“Where Christ Has Always Been” June 28, 2020
“Where Christ Has Always Been”
When Ted Hustead purchased a small town drugstore in Wall, So. Dakota back in 1931, he had no idea that in his lifetime, Wall Drug would be known all around the world from the North Pole to Antarctica. According to Wikipedia, “Hustead was a Nebraska native and pharmacist who was looking for a small town with a Catholic church in which to start his business. He bought Wall Drug, located in a 231-person town in what he referred to as ‘the middle of nowhere,’ and strove to make a living. Business was very slow until his wife, Dorothy, thought of advertising free ice water to parched travelers heading to the newly opened Mount Rushmore monument 60 miles to the west. From that time on business was brisk.”
Since those days, the Husteads have mounted an incredible marketing campaign and customers from all over the world have helped spread the word about this place “in the middle of nowhere.” Believe it or not, there are signs advertising Wall Drug all the way from Afghanistan to Antarctica. And to think, it all started with an offer of “Free ice water.”
You know what would be great? It would be great if we could study this closing statement that Jesus made to his disciples and say, “O, here it is, verse 42: ‘I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded. See? It’s all about hospitality and we’re all about hospitality. So, we’re good, right?” O, that it were all that simple. So, to get back to basics, I’d like to visit this important scripture once more; this time from the CEB:
Matthew 10:40-42 Common English Bible (CEB)
40 “Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. 41 Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded.”
For hours – maybe days – Jesus had been drilling his disciples about what to expect when they went out to preach the Kingdom. He had been teaching them how to act-how to be– when things went well and when things went badly. There would be rejection, there would be downright animosity. Through it all, the message remains the same: It’s not about you. It’s about the Kingdom of God. So when he tells them (vs. 41) Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. – when he tells them this, he is drawing a straight line between their efforts and their work to the very presence of God. This is powerful stuff. And then he goes on to say to them, (vs. 41) Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. All this talk about bringing people to Christ and God himself along with the rewards of prophets and the righteous – why this all sounds too good to be true! These disciples, let’s remember, were amateurs. Yet here they were being sent to represent the savior of mankind. It’s a sure thing that it wasn’t going to work if they headed off with too high an opinion of themselves. For those of us who are called to a life in Christ, the message is always the same: it is not about us; it is about God.
Don Shula was the longtime and very successful head coach of the Miami Dolphins football team. One time he was on vacation in a very rural part of Maine. The local library advertised the showing of a recently popular movie on a Saturday night. This was in the days before the internet and the TV reception was almost non-existent in those woods, so the Shula family was very excited to go to the movies that night. When they walked in just a few minutes before it was to start, everyone stood up and gave them a standing ovation. Shula thought, “Isn’t that something. Even way out here they know me!” His excitement only lasted a few minutes. Someone told him, “Boy, are we glad to see you! You see, we have to have 15 people or they won’t show the movie. Your family pushed the crowd to 17.” The welcome, the applause, really wasn’t for Don Shula after all. They were just happy that he showed up.
Which brings us to the final verse in the 10th chapter of Matthew: (vs. 42) I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded.” See what he did here? The disciples were surely feeling a little proud at this point. For the first time they saw themselves connected with the prophets, and to Jesus, and even to God. And then the tables are turned and they were reminded that they are the “little ones” in the Kingdom of God. In just a few verses, the disciples were led away from thinking how important they are to considering their call to be the least important people in the Kingdom. This, after all, is the way of Christ; this is the humility of Christ. Rev. Delmer Chilton adds this thought: “When Jesus bestows upon little ones, disciples, the same worth as prophets and righteous persons, even the same value as God; when Jesus does this – he has done an incredibly radical and un-heard of thing. And it is to just this sort of radical and unheard-of thing which we modern day disciples and sent ones, we 21st century prophets and persons who aspire to be righteous, have been called.”
The times we live in are challenging at best. That goes without saying. It seems our social and political norms are vanishing right before our eyes. As the Church Curmudgeon says, “The warm breeze you feel on your face is just the handbasket picking up speed.” But I am hopeful about one thing: the church. For hundreds of years, people of faith have struggle with an identity crisis, of sorts. We’ve built huge cathedrals, painted works of art, and composed music that would make the angels cry. The glory of God was never up for debate, but where we fit in was (is) always an issue. A quick look in the Yellow Pages at the number of denominations that exist gives us an idea how that whole thing has played out. But my hope comes from the fact that all around the world, the faithful have been forced out of their churches. No longer can we say that we go to such-and such church – because we don’t. This, in itself, is awful. Our churches are valuable assets to our communities, to the needy, and as a place to worship. But I am hopeful. I’m hopeful that all around the world, millions of people will find themselves looking to find Christ in ways that don’t involve the church. And I’m hopeful that when they do, they will find him where he has always been: with the helpless and the poor, with the sick and the needy. I’m hopeful that we will find Christ where he has always been – ready to receive us with open arms as “little ones” who have found their reward.
Amen & Shalom