The Warmest Welcome

July 11, 2020

Sermon 1704                          Matthew 10.34-42                                              July 12, 2020

I went to an all-boys’ college.  You may think I should say “all male college,” but the things we did, I think all-boys’ is the better description.  It was nice, in a way.  No fighting over girls.  The course load was big enough to choke a horse, so being in a placid town of 13,000 helped.  Everybody was in sports out of sheer boredom.  But there was something about continually being with 55 brothers.  It was a rough and tumble scene.  Don’t look for a lot of hand holding.  The zingers, the put-downs, the left-handed compliments.  The dorm room door opens.  “Oh, it’s only you.”  Looking back it was perfect training for the ministry.  It gave you thick skin.  You learned there were proud people in the world and there were people who were meant to be run over.  We were meant to be run over.

The Warmest Welcome

  1. All who carry the Gospel will be run over (34-39).

  2. A welcoming faith makes it worth it (40-42).

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law---a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (34-36).’”

Don’t put Jesus in the category of a radical bomb-thrower intent on burning everything down.  At his birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill to men.”  Jesus came to bring peace, the peace of forgiveness between God and man.  But what happens when the world wants nothing to do with that peace?  It isn’t the warmest welcome.

War breaks out.  Remember the first time Mom and Dad put big brother or big sister in charge of you while they went out to a nice restaurant for a date night?  It wasn’t date night on the home front.  Who does she think she is to order me around?  I don’t need him for a baby-sitter.  First you don’t do the simple thing that they ask you to do.  Then you do something they tell you to knock off, like plugging in the turned-way-up radio you placed right next to the sleeping dog.  Then you start to mouth off to her.  Then you push him.  Then there’s trouble!  Who is to blame?  Not big brother or sister.  They were doing what they had been put in charge to do—make sure you didn’t tear up the house or do yourself harm.  Your evil heart stirred up trouble.

At Jesus’ entry into the world evil hearts stirred and caused trouble.  While Jesus was a toddler King Herod found out from the Wise Men a king of the Jews had been born.  He sent his goon squads to Bethlehem to kill every boy age two and under.  What could the baby Jesus have done to antagonize King Herod?  Nothing!  Herod’s evil heart caused the trouble.  Welcome to our world, Jesus!

Look at Jesus’ own family.  Throughout his ministry, only his mother, Mary, believed in him after Joseph, his step-father’s death.  Once, his brothers come to take legal guardianship of Jesus because, “he is out of his mind.”  In another, they taunt Jesus into pulling off a big PR stunt--make a big entry at the upcoming religious festival at Jerusalem.  They said this, the Gospel writer tells us, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7.5).”  Jesus did not split the family.  The family split from him.  When he hung on the cross, he had to tell the Apostle John to watch over Mary for him.  No other son or daughter in the family would put up with her beliefs.  “Welcome to our world, anybody who believes in Jesus.  Oh, did we run you over?  Soooooorrrrrrrryyyyyyy (just kidding).”

I could rant and rave about the way the wicked world continues to run over Christians, but there are plenty of voices singing that song and you know where to find them.  There’s something more disturbing for all who carry the Gospel.

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (37-39),”

Jesus talks about personal hardship.  He talks about the cross.  He talks about losing your life.  One of the drivers of that semi-truck that runs us over is our sinful human nature.  It is you.  It is me.  If we go back to the baby-sitting story, what was it that set us off against big brother or big sister?  We didn’t want anyone telling us what to do.  Even if it were something we would have ordinarily done, even if it were something good for us, we didn’t want someone telling us what to do.

Since that is the case, the sinful human nature does not want anyone telling it what to do, how can it respond in any other way to God’s commands than by trying to run the messenger over?  We know we should love our neighbor as ourselves, but that sinful human nature disregards our wishes and exhibits selfishness, if not outright hatred towards others.  The sinful human nature rises in rebellion in the face of the Law, God’s commandments as to how we should live in this world.  The sinful human nature bull-dozes the Gospel, too, when it enters.  Believe the Good News?  Who needs it?  What kind of foolishness is that?

If this were the only the reaction of someone else, we could sadly shake our heads and move on.  But this is the reaction of each one of us.  We want to live life our way, instead of God’s way.  Often when people (sometimes members) ask me to do something on a Sunday, at noon or in the late morning, I politely decline, saying, “I’ve got this gig on Sunday mornings.”  Then they remember I am a pastor—their pastor—and they say, “Sorry.  Forgot.”  I think they really are—they are sorry I can’t do what I want on a Sunday morning.  What a drag.  Glad it doesn’t tie them down!  Sad to say, at times in my life I would have secretly admired them.  See how strong the sinful human nature is?  Living for the moment will make us lose our life for eternity.  Letting the pleasures and cares of this world crowd out Jesus will lead us into unbelief and hell.  We need a change of mind and a change of heart.  We need to repent.

