The Consequence of Welcoming/Receiving
There is a whole lot of welcoming/receiving going on in our very short, three verse, scripture lesson for today.
Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, the word “welcome” or it’s alternative “receive” is used eight times in this short bit of the Bible.
So then, if we want to best understand the point of our lesson for today, we should take some time to see what the word “welcome/receive” means.
For now, let’s focus on the word receive.
The Greek word for receive is dekh-om-ahee.
The Strong’s Concordance of the Bible defines the word dekh-om-ahee as: To receive in a welcoming (receptive) way. In the NT the Greek word is used of people welcoming God (His offers), like receiving and thus sharing in His salvation (1 Thes. 2:13) and thoughts (Eph. 6:17).
The word occurs 59 times in the NT and always in the Greek middle voice, which stresses the high level of self-involvement (interest) with the “welcoming-receiving”.
So, there you have it.
In the NT the word receive/welcome is all about welcoming God’s salvation, God’s thoughts, God’s will for our lives into our lives.
It is worth noting that in the NT this receiving and welcoming is always done in a deeply personal way.
Okay, receiving or welcoming God into our lives in a deeply personal way.
How then do we go about that personal receiving, that deeply self-involved welcoming, of God into our lives?
Verse 40 of Matthew 10 tells us that if we receive or welcome one of Jesus’ disciples into our lives then we have welcomed him, Jesus, into our lives.
Verse 40 also says that if we have welcomed Jesus into our lives then we have welcomed the one who sent him into our lives.
And we know that it was God the Father who sent the Son.
Therefore, following Jesus word for us in Matthew, step one in welcoming into our lives, first Jesus and through him God the Father, is actually dependant upon receiving Jesus’ disciples into our lives.
It is through the lived relationship we have with Jesus’ disciples, as his disciples, that we have a relationship with the Son.
And through our relationship with the Son, gained through our relationship with his disciples as his disciples, we gain access to a relationship with the Father.
Which makes sense since it was certainly through a relationship with a disciple of Jesus that you first came to receive Jesus in your life.
I always thought that first you should receive Jesus into your life.
And then, almost as an after-thought, you should learn to try to put up with his disciples whenever you happen to bump into one of them, either in the world or in church.
But according to Jesus words in Matthew, I have had it backward all these years.
Jesus said to us today that is by accepting, not by coldly tolerating, but by warmly receiving his disciples in our lives that we in fact receive into our lives the Son and so the Father and His salvation plan for us.
Our salvation, our reward as a disciple of Jesus is directly linked to, dependant upon even, our receiving his disciples as his disciples, not as annoying people.
It would be much easier, and some would say far more preferable, if we could get into heaven by just focusing on accepting Jesus in our lives.
Wouldn’t it though?
After all, it’s easy to put up with someone you know who lives at a great distance from you.
Like your eccentric uncle who lives in Mississauga, who insists on telling the same stories over and over again every time you visit him.
But at least you only have to see uncle once in a great while and so his annoying habit of sucking his teeth while he repeats his stories can be tolerated.
Because Jesus is no longer with us, in the flesh, it is easy for us to treat our relationship with Jesus, the way we receive Jesus in our daily lives, in the same way we treat our relationship with far-away uncle.
We can tolerate both our distant uncle and an even more distant Jesus in small doses, like maybe just on Sunday.
Because of the lack of their bodily presence in our day to day lives, we can even choose to ignore the both of them altogether when it is convenient for us to do so.
On the other hand, it is much more difficult to put up with the annoying habits of someone you are forced to rub elbows with every day.
Like your partner who insists on leaving the lights on; even when she is not in a room and won’t likely return there in the near future.
Yes, compared to receiving Jesus into our lives on an intellectual level, it is much more difficult to live into getting along with, let alone welcoming into our lives, that intensely annoying disciple of Jesus who lives next door.
It is even more difficult to welcome into our life together as a congregation the disciple of Jesus who sits in the next pew over and who, as far as you are concerned, has a personality that would peal paint.
However, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that receiving one another as disciples of Jesus, though it may be brutally difficult at times, is absolutely critical to our life together as a Christian congregation.
Receiving one another as Christ’s disciples is a massive challenge in the church.
If this isn’t the case then why do so many congregations explode in self-destructive conflict largely over differences of opinion concerning things that don’t really matter.
Things like music and who keeps putting the forks in the wrong drawer in the kitchen.
We certainly don’t quarrel and fight amongst our selves because we don’t know better.
We most assuredly don’t quarrel and fight amongst our selves because our God failed to give us a clear set of directions for knowing how to deal with the controversies that come with congregational living.
No, we fight and fall apart as congregations for one simple reason.
We fight and divide the body of Christ because we fail to receive into our lives, as his disciples, those who Jesus sends into our lives for us to live with as sisters and brothers in the Lord.
We fight and fall apart as congregations because we fail to receive one another in a welcoming way as Jesus’ disciples, as those who Jesus chose to die for.
It is not a solitary, intellectual exercise.
We cannot survive alone as a Christian.
And we cannot think our way into God’s salvation.
We cannot remain in a state of grace with God on our own or by exercising our human will.
Christianity, which is God’s plan for our salvation, is a shared faith because it is an incarnate religion, a lived faith.
It is a religion that is lived in your individual person, yes absolutely.
And it is a religion that is to be lived in community with all others who, by the Holy Spirit, also welcome the Son and through Him the Father into their lives.
Christianity is a religion that we live into by faith.
And it is a religion that we live into every day by exercising that faith in the living of our lives in community as a member of the Body of Christ, the church.
The Christian faith is all about living together; living according to everything Jesus commands.
Christianity is a lived, or incarnate faith, because God chose in Jesus to take on human flesh and so to enter into communion with humankind.
It makes sense that the God who chose to be incarnated in human flesh and so enter into communion with humanity in order to save the humanity, would choose to make right human relationships, right human community, play a fundamental role in His salvation plan.
To save our flesh, God took on flesh like ours.
God calls us to enter into his salvation plan in our flesh by willingly receiving into our lives the gift of faith in Jesus.
Which gift can only come to us through the hearing of the word.
Which word we first heard through other disciples of Jesus.
Once we have received the gift of faith we are called to respond in love to God for that gift by actively and personally continuing to receive the Son, and through him the Father, into our lives.
Doing so by receiving one another in a warm and welcoming way.
Doing so by receiving our sisters and brothers as fellow disciples of Jesus.
Not as annoyingly inconvenient after-thoughts to God’s salvation plan.
But receiving one another as we would receive the Father and the Son.
Jesus starts our lesson in verse 40 by saying, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Jesus finishes our lesson for today in verse 43 saying, “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.”
The water we receive from Jesus is abundant. It is living water.
It is water without end.
Let us freely give the living water of Jesus Christ’s love to our sisters and brothers, to our community, to God’s good but broken world. In so doing Jesus promises we will not lose our reward.