WELCOMING CHRIST – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year A; Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (RC)

June 28, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Genesis 22:1-14 or Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 13 or Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Lectionary for Mass (RC)

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a
Psalm 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 (2a)
Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Matthew 10:37-42

Last summer my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Polish village from which both of my grandparents, then teenagers, emigrated to the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century. He and I were both a bit nervous about how we would be received as an English-speaking, mixed-race, same-sex American couple. Would we feel welcome?

I couldn’t help but wonder about my grandparents’ experience more than 100 years ago as they traveled in the other direction. When they arrived in the United States with little education and no money, what kind of welcome did they receive?

As they were sent by Jesus to proclaim the reign of God and to heal the sick, the first disciples were undoubtedly nervous about how they would be received. Before they started following Jesus, they had been engaged in fishing, tax collecting, and other kinds of work that would hardly have prepared them for this kind of mission. How would they be treated when they entered a new town?

Jesus warned them of rejection and persecution, even at the hands of their own families. Both they and their message would often be received in the same way that Jesus was – with opposition and even with violence. Jesus’ words about welcome might have taken the edge off but offered no guarantees.

For Christian communities today, Jesus’ teaching about welcome is a timely reminder that the hospitality we extend to others is the welcome we show to Jesus himself: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me” (Mt 10:40). In his story of the final judgment just a few chapters later, Jesus includes this kind of hospitality as one of the criteria for entrance into God’s reign: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

This Sunday’s Gospel offers us an opportunity for churches to reflect on the quality of their welcome. Are there unspoken boundaries that keep us from fully embracing the stranger? Do visitors wonder whether they are being judged or viewed unfavorably because of their race, language, or dress? Are newcomers viewed as honored guests or as potential additions to the membership roll? Does the experience of visitors match the sentiments of the outdoor sign? Have we ever thought to ask if someone new to our community experienced a sense of genuine welcome?

This Sunday’s Gospel also challenges us to consider the situation of migrants and refugees. Surely the teaching of Jesus calls his followers to be at the forefront in promoting compassionate and humane policies based on a sense of welcome. Those who bear the name Christian can never tolerate exclusionist policies tinged with racism and xenophobia.

I don’t know how my grandparents felt about the welcome they received when they arrived in New York, but Ray and I were fortunate to be treated as very honored guests by my newly found family in Poland. Where there is welcome, there is Christ.

A Hymn for Today: “The Rice of Life”

Western Christians relate easily to the metaphor of bread as a sign of God’s abundant goodness. This text, set to music by Taiwanese composer I-to Loh, uses the image of rice, far more familiar in Asian cultures, to convey the generosity of God in the face of human need. God’s welcome is unconditional: “no one who comes is turned away.”

The rice of life from heaven came
to bring true life from God above.
Receive this gift; God’s mercy claim;
in joy and pain give thanks for love.

True rice the hungry world has fed,
the rice required for life below.
Provide this gift; God’s mercy spread;
in weakness God’s compassion show.

The rice of God for all is meant;
no one who comes is turned away.
Believe in Christ whom God has sent;
in humble trust God’s will obey.

The living rice, for all a sign,
came down eternal life to give.
Abide in Christ, the living vine;
in Christ, with people die and live.

Text: J. Andrew Fowler, 1983. © 1983, Christian Conference of Asia, admin. GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Image Credit: Jesus Welcomes All, Sudan

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.