“What Are the Rewards?”

Mt. 10:40-42 (Contemporary English Bible)
South Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship of Faith – July 2, 2017
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift

 

Matthew 10:40-42 (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.”

 

Have you noticed lately that every single store you go into is offering you a REWARDS card?

Odd, isn’t it?

Of course, what it REALLY is, is a means of getting your personal information so that they can send you more advertisements that will induce you to come into their store again, right? Smart marketing.

But those reward cards make us feel GOOD – like we’re getting a special rate or a DEAL that not everybody gets. I mean we ARE special customers and we want to FEEL like we’re special. We want to reap the REWARDS of shopping in that particular store.

And today we read …

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. 

What ARE those rewards? Do you KNOW?

What IS a “prophet’s reward?”

Well … I’m afraid it may not be what we think. I’m not so sure it’s a PLEASANT thing. But first, let’s put this reading in context.

This passage today is describing how Jesus called together the disciples and was charging them to go out into the world and share all that he had taught them. They were going to be able to do things just like HE did – heal people, raise them from the dead … but also share the Light of God with everyone they met.

He flat out tells them in a few verses BEFORE today’s reading: 31 …  do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

In other words, sharing these radical ideas that he had taught them about how people are EQUAL with each other in the sight of God … and of embracing a God who LOVES you no matter what … saying those words out LOUD can be dangerous. Some people are not going to like what you’re saying and they might try to hurt or even kill you. “Do not be afraid,” he says.

And then to TODAY’S part of the chapter: 40 “Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me.”

We – Christ’s disciples – are being sent OUT to share a dangerous message. Right?

And when we start sharing this stuff, some people won’t LIKE it because it will upset the status quo. They’ll lose some of their perks.

By saying those things and speaking the Truth about Jesus and the Kingdom of God, we are, by definition – PROPHETS in the Biblical sense. We are conveying God’s message of love and acceptance through our words and actions … just like Moses did … just like Jeremiah and Isaiah … just like Elijah and Hosea, Amos, Micah and the others.

And … well … frankly … prophets were often not liked. In fact, some were outright HATED and persecuted and beaten up … MANY were run out of town … and ALL were ridiculed.

So “the prophet’s reward” is that WE will be treated like that.

What about “the righteous person’s reward?”

Well, according to Proverbs and the Psalms – when we live righteously and show mercy, the result will be blessings from God (Proverbs 15:9; Psalm 23:6).

We seem to fare a little better in the righteous person’s reward than in the prophet’s reward.

 

But see … even with THAT phrase about faring better with “the righteous person’s reward” than with “the prophet’s reward,” I’m showing a bias, aren’t I? I’m showing a preference for wanting to be well-treated as the righteous person as opposed to being hounded and ridiculed as the prophet.

I guess that’s human nature to want the easy, fun stuff.

 

But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do, is it?

Jesus calls us to go out into the world and share his love … EVEN when the world around us – our culture – our country – our friends and family … might not want to hear it.

He calls us to be his spokesperson!

And I’m here to say that I think we have forgotten that in this country.

I’m serious.

I think that we look for the easy … and FAST … way out of hard times. I think that we look for quick solutions that don’t cost us too much because we don’t want to upset our daily routines.

 

Many of you know where I stand politically, but I want you to look at where YOU stand because what I’m going to say pertains to both sides of the political spectrum. No one is exempt and ALL of us fall short of being prophets when it comes to this, I think.

Jesus TELLS us to care for the sick, the widowed (let’s think in terms of social security for that), the homeless, the orphans (let’s include with those single mothers with dependent children), and those in prison.

Not a request. A commandment.

And he SAYS, “When you do this for the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it for me.”

No excuses.

No wiggle room.

Do it.

He teaches that we are to care for one another as God cares for us. Right?

And WE are, like the disciples, supposed to REMIND people of the will of God. We are supposed to live out those teachings. Each one of us is called to live prophetic lives.

