Who’s Welcome Where? (Matthew 10:40-42)
© by Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
We all want to sit at table with Jesus
and remember the great things
he has done for us,
but we really would like to choose
who gets to sit next to us.
Do we welcome tramps and drunks off the street?
Will we invite atheists to share the Cup and Bread?
How about a tattooed, gauged, dreadlocked teen?
OK, so how about someone who is just plain
gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered?
I’m asking because, if
Matthew can be taken seriously,
and for our own good he ought to be,
then anyone we,
in our self-righteous arrogance,
deem not welcome, or
for any reason we may manufacture,
is, by the claim in this text,
the Jesus we claim to worship,
we have excluded Jesus from his own table,
and in a real sense disfellowshipped,
from the table as well.
Well, I suppose the poem is enough, but I’m not going to quit here. I preached this last Sunday, and got a good response to it. I know this because my sermons are more like a conversation. They are free-for-alls where anyone at any time can raise their hand and chime in with a question or a point they’d like to make. I’ve got some really sharp 10, 11, & 12 year-olds who hold their own with the adults in the discussion. And they all did this time.
We need to understand that this text is not a text for wannabe Christians. It’s a text for the full-blooded sort of Christian who doesn’t hide behind Paul because Jesus is too drastic for them, and like better how Paul excludes and judges than the way Jesus includes and forgives.
This text heals and opens possibilities for inclusion and hope. Jesus doesn’t seem to give a rat’s patootie about who belongs to your church, or how many, but he really does seem to care who you allow to receive at Communion. Jesus doesn’t seem to care too much about dogma or doctrine or systematic theology or denomination or ever which of the Big Five Religions you belong to, yet he really seems to care how you treat the poor, hungry, naked. Actually, Jesus doesn’t care whether you are doctrinally sound or unsound, spurious or true, read the King James or The Message. It appears that Jesus only cares about who YOU welcome, and apparently you should too. Jesus does indeed seem to care about more about who is not invited and who has not been welcomed, than the insiders who do the unwelcoming.
Apparently, it would be unfortunate to just welcome your cronies. It might be hapless to only welcome those who smell nice. Certainly inopportune if one were to single out the ones who cold make it worth our while for a welcoming. And certainly hostile to advancing the Kingdom if one were to hold a welcome back from a stranger.
Then there is the question of our own serves. Do we welcome ourselves? Do we treat ourselves with the true compassion Jesus expects us to treat strangers? How are we on the self-love front? If you can’t truly love and welcome you, how can you possible love and welcome a stranger? I am not writing about the weak, selfish, grasping love that some think of as their “sick ego,” that thinks demoralizing others makes themselves bigger and better. I am talking about the healing, legitimizing, affirming kind of self love like Jesus has that ripples out and heals, legitimizes, and affirms others. How are you doing on that front?
The truth of the matter is, much of the time we do not act very welcoming to ourselves. We say things to ourselves that we’d never think of saying to someone else. Actually, when we make mistakes, most of us do self-talk that is so demeaning that we would despise someone else for saying it to us. How will we ever learn to love others if we cannot learn to love ourselves?