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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

Go in peace. Serve the Lord. This is our promise and hope, that we go out into the world always in Christ’s peace. This is also our calling, our sending, that we go as Christ’s peace.

Vicar Kelly Sandin
   The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 13, year A
   Texts: Matthew 10:41-42, Romans 6:12-23

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most Sundays, except the Easter season, we end our liturgy with “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” This dismissal is a commissioning after we’ve gathered to hear God’s word for us and have come to the table for the meal that sustains us. The meal that promises forgiveness of sin. The meal that is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrament of bread and wine that fills us with God’s presence. And then we’re sent. Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

Last week I was struck with the thought, right before I was about to speak the words of this dismissal, “Am I really thinking about what I’m saying?” Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Do we truly hear this sending? It isn’t simply the signal that the liturgy is over so we can now have coffee hour treats or get on with the plans for our day. We are literally being authorized to go into the world, now that we’ve worshipped God and been filled with God. And with God in us, we are to go and serve.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me.

These were the parting words of a long list of instructions Jesus shared with his twelve disciples before they were sent on their mission to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. They were given authority to do all kinds of things from curing the sick to casting out demons. And while doing so, they were to rely upon the hospitality of others. They had to be humble and receive food and housing from whomever would give it. And it wouldn’t be easy. They would be persecuted from town to town, but were told to let their peace come upon every house they entered and if no one welcomed them they were to let their peace return to them and move on. Shake the dust off their feet. In other words, truly go in peace because whatever happened, whether the twelve were welcomed or not their peace wouldn’t be taken from them. Jesus covered all the bases. They had what they needed for their mission, but that didn’t mean they weren’t afraid.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me and the one who sent me. Even if it’s simply giving a cup of cold water. The one giving it was welcoming God into their presence and whoever received the disciple with such a gift, a cup of water, would not lose their reward. They would see God, not only in the promised life to come, but in the present, in the faces of those they welcomed.

As the church, we continue Jesus’ ministry. God is with us in the going as we are welcomed and share the love of God in Christ Jesus. Share the reason for our hope. And for this to happen there needs to be strangers to meet and greet. Strangers who will see Christ in us. It’s hard to receive a welcome if we don’t go outside that which is comfortable. We must go and trust that God is with us and in us and will provide. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Last weekend I went to the Pride Fest right after liturgy to represent Mount Olive as a welcoming church. I kept my collar on, but contemplated not wearing it at all. In truth, sometimes I just want to blend in with the crowd and not get all the looks I often get while wearing it or have the possible expectations that come with it. As I was searching for my booth that I couldn’t find, a young man sitting on a bench met my eye with his and in a half second his whole face lit up with a beaming smile as he leaned toward me with expectancy. He seemed so happy to see me. Of course it was the collar that enabled this to happen. I smiled back and he asked if I would sit with him. In that holy moment, while I came to Pride to do the welcoming, I was the one welcomed. I’m fully aware it was the collar that enabled this privilege, but I almost didn’t wear it and would have missed an opportunity of being God’s presence in the world. Because of it, I was able to hear his pain, but also his faith. God was indeed present as I listened and while we held hands to pray. And then, since I still needed to get to my booth, he grabbed a map and helped me find it. He had given me more than a cup of cold water to quench my thirst that afternoon. His welcoming spirit allowed two strangers to connect in the middle of a crowded park and experience the mystery of the Triune God.

Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me and the one who sent me.

The joy of being received, of being welcomed is transforming. Jesus welcomes all of us with grace we don’t deserve, as we are, but doesn’t leave us that way. God’s grace changes us and enables us to love. Through God’s love we become right with God. We are forgiven. Life becomes more holy as we are aligned with God’s will. Having been set free from sin, our hearts want to become more obedient. As we go out and serve, we open ourselves up more and more to receive God’s love that never leaves us the same. Of course, it’s a way of life that requires intentional effort. It will not always come easily. We will miss opportunities and ignore the Spirit’s nudges, but when we do align ourselves with God’s desires we are blessed with unforgettable moments that makes life so worth living.

As we go and carry God with us, sharing the good news, God is welcomed and rewards us in the encounter. The one going and the one receiving is transformed. And while the ultimate reward is eternal life with God, that can never be lost, we also have the joyous reward of being received in the here and now, of truly connecting with a stranger, even for a moment, and experiencing that which is holy.

But the truth is, being welcoming has its own mistrusts and fears. It takes courage to welcome – to open the door and give a cup of water when mistrust of strangers is so prevalent. This can leave us quite vulnerable to all kinds of possibilities. Likewise to be sent brings its fears, as well. We have no idea who it is we are being sent to and what kind of person they might be. Our hesitancy to avoid encounters with strangers is understandable and many of us would rather not do it. It puts us in an extremely vulnerable place. To be obedient to God, to love our neighbor, to see God in them and pray they see God in us is a high calling. Thank God that when our fears get the best of us and we don’t follow through God doesn’t have a score card! However, we also miss out on what could have been when we shrank back from the call and played it safe instead.

As baptized Christians, we carry Christ in us and are given a mission in word and deed to serve others, to be Christ’s presence in the world. Whoever welcomes you, Jesus says, welcomes me. God needs you and all have gifts to share. Some of you are doing street ministry. You’re giving out bottles of water and talking to strangers. Some of you cook community meals and welcome those who walk in the door. Some of you are a voice for social justice and are fighting to have health care for all, advocating for our neighbors being detained and deported, confronting racism against the black community, and fighting for climate justice. Others offer the kindness of a smile and the recognition that they see the stranger among them.

Where is God calling you to serve? Are there neighbors you’ve yet to greet? Are there those you’ve avoided that might yearn to welcome you? God needs your hearts, your hands, and your relentless hope for a better world where all will give and receive God’s love.

In our time of gathering, renewed and strengthened with God’s word and meal, know Christ lives in you and Christ goes with you. In your encounters the Triune God promises to be present. You’re not alone. Go in peace and boldly serve the Lord.


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