Bearing a cup of water, which is from God


Sunday June 28, 2020 – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 10:40-42

Sermon:

Carmen Retzlaff, New Life Lutheran Church, Dripping Springs, Texas

Matt. 10:40 ¶ “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Matt. 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;

Matt. 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.”

Welcoming a disciple, a prophet, a righteous person is welcoming Jesus. Giving a cup of cold water to “one of these little ones” in the name of a disciple will be the criteria for losing or gaining reward. This is a strong, short passage from Jesus, rich with things to ponder.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus was talking about the dangers of being a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Here, we hear about the rewards. We will be welcomed, in his name. And when we are welcomed, when our message of love and grace is heard and loved, that person will in fact be welcoming, hearing, and loving Jesus.

We are the messengers. Messengers of love and grace. And that means sharing the message, for one thing: sharing the good news, not keeping it to ourselves. Telling others of the encounter we have had with Jesus, with God here on earth, our lived experience with the living God. Telling others of how our lives have been transformed by hearing and pondering scripture, by being in community and praying together, by opening ourselves up to the mystery of communion and the unexpected feeling of freedom that comes from serving our neighbors.

Sharing our faith also means being vulnerable. Asking to be welcomed, putting our hopes and beliefs out there. That is a role we seldom want or choose. A negative reaction is painful, as Jesus knows, since he said that when we were not welcomed, we should not dwell in that rejection, but shake that dust off our feet and move on.

Bearing God’s good news also means knowing that if we are welcomed, with this message of divine love, that we are not the ones being welcomed, ultimately. We are only the messengers, relaying the message.

Of course today I am thinking of that as a pastor, and one who is leaving her congregation. I have had many expressions of thanks this week as I’ve announced this leaving: people thanking me for being their pastor, and for bringing this good news to them in ways that they could hear, or in the nitty gritty ways of showing up in hard times - the ways news is shared in relationship. And this verse reminds me that this good news wasn’t my message - I was just the messenger. And I hope that you will ponder that as well.

If you are grateful for any word you’ve heard from me, or any kindness or help - you are indebted to this community: this community supported me in pastoring you. This community, the New Life congregation, sent me out to talk to people, and paid my salary to counsel people and pray with the hurt and joyful and struggling. Some one here gave offering so that you could have pastoral care, so that you could hear a sermon. Some one here prayed to support that work. If anything I have done or said has been helpful to you in the past eight years, thanks goes to your New Life family, who chose me to pastor this community. And thanks goes too, to the larger communion of saints - the prophets and apostles who wrote down these sacred texts, the generations who passed them down, the church larger who supported new ministries like this.

If anything I have done or said has been helpful to you in the past eight years, your gratitude goes to Jesus, in whose name I have worked. I am grateful to Jesus for leading me here, for the privilege of the job of preaching and teaching the good news, and caring for others in his name.

If you have any inclination to thank me, I hope you’ll express that by carrying on the work we have started here together. I hope you’ll continue to help the church figure out new ways to be church in the world, like regularly including community service in our actual act of worship, like worshiping outdoors in and with nature.

I hope you’ll continue to spread the gospel —the good news of God’s great love — to our neighbors here. So many people are so hungry for that message, for the news that God loves them just as they are, right now, with no requirement to be better or do better.

I hope if you are grateful for any care or kindness I’ve offered, you’ll offer that to each other, in Jesus’ name, caring for each other, praying for each other, making sure no one is left out or forgotten. Caring for the sick, marking important milestones, encouraging each other in hard times.

I know it is our cultural temptation, often, to follow a pastor, or find a pastor whose sermons or style we like. If that is your inclination, I hope you’ll at least consider this as an opportunity to dig deeper into Jesus’ teachings about community and caring for one another: his words to his earthly disciples are about creating community, not finding a new leader when he is no longer in this earthly plane in the same way. I hope you’ll look at Paul’s letters and the other epistles and find words there about following Jesus, not one teacher or another. When I faced this as a younger adult, this leaving of a pastor, it helped me grow deeper in my faith.

I know that for some of you your attachment to New Life is in part about me. But I also know that you would never say I am more important to you than the others here. To make a point, I’ll just list the youngest of us: no one would say I am more important to them or to New Life or this community than Baby Townes, Baby James, or Ivan, or Mia, or June, or Sawyer, or John. Each person brings something here, and is part of why we show up, and is some one for whom we take responsibility to be there, as a faith community.

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.

And. We are part of this larger project - this Jesus project, this spreading the good news. You are also sending me, and I am sending you. You are sending me to tell others of the work we did here, to hopefully bring outdoor church to a new place, to new people who need to reconnect the God of their grandparents’ church to the God they know in meadows and forests and mountains and sunsets and hummingbirds. I am sending you out to the Texas Hill Country to find others who need to find Jesus in jackrabbits. We are growing this, together.

And. To children who need to know that church is stories in sand and climbing persimmons and not just being told to sit still and be quiet in church.

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.

We have much ministry to do. So many people are hungry for the good news. Remember Jesus’ promise to each of us: whoever welcomes us as we share God’s love welcomes Christ. We are messengers of the greatest love, the love of the universe, and the message we bear is for the healing of the world.

Adelante. Amen.

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