Before reading this reflection, please take a look at Matthew 10:40-end, but you will find it relevant and helpful to read the whole of chapter 10.
I will admit to being one of those people who enjoy receiving or seeing a reward for our efforts – whether that be the country clapping for the NHS, Carers and key workers for their caring, helping or lifesaving support, or for the likes of Captain Tom Moore after his walking won our hearts, raised millions for the NHS and for which he is set to receive a Knighthood from the Queen – fitting rewards?
For myself, doing a good job at work and receiving a bunch of flowers, chocolates and/or a bottle of something nicely quaffable – fitting rewards?
Chapter 10 of Matthew is called the ‘Sending Out’ and from chapter 5 you will see Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as he prepares them for the mission they are expected to undertake – and not a little daunting.
We have that same mission today – to spread the Good News of the Gospel and in doing that there will be hazards and difficulties. Today, not unfamiliar to the latter-day disciples, we too live in an unforgiving world where people from other religions and none, who are entrenched in their own beliefs in interpreting scripture with ideas of what is ‘righteous’ – even Christians, who will fight vehemently to uphold their comfortable position rather than have their ideals challenged and corrected by the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth;…. but a sword’v34.
Being a prophet and giving the Word of God to the world in those circumstances, there can be a lot of ‘shaking off dust from feet’ from people and places we wouldn’t believe.
But if we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus – so just like an ambassador would be the embodiment of the government or sovereign they are representing in a foreign country, we see ourselves as ambassadors of Christ and His bodily representation on earth, ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours.’ St Theresa of Avila, therefore, the verse “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me…”, whether we come as a prophet or a righteous person, we are personified in doing the will of God, which makes perfect sense – we are instantly caught up in the heavenly realm – “I am the vine; you are the branches” John 15:5, the vine and the branches seared together in truth and love.
As for the reward in doing the will of God… Jesus promises a reward which has both a present (on earth) and a future (in heaven) element, not just for the disciples doing his work, ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven..’ v32, the same reward will be received for those who welcome the disciples – that reward is eternal in the kingdom of heaven.
Lockdown has not stopped the church’s mission to spread the Good News of Christ.
For St Catherine’s that ‘cup of cold water’ which quenches a thirst like nothing else and brings healing, hope and rest when we feel just like ‘little ones’ when we are tired, vulnerable and weak:
We have been pastoral, calling those who are vulnerable and/or alone and coming to their aid when there was a problem.
Branching Out are doing the same for its members – my brother is one who has appreciated the calls from others and his food parcel delivered once a week.
The ‘Feed the Hill’ initiative supported by the church with space and donated to through St Catherine’s Finance Committee and by individuals from the church, has been a Godsend to people who are in desperate need, especially during some difficult times in lockdown.
Staff and some of our congregation are working closely with our Deanery and the Diocese to help support our brothers and sisters in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in the US, and to find lasting solutions to prejudice within the church and beyond.
And I believe that ‘cup’ is there in our Friends of St Catherine’s WhatsApp Group, which has helped to calm us through lots of personal situations with a song or words of scripture, blessings and comfort which have resonated in our hearts and even made us laugh, just when it’s needed.
I pray that we are all prepared to welcome that prophet or righteous person who speaks to our soul and challenges our commitment to Christ – not to condemn us, but to shake us up from time to time and save us from our sometimes comfortable ignorance, freeing us by speaking truth to our situation.
Let us always be prepared to be ‘sent’ in whatever form that may be, to give that ‘cup of cold water’ to all those in need, as Ambassadors of Christ as if you were doing it for Jesus himself, with love from, and the love of, ‘….the one who sent me’ and rejoice to receive our real just reward. Amen.
Reverend Jane Elliott, Assistant Priest of St Catherine, Hatcham