Welcome: Reflection for 28th June 2020 by Alan Finch

Readings: Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

A cup of cold water, seems a simple thing to us but I guess in Palestine a cup of cold water would be more significant as Jesus says in our Gospel ‘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 are as we know still in ‘lockdown’ and we are worshiping from our homes albeit in the certain knowledge that many; many others are also worshiping and giving thanks to God for each blessing no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.  Each person that survives this awful disease and comes home to loved ones or the inspiring ways Care Homes have developed ‘safe’ ways for relatives to see and talk in person even if that is either side of a Perspex shield is to be blessed.   Psalm 13 perhaps echoes our own plea that we do not want to be forgotten the psalmist says –  ‘How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? 

Now in the context of the Coronavirus Pandemic we too pray that it will not go on for ever and God will intercede by giving strength to each of us to do our bit and the determination of the researchers and vaccine developers to produce a vaccine that will protect us in the future against re-occurrences of    COVID-19 .

St Paul in Romans 6 speaks out to us not to give in to our own wants and desires, but to seek to be ‘slaves’ to righteousness and by keeping ourselves focused we will reap the reward of the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   At this time I think there are a lot of distractions and things to move our focus from what God is asking of us to seeking our own, perhaps more selfish needs.  At this moment in time we naturally worry about our own problems caused by the lockdown and for some these are great; little or no income or a reduced income; loss of employment; worry how we will feed our children; or feelings of loneliness and depression or becoming mentally strained and whilst all of these are important we are called by God to be challenged; challenged by God as Abraham was; to have faith and think not of our own worries but those of the silent ones those ‘little children’ as Jesus talks of, that’s all of us; adults and children who are being abused behind closed doors, those young folk for whom learning is difficult in ‘normal times’ but now are being asked to run harder to catch up when theirs is an uphill struggle just to get by.  There are many too who are being taught at home and very well  they are being taught but are no longer able to socialise and learn the  skills that are so important; how to interact with other people and work out ways to discuss and argue in order to come to a mutual understanding of each other’s view.  We adults find that hard enough and seemingly we who profess to be followers of Christ Jesus seem to find it difficult to come to a common understanding of what it is to have Faith and be a follower Jesus.  One of the blessings of the lockdown for me is that we seem to be able to all come together under the one umbrella of Faith in God through Christ Jesus and KNOW through the on-line worship we are all welcomed into God’s family.  We are comforted by seeing the names and locations of people from all over the world joining to what is a common worship of God’s love, surely a step towards the Kingdom here on earth.  Our love for one another is the most important thing.

So being able to open our hearts and minds to welcome all-comers should be our focus, a focus then on welcoming.  One thing that I have pondered much about during this time of isolation is that we as humans (it is seemingly built into our very nature) make instant judgements about people and situations; and it is sometimes very difficult to undo our first impressions. BUT I believe that is what Jesus was speaking about in the Gospel passage we read today.  I remember being taught at work that just make sure your first presentation was a good one because it will keep you in good stead for any subsequent ones that might be not quite as good in the future!  

You see, in our Gospel today Jesus uses the word “welcome” six times in only three verses and points us to the importance of what being hospitable is in bringing about the Kingdom.   It strikes me then that what we are being asked to do through this passage in Matthew, is to consider more deeply what it means to welcome one another.    

Now in times of lockdown we are severely challenged to seek what being welcomed is; it cannot just be a physical one of embracing our friends, neighbours families or church families so what is it then?   Perhaps it is the acts of kindness, even very small ones, as even the smallest of good deeds is a little thing done in love. The cup of cold water is the symbol of that. It doesn’t take much to be hospitable, welcoming, and accepting of other people.   In the passage it is a cup of cold water that is given as the example and can be replicated in a host of other simple, small deeds.  Jesus tells us that every single one of those small deeds is important; indeed significant if we are to get our reward.   It doesn’t take much; every one of us can achieve these things, and every one of us can make that difference. We can find God in the smallest of good deeds.  It is sometimes easy to forget the Christian paradox that it is in giving that we receive and it does not matter when or under what circumstances we find ourselves; and these are certainly unusual times, we should endeavour to practice welcoming.  Welcoming in all of the ways set out in Matthew because it is in our deeds no matter how big or small that we show our love of Jesus by welcoming others into our hearts and through our deeds we indicate to Jesus our love for Him and therefore let Him into our hearts.  We are all ‘little ones’ in the sight of Jesus so whatever we do for others, is as if to give a cup of cold water to the little ones, and we then have let Jesus enter us, so we too can experience the welcome of Jesus.  Paraphrasing what Jesus said; ‘it is in losing your life that you will find it’ and It is in welcoming others that you experience Jesus’ welcome

Whoever gives you even a cup of cold water… will most definitely not lose their reward.

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