7th Sun. after Pentecost Proper A-8
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 10:40-42 Sermon
June 29, 2008
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
438 "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee"
519 "O God Of Bethel By Whose Hand"
532 "Jesus Still Lead On"
543 "Blest Be The Tie That Binds"
TREASURE THE GOSPEL
TEXT: (vs. 42) [Jesus said] "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
The depression years hit everybody hard, and the Midwest was no exception. This was the 1930's. On October 29, 1929, the date known as "Black Tuesday," the stock market crashed. Because of this, people lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion.
Then in the 1930's, approximately 9,000 banks failed. People lost their savings. The banks that did survive were less inclined to loan money, which led to a decrease in spending.
People from every class began to stop purchasing new items. Because of this, the unemployment rate grew to 25%, which led to even less spending and worsened the economic situation.
With the American economy in shambles, and as businesses began failing, the government created the Hawley-Smoot Tariff in 1930 to help protect American companies. This charged a high tax for imports thereby leading to less trade between America and foreign countries along with some economic retaliation.
And finally, there was this great drought in America's heartland. Farmers could not pay their taxes or their debts, and many wound up selling their farms for little or no profit. John Steinbeck based his book "The Grapes of Wrath" on this topic.
Both of my parents grew up during this time. My mother lived in Fremont, where my Grandfather was a professor at Midland College. She recalls that the faculty and their families were allowed to have meals at the college dining hall. The pay was meager, and this was one way that the college was able to help out.
My dad was living in Bloomfield, a small town in northeastern Nebraska. My grandfather was a pastor there, and a great many in his congregation were farmers. At that time there were eight people in my dad's family. There were my grandparents, five children, and "Oma Schroeder," my grandfather's mother.
The church was unable to pay my grandfather any sort of a salary, so the district mission board provided him with twenty-five dollars a month in order to survive. And as a side note, this money had to be repaid later on.
To feed the family, they had a big garden. My grandmother raised chickens. They also had a huge tom turkey that my dad used to ride around. He said it was a very sad day indeed when they had to butcher it.
The church my grandfather was serving was very sensitive to the needs of his family. Certainly the members wished they could do more, but they were absolutely stretched to the limit financially.
In a similar sense, my grandfather was sensitive to the needs of the congregation he was called to serve. If he would have left and accepted a call someplace else, who would come to serve them, especially since they couldn't pay a salary? He couldn't leave them high and dry.
The members of my grandfather's congregation appreciated his ministry, and the fact that he was willing to continue to faithfully serve them in spite of the lack of finances.
They lived in the church's parsonage, so they were guaranteed a roof over their heads. And the members responded too. Even though they didn't have money to spare, they provided meat and other food items and things they knew my grandfather's family needed. It might not have been much, but they did what they could.
The people realized one very important thing. They knew that they needed to be spiritually fed and nourished. They were in a situation which literally stretched them to the limit, and yet they knew their relationship with their Lord couldn't be neglected. They might have been dirt poor in the physical sense; but in the spiritual sense they were truly wealthy. And having a pastor there to minister to them helped keep everything in perspective.
Our text for this morning is the very tail end of a much longer section, where Jesus sends out his twelve disciples. He sends them out on a specific ministry to the Jews of that day, which Jesus calls the "lost sheep of Israel." It was their duty to bring the Gospel message to them first. All of the Old Testament prophecy had been fulfilled. The Kingdom of God was indeed near.
In his instructions to them, Jesus tells them the following in verses 9-11: "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave."
In no way were these disciples to have any means to support themselves. They were to rely completely and totally upon the goodness of others. All they could have with them was the clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet, and that's it.
Now I don't know how you'd react to this situation, but I have a good idea of how I'd handle it. If two guys were to suddenly show up on my front verandah ringing my doorbell and say to me, "I'd like to come in and stay with you awhile and eat your food while I tell you about Jesus," I'd probably tell them to get lost.
In most cases, such people would seldom make it past the front door. We certainly wouldn't be inclined to give them food and lodging too; and if we did, these door-to-door people would probably think we were crazy.
