the stooge of Rome, slaughters all the toddlers in and around Bethlehem in an effort to kill Jesus (the one sent by God).  The world ruled by Rome is a vicious and dangerous world, but even in this world there is web of allies, says Jesus, and these allies welcome each other and welcome God’s efforts to turn the world right-side-up.

Not many are prophets, but hospitality to a prophet brings a reward.  A “righteous person” is someone who observes Torah thoroughly and well.  Observing Torah is an act of welcoming the reign of God into the world; it echoes the act of welcoming Shabbat into a Jewish home.  Shabbat comes like a queen to every observant Jewish home and brings with it a glimpse of all of God’s promises.  Welcoming a person who observes Torah brings with it the same glimpse, the same reward.

The web of allies is wide.  Even in Matthew’s violent world, allies are everywhere.  And the key to all of it is hospitality.  The key is welcoming the righting of the world.

How will the world be turned right-side-up?  I still do not know.

But the matter of offering a simple cup of water to a little one probably offers a clue.  It’s not a matter of accomplishing stupendous deeds of apocalyptic importance.  The key to our responsibility as Christ-ians, as partners in messiahship, lies in tending to the needs of those who cannot defend themselves, or even get themselves a cup of water.  I suppose that affordable health care counts as a cup of water.

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