 

So – wherever we are on the political spectrum … however you identity (Socialist – Democrat – Independent – Republican – Freedom Caucus or Tea Party), wherever you are … how is YOUR group of people doing at living out those messages and sharing them with others?

When was the last time that a Bernie supporter tried to negotiate the health care legislation with a Neo-Nazi?

When was the last time a Trump supporter tried to find common ground about health care with someone from the Resistance movement?

When was the last time that Chuck Schumer and Mike Pence sat down together to find their common ground?

And woe be unto any of us who try to suggest that they do.

Yet THAT is the role of the prophet.

 

We are ALL guilty of that silence … or that reticence to get involved and make ourselves vulnerable to ridicule like, “Don’t be so naïve. What good would THAT do?” “What … are you getting soft on our VALUES? They don’t feel like we do. What’s the sense in talking with THEM?” “Save your breath! THEY don’t care. They’re not INTERESTED in working it out … ” – whoever “they” is.

We all KNOW that “they” are just the people who are not like US.

 

And yet here we are … 241 years after that sweltering day in Philadelphia when men of good will … men of FAITH … 12 of whom were Presbyterians, I might add (that’s 21.4% of the signers) … disagreeable sorts –when they all agreed to disagree about some things (like slavery which was a HUGE obstacle to the signing of the Declaration of Independence), and they agreed to come together and COMPROMISE about others.

Our country was FORGED in the fire of robust debate and VEHEMENT disagreement but where the participants all AGREED on the rule of LAW to settle disputes.

 

Today … we don’t even have the discussions.

I can’t REMEMBER the last time I saw an honest-to-goodness DEBATE on the floor of the House or Senate. Maybe it was after 9/11 … and THAT was 16 years ago.

And, I dare say … we are the poorer for it. We are worse off for not having the debates.

 

 

But it’s not just INTERNALLY that we need to be saying these things that Jesus held dear.

It’s also Internationally!

Our COUNTRY … our NATION … needs to be a prophetic voice – what Reagan called “the shining city on the hill.” Yet I’m afraid that most of our fellow citizens (and certainly most of our LEADERS) opt, instead, for the easy … the comfortable … the feel-good position on most issues.

“Don’t rock the boat.”

“Why do WE have to lead? There are plenty of other countries to do that.”

 

Really?

We have to LEAD because it’s in our DNA.

We led the WORLD in declaring independence from an unjust sovereign. THAT had never been done before.

We were the FIRST to put ON PAPER the fact that our nation believed that every human being had certain unalienable rights, granted by the Creator and that those include the right to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

 

So how do we NOT call out countries with huge violations of civil rights that threaten the lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness for their own citizens?

If it’s good enough for us … it’s good enough for EVERYONE.

Where are WE when the Philippines government is killing drug dealers without the benefit of a trial? Where is our prophetic voice?

Where are we when Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria and 6 other countries KILL people for being gay or lesbian? Where is our prophetic voice?

Where are we when six nations in the world (Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, and Somalia) all have multiple cases of killing JOURNALISTS with impunity? No punishment for that at all.  Where is our prophetic voice?

 

As Paul wrote to the Romans in Chapter 12: 9 (KJV) “Be ye not conformed to this world.”  Or, put another way … we are to be IN the world but not OF the world …

 

That’s what we are to be …

As Christians …

As Americans …

As Children of the living God.

And the rewards for that PROPHETIC part might not always be calm and comforting … but by living out that call, we ALSO become heirs of the RIGHTEOUS reward … which is … blessings from God.

I don’t know about you, but I think in order to get those BLESSINGS, it’s worth the risk of being ridiculed, mocked and even laughed at.

Don’t you?

I think Jesus coupled these for a reason … it’s not prophet OR righteous … it’s that to be our best righteous selves, we must ALSO be prophets!

 

I don’t know … it’s just … Something to think about as we prepare to come to Christ’s table and eat with him.

Something to think about as our nation celebrates Independence Day.

Something to think about the next time we’re offered a Rewards Card … what does it really stand for?

Amen.

 

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