In verse 40 of our text for today, Jesus says: "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me." To better understand this, we have to realize that it was customary to treat the representative of a dignitary in the same way that the dignitary would be treated themselves. If a king or a ruler were to send an ambassador to represent him at a meeting for example, that ambassador would be afforded all of the dignity and honor of the ruler himself, because he is the king's chosen one.
In the situation described in our text today, those disciples were representatives of Jesus himself. The way the people received those named representatives of Jesus was indicative of the way Jesus would be received. Fortunately, they didn't have those cults going door-to-door hawking religion like we do today. So would Jesus be given honor in those homes, or would he be rejected?
Unlike the cults of today, the disciples were given authority and power by Jesus. In verse 8 Jesus instructs his disciples: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons...." That certainly would be convincing proof that these men were there under divine authority.
The last verse of our text says a lot however. In verse 42 Jesus says: "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
This shows the attitude of the heart. If someone did not reject the disciples and their message, then their faith was genuine. It didn't matter what the person had either. Maybe they couldn't provide a bed, or shelter, or food. They might not have been able to give the disciples what they felt they deserved. But even something as seemingly insignificant as a cup of cold water, given in faith and out of a loving heart, meant just as much as anything. Even the poorest of the poor could offer at least a drink of water.
But Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected. He even warned the disciples that there would be those who would reject the message, even to the point of persecuting them. They would reject their Saviour and what he had to offer. He would be despised and rejected amongst those he came to save, to the point of being condemned to death on a cross.
But we know that the Holy Spirit was at work amongst those to whom the disciples came. They were welcomed into homes, even though others rejected them. They were shown the same welcome as they would have given Jesus himself. And they supported the disciples' ministry.
In our lives, we have had the Holy Spirit work in our hearts too. We have come to know Jesus as our Saviour from sin. But do we adequately treasure the gift of the Gospel like we should? We know what Jesus has done for us; but how important is it to us to preserve it and advance God's kingdom here on earth?
It's easy for us to become lackadaisical about our faith and take it for granted. We are tempted to say, "Jesus is my Saviour, I'm going to heaven when I die, and all is right with the world." And then we let it go at that. We forget how important it is for us to keep that faith fed and alive. We forget how important it is for others to witness that Gospel at work in our lives.
That's why we have to keep coming back again and again. We need to be forgiven for a faith that takes too much for granted. We need to hear God's assurance of forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus continually. We need to physically receive that forgiveness Jesus won for us through his true body and blood in the Lord's Supper. We need to have the flame of the Gospel fueled and burning brightly within us all the time. We need to treasure that Gospel more than anything.
I know that those fine Christian people during the great depression in Bloomfield, Nebraska knew the importance of their faith. Even though numerous situations threatened financial ruin for many of those folks, they couldn't face spiritual ruin too. In the face of adversity, their reliance on their Saviour grew more and more strong.
I know that these people appreciated my grandfather too. They couldn't pay him a salary, but they made sure that he had a roof over his head and food on the table. They would like to have done more, but they couldn't. They just did what they could, and that was enough. Dad remembered how tight things were at times, but they made it through. God was indeed watching over them, and he provided for them. And for that, they were very thankful.
By today's standards, people would think my grandfather was crazy. He had a household of eight people, and they were surviving on home-grown and donated food, and twenty-five borrowed dollars a month. But as a disciple of Christ, my grandfather knew that he had an important task at hand. God had placed him there for a reason. He had souls entrusted to his care, and that is what mattered most.
In our text for today, the disciples also had a very important task at hand. Jesus sent them out for a reason. He sent them out to minister to people with the gospel. Those who were faithful followers received these disciples just as they would have received Christ himself, and they saw to it that they were cared for, even if it meant just giving them a cup of cold water.
Today, we are in our own unique situation. It isn't like going through the depression. Things aren't like they were at the time of the disciples. But one thing remains unchanged, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us from our sins and guarantees our eternity in heaven. That is something we need to always treasure dearly as we continue to be fed and grow in our faith, and as we demonstrate that faith to those around us.