Here we are on the eve of the USA’s 241st birthday (on July 4th) and Canada’s 150th (on July 1st). Not a bad time to ponder this question: Who doesn’t love a big show? A grand spectacle. A dramatic and highly memorable experience. Something to talk about, to remember, to recount when life grows predictably tame if not dull. We in the church are no different. How about a good, rousing sermon by a dynamic preacher? Or even just the sight of huge crowds gathered for worship or feasting. To that the Gospel writer Matthew records these words of Jesus:
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 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; 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.” –Matthew 10:40-42 NRSV
There’s no talk here about big-name preachers or uplifting and memorable worship experiences. Instead Jesus takes pains to point out the value of what we often refer to as humble service. In this case, it’s those who offer “even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple.” They’re the ones to receive a “reward.” (Makes me think of Matthew chapter 25, as well.) They’re the ones Jesus holds up as not simply worthy but essential to the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Day by day, week after week, year after year–these are the ones who maintain the community and extend its compassionate reach. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a good, rousing sermon or a dynamic class session or a big and bountiful potluck feeding a multitude. Just remember that you don’t have to be the one out front in the spotlight to welcome and share with others. The kingdom is extended by one humble act of service at a time.
My new book, Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile, is up on Amazon in both print and e-book formats: 161-page Book ; Kindle e-book.The ancient Hebrew prophets can serve as guides for modern-day prophetic communities to engage in actions for peace and social justice. Each of the 10 chapters includes questions for reflection and discussion, making this great for class us