The warmest welcome.  A welcoming faith makes it worth it.

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.  Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward (40-42).”

What is the warmest welcome Jesus can receive?  Some might think of Palm Sunday.  Boy, the whole town was rocking with shouts of praise for Jesus.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna in the Highest!”  “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of the Son of David!”  But that type of welcome wears thin very quickly, doesn’t it?  Before the week was out they were shouting “Crucify!  Crucify!”

Jesus says the warmest welcome one can receive is that people believe the message.  The warmest welcome one can receive is that people receive you as a true messenger of God.

The Bible repeatedly emphasizes how it is worth it.  Everything we go through here for the sake of the Gospel is worth it in God’s grand design.  Think of Jesus’ parables of the lost.  The lost sheep—the shepherd leaves the 99 behind and searches for the lost sheep.  “I tell you there is more rejoicing in heaven among the angels over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.”  The lost coin—a woman scours her house until she finds it and then invites her neighbors to celebrate with her.  Think of the parable of the Sower and the Seed.  Yes, some seed doesn’t make it, that which falls on the path, among the weeds or in rocky soil.  But the seed that falls upon the good soil produces thirty, sixty, one hundred times what is sown.

It is worth it to others.  That is the warmest welcome a Christian can receive, to know that they are a weapon in the hands of the Holy Spirit to put another nail in the devil’s coffin, that another person becomes a believer or turns back to the Lord they have wandered away from.

It is worth it to us.  Jesus does not ask us to make sacrifices for which there is no personal return.  In fact, God forbids that.  When Moses pleaded that the Lord destroy him instead of taking his wrath out upon the sinful Children of Israel (“forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”), the Lord said, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book (Exodus 32.32-33.”  One time Jesus was speaking about how hard it was for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  The disciples got a little uneasy, not because they had plush bank accounts, but because they recognized money has a pull on everyone. Peter piped up, “We have left everything to follow you!  What then will there be for us?”  “I tell you the truth, everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19.27, 29).”

I am going in circles here, but please forgive me, because this is so important.  “What are the works God requires?” the crowd asked Jesus the day after he had fed the 5000.  “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6.29).”  That’s what God wants to see—faith in Jesus Christ.  All good works flow from faith as surely as all good apples on a tree grow from that tree.  Take away the tree—no apples.  Take away faith—no fruits of faith.  Faith is the welcome the Lord wants to see in our hearts.

Faith is the welcome we want to see in the hearts of others.  Jesus rejoiced when Zacchaeus the rich tax collector came down from the tree after Jesus said “Zacchaeus, I must eat at your house today!”  On the spot Zacchaeus gave half his wealth to the poor and promised to doubly repay anyone he had swindled.  “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham (Luke 19.9).”  The Apostle Paul’s letters are full of joy at the welcome of faith God’s Word has enjoyed in so many of the congregations.  “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1.5).”  When the Apostles hear of the church forming in Antioch they send Barnabas.  “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord (Acts 11.23).”

We rejoice in our Lord.  We rejoice in our brothers and sisters in faith.  I rejoice to see you.  More than a few of you, when you come in the door I hold open for you—better my one set of hands on the door than a hundred sets of your hands on the door—more than a few of you say, “Good to see you.”  And it is.  It is good to be here in a place where the warmest welcome is to be found.  It is good to be here welcomed by the forgiveness and love Jesus extends to us.  It is good to be here to welcome that message of forgiveness by faith.  It is good to be here to receive and give that welcome among like-minded brothers and sisters in the faith.  Here is unity.  Here is equality.  Here is fellowship.  Here is the Church, the people of God.

The Warmest Welcome

  1. All who carry the Gospel will be run over (34-39).

  2. A welcoming faith makes it worth it (40-42).

Maybe you went to the same type of school I went to so long ago.  Oh, you don’t have to have a Masters of Divinity or a Bachelor’s of Arts.  Come to think of it, you don’t need any degree at all, not even a high school diploma.  Every Christian, Jesus promises, is enrolled in the school of being run over.  Trouble comes looking for us.  Jesus stood firm.  He helps us stand firm.  We are in good company and it shows in the warmest welcome.

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