Going the extra smile
"Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance." ~Matthew 10:42 (The Message Bible)
We talk a lot about welcome at PPC as we do our best to live into our motto of "Real. Friendly. People." with welcome falling into the "Friendly" category.
We welcome people to use our garden outside and our building inside. A gentleman comes by once a week to use our shower, another comes by every Monday to fill a few water jugs; easy conversation comes with their visits because they feel welcomed.
And that we do those welcomes while being a very diverse group of folks who make PPC their Christian faith community reflects our efforts in doing our best to faithfully follow Jesus Christ.
Because this is right in step with the welcome we hear in Jesus' teaching that is part of the passage from which the above phrase is taken.
English translations for this passage are fairly evenly divided between using "welcoming" or "receiving," however the Message Bible uses "accepting," which also is within understanding for the Greek word that brings us our English translation; and it adds: "The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice [disciple]."
Have we ever stopped to consider that a genuine welcome can be the beginning of radically changing our world to bring it more in line with God's kingdom?
Because we don't shake hands with ourselves nor do we hug ourselves or smile at ourselves — in that moment of welcome there's an exchange.
Like the exchange when we are welcomed into somebody's house and we bring dessert.
There's a bigger gift of sharing that rises up out of this welcome and acceptance and receiving, a sharing that looks at living beyond our own personal gain and steers clear of manipulating others.
As this ripples outward, it reminds us the greatest act of God's love for all that can start with the smallest of acts between all.
Which we see as Matthew recounts Jesus wrapping up His teaching by emphasizing this practical loving-kindness as being the final result and true test of Christian discipleship.
The very same practical loving-kindness we find over 400 times in the Old Testament; the Jewish part of our Bible that Jesus brought to life.
This loving kindness is almost exclusively a characteristic of God alone. Sometimes we hear it as mercy, great kindness, and faithfulness; but even these fail to reach the real depth of this steadfast love. It's God's deep loyalty and devotion and care and concern for all people — which right now can be kind of overwhelming to try to even imagine.
The great divide across our nation; and closer to home, the recent divides in downtown Prineville with people in front of the county courthouse and people in front of city hall literally divided by Third Street.
Yet, Jesus says as we are to be welcomed and the exchange in welcoming comes with a quiet insistence that we are also to be welcoming. To welcome in somebody we might not understand if for no other reason than simply because they too are God's.
This means we might need to check ourselves and learn to accept their grace before they walk into our welcome. Or accept grace from them if we want to be welcomed by them.
Our Christian call is to welcome; to offer an embrace, cool water to fill a half dozen jugs on a hot summer day, a warm shower, a gracious audience, to cross the street.
And only then in going the extra smile across the divide will this practical loving kindness encourage trust and open up space for healing to start among all of God's people.
Mike Wilson is the pastor at Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.
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