All readings for the Week
Genesis 22:1-14 with Psalm 13 or
Jeremiah 28:5-9 with Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
1. Who has inspired you in the Christian journey?
2. What is the “little cup of cold water” that you offer to others?
3. Why might someone not welcome “the promises of God”?
4. How did the church move so far away from living in “a place of welcome”?
5. Are people “changed for good” by the life and ministry of your church?
Jesus was very clear in his instructions, as we know from reading this sermon-speech over the course of several Sundays. He told his disciples to “proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” That’s what they were supposed to say, but then what should they do after that? What does the kingdom of heaven look like? How will we know it when we see it, or feel it? Jesus’ keynote address, the Sermon on the Mount (which took three chapters, beginning with chapter five in Matthew), tells us a lot about the reign of God.
The speech that ends today has given us even more information about how we can participate in that reign, now that we’re inspired by Jesus’ words and life. Along with those disciples, we’re told to offer gifts of compassion: to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Isn’t it interesting that there seems to be far more emphasis on healing and raising than on the exact words and teachings they (we) should use? (Church councils would address the words and teachings issue much later, but for the time being, the Holy Spirit would be enough.) More emphasis, it seems, on the doing than on the saying, more emphasis on doing good than on holding the “correct” beliefs.
And then Jesus focuses on two things: have no fear, he says, and have an undivided heart. (As Soren Kierkegaard noted, “pure of heart” means “to will one thing.”) You probably need to be fearless if you’re going to have an undivided heart, because you’re likely to risk a lot for the sake of the treasure that lies in your heart: perhaps you’ll even risk the loss of social standing, family support, physical safety and financial security. There have been Christians in every age and place who have known something of that kind of loss, but many of us in the mainline churches in the United States find it harder to relate. We recall Barbara Brown Taylor’s apt description of the temptation we face: “Sure, it is the gospel, but there is no reason to get all upset about it. Being a good Christian is not all that different from being a good citizen, after all. You just stay out of trouble and be nice to your neighbors and say your prayers at night. There is absolutely no reason to go make a spectacle of yourself…” (Her sermon, “Family Values,” is in Gospel Medicine). Reflection by Kate Huey Read more: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/holy-welcomewelcoming-ways.htm