Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Where did you see God this week? Some of us see God in the relationships we have with and for one another. Scripture tells us God is love. We notice God where we find authentic love and compassion lived out among God’s people. Jesus’s last command was “Love others as I have loved you.” Jesus loved sacrificially, all the way to the cross. Jesus ate and drank with sinners and the lowest caste of society. Jesus spoke truth to power, advocating for the least, lost, and lonely. When we see that, we see God in action.
Jesus is talking about that very thing with His followers this morning. Where is God? “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Whoever welcomes you welcomes me. At first glance, this saying of Jesus could be a command. Everybody better be nice to you, especially if you’re on the job for God. I wonder, though, if there’s more to it than that. The implications of Jesus’s words are way broader. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me” becomes WAY deeper. In essence, Jesus is telling us that each one of us represents God in the world.
But what exactly does it mean to represent God? My friends, it means that you and I are the hands, feet, and voice of Christ. Think about the implications. In all our messiness, we are JESUS for the world. It’s our hands, feet, and voice that bring God’s love to our broken world. We shrink back, uncomfortable with the responsibility. “Woah! Lord, I CAN’T be. You alone know how much I screw up.” Yet, Jesus is really clear about this. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.”
That’s why it’s so vital to be part of a community in Christ. We help one another grow. We encourage one another to ever deeper connections with God so we CAN notice the spark of divine, the Holy Spirit, both in ourselves and others. What a revelation! It changes how we see ourselves. God loves you! That’s the beginning. God loves you wherever you are, and no matter how you might fall short. And God loves you too much to allow you to stay there. We’re constantly growing. God’s love slowly changes our attitudes, decisions, and behavior – roots OUT unloving talk, behavior, and decisions.
It’s a lifelong process. And, of course, there’s more to the story. The good news is that you ARE Jesus for the world. The harder news is everyone you meet is ALSO Jesus. That includes – well – everyone. EVERYONE has that spark of the divine. The friends and family who you hold dear and are easy to love. But the most annoying person in your sphere of influence? People with whom you agree and people with whom you don’t. Even when it’s hard, God invites you to see Jesus in EVERYONE and treat them with respect, dignity, and love. “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…”
Sometimes, sharing Christ in word and deed is a big sacrificial deal. Jesus seems to be telling us, though, that God is in the small acts of compassion just as much. Even a cup of cold water is rewarded in the Kingdom. Sometimes, we think Jesus is saying our reward for doing God’s work comes after we die. Except, time and time again, we’re reminded that grace – God’s love and forgiveness – is NOT something we can earn. We screw up all the time. God loves us simply because that’s who God is. We don’t earn a reward for being good. So, I wonder if our reward is that rich life full of peace, purpose and meaning we all crave now in the present.
Partnering with God, to bring love to this broken world, brings satisfaction and meaning to our lives. Love grows when it’s given away. WE are transformed. God saves us from our constant focus on ourselves (which is a definition for sin) as we face outward, asking guidance for what Jesus would have us do for those who are hurting.
God loves you! That’s the Good News! God loves everyone else too! That’s sometimes harder to hear, but true none-the-less. May we all notice God’s clarion call to love one another as Jesus loves us. Amen.