Matthew 10:5-14, 40-42
During this time of Covid-19, I have been reflecting on what it means to be welcoming and hospitable. I have been asking, how do we do this when we are not physically gathering and are unable to share a meal with each other? It is a question that many churches are asking at the moment. As followers of Christ being hospitable is core to our identity. We see in the life of Jesus one who ate and drank even with the outcasts and traitors; the sinners and tax collectors. Being welcoming is important and it is good to ask these sorts of questions about how we are welcoming but what I noticed in this week’s Gospel reading is that the disciples are not being told to be welcoming. Rather, Jesus is telling his hearers that they are the ones who are to receive the welcome and hospitality.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Jesus sends his disciples to participate in his mission of proclaiming in word and deed the good news, that ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ As the church, as baptised ones, we too are sent ones. We are part of the great commission:
“go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
This is not just a job for overseas missionaries or the ordained. We are all sent to be Christ to others with humility and vulnerability.
Being the sent ones, means being vulnerable. Brené Brown, a research professor who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, defines vulnerability as:
“uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”.
As a society, we have defined vulnerability as weakness. In a society that values control and power we avoid vulnerability, we avoid uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Maybe that is why we much prefer to be the ones who offer hospitality and welcome. Welcoming others into our church, into our home, into our lives leaves us with the power. We are the ones who get to make the decisions as to who is invited and when. We get to make the rules and the conditions. Conditions that usually included, even if they are not said explicitly, you can join us as long as you are like us and do things our way.
As sent ones we need to embrace vulnerability. If we are to reflect Jesus to others then we must embrace vulnerability, for that is exactly what Christ did. God incarnate, God enfleshed, God born a baby to a common young Jewish girl, is vulnerability. We have a vulnerable God. Relationships, by definition, are vulnerable. By instigating a relationship with us, God decided and determined that vulnerability is at the heart of faith.
Brené says “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Vulnerability is the strength and courage to go and risk rejection. In the face of excuses and grumblings, disbelief and disobedience, refusal and rejection, God keeps coming back, adamant that reconciliation and renewal are possible, certain of love for us, willing to be seen over and over again even in the face of denial and betrayal. In the end, God had to trust in the welcome of the world to make a home here, to abide here, to make the Kingdom of Heaven be known here. As disciples we are invited into this mission of God. We are invited into this relationship of vulnerability as we seek those who are receptive to the good news, those who are welcoming and offer hospitality and blessing. Even with the full knowledge that we will also be rejected and betrayed.
What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come to our church and join us, and instead took seriously our calling to be vulnerable and go to them? What would happen if we truly believed that we bear the presence of Christ to every person we encounter, in every home, workplace, or neighbourhood we enter? What would happen if we saw every conversation as an opportunity to speak words of grace, every interaction as an opportunity to embody Christ’s love for the neighbour?
Maybe we would find that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. Maybe we would find a greater clarity of our purpose and deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives.
May the Holy Spirit give us courage to be vulnerable, to be sent people, to be relational people, to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation with humility and grace. Amen.
Rev Tammy Hollands