Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSV)
'Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple - truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.'
For almost twenty years, I have been frequenting a small, local, family-run eating establishment. There have been times when I have been a little less frequent in my presence, but a recent move to serve a church in Hartford means I can, and often do, eat there on a weekly basis. It's not a fancy place; a countertop and chairs is the seating plan and the menu has remained exactly the same for almost two decades. The food is abundantly delicious but the hallmark of the place, an extravagant hospitality, keeps folks like me returning on a regular basis.
It doesn't make a difference if it is a customer's first, fiftieth or five hundredth time; they are greeted with a hearty and heartfelt welcome. "What will you have today, my friend?" The owners seem to know just what a friend needs: a cup of cold water, a hot bowl of soup, their favorite sandwich. Everyone who comes in, takes a seat and orders a meal is made to feel as if they are sitting down to dinner at the family table. The menu is freely adapted to the needs of the customers. I now order what is lovingly called the "Donna special." Sometimes you're blessed with a taste of something that a family member has just cooked up in the kitchen.
Each day we have an opportunity to welcome others as Jesus invites us: with joy, with gratitude, and as if we are welcoming God into our midst. When we gather for worship, we can make those who come to church feel like special guests in the house of the One who calls us his very own. When we welcome others, we will be rewarded with the blessing of a beloved community sitting at God's table and are fed by love and grace.
Loving Lord Jesus, thank you for being our frequent guest in the guise of friends and strangers. Help us stretch our hands and hearts to welcome others in your name. Amen.