Hospitality, Hope, Compassion, and Discipleship

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, June 18, 2017, Pentecost 2, Proper 6, Year A, Matthew 9:35-10:8-23

“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

When Christian & I were first married, we lived in a small townhouse in Marquette for a while. It was long before we had little ones to occupy our days and nights, so often after work, we would stop by the movie rental store and pick out a show to watch after dinner.

I recall one night when we were done watching one of these movies, we went upstairs to go to bed when both of us heard a noise.

It was a noise that caused both of us to feel a sense of adrenaline flow through our veins. Our lizard brain indicators were lighting up and someone had to go investigate.

I guess I lost the coin toss because down the stairs I began. As I slowly descended I had one eye on the front door and one scanning the room below.

Then I heard it again and my eyes caught the front door handle. I think, although it can’t be confirmed, that I screamed and ran back upstairs.

I told Christian what I saw, he told me to call the police and he went down to check it out for himself.

We both went down and looked around closer.

We heard it again.

As we waited for the police to arrive all of the possible scenarios flooded our imaginations. The police arrived, looked around the perimeter of the property and declared the place free of prowlers. He cautioned us to keep the doors locked and to call if anything else happened.

After he left, we locked the doors and heard the noise again.

This time we were in view of the TV and noticed the VCR shut off.

 

Do you remember VCRs?

The “Be Kind and Rewind” stickers on all the rentals?

Well, apparently we had let the machine go on after the movie was done and when it reached the end. Clunk, click jingle.

Then it automatically begins rewinding the tape. Clunk, click jingle.

Minutes go by and it reaches the beginning. Clunk, click jingle.

Minutes go by, again, and it shuts itself down. Clunk, click jingle.

Although the mystery was solved and we had confirmed that we weren’t being broken into after all but just had an extremely loud movie player, it got me to thinking about strangers, and hospitality, which today’s lessons seem to all get at, in one way or another.

Hospitality, Hope, Compassion, and Discipleship.

This week’s lessons are some of the best we get to hear together, don’t you think?

They are the stories that shape our notions of Hospitality, outlandish fulfillment of dreams long since forgotten, hope that has been poured into our hearts, and Christ’s commissioning to GO and do discipleship.

Hospitality:

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.”

Hospitality has meant and continues to mean many different things to many different people. Even throughout Scripture, we can find prescriptions for each type to fit our daily need.

But the invitation, I think, for today, is to consider Divine Hospitality. The type of hospitality we offer the other in God’s Name and the blessings we receive in the form of new life.

In Abraham’s example, we read that he noticed the travelers and ran to meet them for the chance to host them in his tent.

This is shocking to the reader. What kind of visitor shows up unannounced? In a world filled with danger and violence… visitors were not always folks that should be welcomed with open arms, a feast or with any kind of hospitality.

He hurried for the chance to feed them, give them a place to rest, to give them water to quench their thirst, bread to nourish their bodies. As though it were an honor to host them.

It was, some would argue, through Abraham’s radical hospitality that God opened Sarah’s womb at such an age to make him the father of all nations, to fulfill that promise from so long ago…and not at all how he imagined!

Abraham, the text tells us, was one hundred years old when Isaac was born, and that they were both “advanced in years.” that the “manner of women had left Sarah.”

Sarah was old enough that hearing that she would have a baby she laughed. It was such a ridiculous notion that she couldn’t comprehend that these men could be at all serious. And when she realized they were serious she back peddled, quickly.

Abraham’s hospitality unlocked something… it opened up a new reality. It made something impossible, possible….

So the question for us is, who are we being invited to extend this kind of radical hospitality toward so that God can open our womb… our wombs…  to new life?

Hope:

“hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Before our third year in seminary, Christian and I received a “study” grant to spend a month in the Dominican Republic. It was a life changing month where we explored the country, learned about mission and ministry in our sister diocese of the DR, and see what God was doing in the Church, there. We learned a great deal.

One of the things we learned about was that in the Dominican Republic the buildings that we saw all over had these portions of rebar on top of every building. Upon noticing these for a few weeks, I finally asked one of the diocesan contractor missioners and he said they call those Hope Eternal. Because blessing was demonstrated through the height of the buildings/homes. So if they always left room for more to be added onto… God would continue to bless them. They built into their buildings, “hope” that would never end, never disappoint.

What do you hope for, as an individual or family? What do we hope for, as a faith community? What do we hope we will look like after God transforms us… as God pours the Holy Spirit into our hearts?  After we put ourselves in a place of transformation? What do we hope for as we build our own structures to enable God’s mission to flourish and as we plan for the life of this place for today and into the future?

Compassion:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Compassion literally means to suffer along with someone. It requires relationship…

trust…

a dependence upon another so intimately…

that the suffering is shared among one another.

Trust is built, I’ve learned, through lots of small acts of love and kindness and thoughtfulness and intention. And it also takes an intentional generous outlook and perspective about the other person in the relationship. In order for there to be trust, it takes vulnerability…

A relationship is a two-way street, it requires giving and receiving, it requires showing up in the dark and difficult places, as well as in the bright and happy places.

Intimacy requires all of these in such a way that we intentionally allow another person to See Us, as we truly are. No masks, no hidden agendas, just pure, unadulterated, authentic, vulnerability.

Who are we being invited to practice co-suffering within the Name of Christ? Who do we need to restore a relationship with or deepen bonds of affection in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be in right relationship with?

Discipleship:

“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”

Discipleship in this context is not a theory or nice idea. It is a verb with clear commands of action to be followed.

Cure, Raise, Cleanse, Cast out, Proclaim!

It’s not a passive notion, but an action that demands our minds, bodies, and souls to engage with the mission of God. with the humans he created, with the creation in which all this abides.

Curing someone requires us to know the ailments which plague us, resurrection requires death first, cleansing requires touching the other in order to usher in healing, casting out requires naming evil.

These are not polite little niceties for us to practice being better humans. They are visceral. They require our own sense of humility to participate in.  They utilize cultivated compassion in order to offer healing.

In this ordinary time… the season after Pentecost… friends, may we lean into what it means to be followers of Jesus. May we have the courage to listen and to hear, who Christ is inviting us to proclaim the Good News of God’s kingdom.

May we follow Jesus so closely, that we are covered in his dust that all can tell what roads we have been down and who we have been tagging along behind.

Jesus then said to his disciples, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”Amen.