June 28th Service
On Line Service due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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Saint John's Pulpit (June 28, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost) –
"Whoever" Matthew 10:40-42

"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."

Whoever & Welcome…where are these words?

Unbelievably, it is the last Sunday of June this year. We now are wrapping up the first half year of 2020. In many ways, this period will be remembered specially for a long time. From January to present, we had to experience lots of difficult issues in our life. Covid-19, pandemic, discrimination, unsolved Racial issue, violation, economy hardship, hatred, and xenophobia. Lots of people had to lose their family due to Covid-19 while they were not ready.

For me, this week was very special, maybe for all Koreans regardless of North and South Korea. June 25 was the 70 th anniversary of the Korean War (1950-1953). Some of you may know, the liaison office building built by South Korea was exploded by North Korea on June 16. That building was specially built to enhance and strengthen mutual communication between two Koreas. For the last 70 years, two Koreas did not only have a chance to welcome each other but also be welcomed by each other. In the meantime, there were a few trials, but mostly they were a kind of political or diplomatic gestures. On the 25 th of June, to commemorate the 70 th anniversary of the Korean War, all Korean pastors in America had a special prayer meeting via Zoom.

Given all these concerns not only in America but also in our world, the text today is a very appropriate one for us who are wrapping up this half year full of scratches and scars. Please look at the verse 40 again.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Matthew 10:40 NRSV

From this verse, two words require our careful attention. These words are 'whoever' and 'welcome'. These words are ones highlighted by Jesus, but unfortunately these words are at risk of being damaged in the world. In ancient Jewish community, Jewish people were very careful and thoughtful in serving others. Serving others means serving those who sent. For example, if you serve an ambassador, you can serve a king or president who sent the ambassador. In a similar vein, here in the text, Jesus encourages us to welcome and receive others. It means that we also come to serve Jesus. Furthermore, if we serve Jesus, we also can serve God who sent Jesus. It is like a chain reaction! Yes, it is a holy reaction!

In Hebrews, we can see why we should serve others wholeheartedly.

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Hebrews 13:1-3 MSG

Still this world tends to draw a line between you and me. But to Jesus, he breaks down all walls dividing one from one.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. Ephesians 2:14 NRSV

Yes, his favorite word was ‘whoever’. Jesus became a good friend for all gladly. He welcomed all. Here is a question for you.

Between to welcome and to be welcomed… which is a better idea? Or which one is easier? Do you want to welcome others? Or do you want to be welcomed by others? Either or both? According to the text today, Jesus encourages us to welcome others. Why did he say so? Jesus wants us to become a harbinger of welcoming culture in our world. It is also our ultimate direction in doing God’s mission. Everybody wants to be welcomed, served, and received. However, it is very difficult to welcome others even if we would not be welcomed. Are you afraid of not being welcomed? Do not worry about it. Jesus says that this is the moment we should be happy.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  12  Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. Matthew 5:11-12 NLT

Please remember this. We Christians are called to welcome others. Although our world is not ready to welcome others including our country, let us welcome others. Someone whom we serve today might be from Jesus. So, we welcome Jesus today. My concern is that America today is losing a spirit of welcome. Do you remember this? A founding spirit of America was 'whoever'. Whoever could dream. Whoever made their dream. Whoever could achieve and be prospered. So, two words ‘whoever’ and ‘welcome’ from Jesus were the same words explaining how America was founded. Although these words are challenged in our world, still there is hope in Churches and Christians. I am not speaking about several huge words by politicians – freedom, liberty, equality, and justice. I am speaking about two simple words by Jesus – whoever and welcome. I believer that Christians who practice these two words in their daily life are more powerful than any politicians in the world. Why? It is the living gospel, period. Amen.