Today’s brief passage from the teachings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel contains a simple and straightforward message: In the life of discipleship we find fulfillment by turning outward from self and toward others.
When we show hospitality, welcome, and care to others, we participate in a chain of grace that extends back to Jesus and the God who sent him. When we show kindness to others, not in our own name but in the name of a disciple, a righteous person, a prophet, or Jesus himself, then we participate in the chain of grace that leads back to God as the giver of grace.
Our human tendency is to perform acts of kindness and hospitality as occasions to feel good about ourselves or to enhance our self-importance. But Jesus teaches that true discipleship is to do good not on our own behalf but in the name of the wider community of witnesses, who reach out to us and who went before us.
In this brief teaching, Jesus gives special importance to our turning toward “little ones.” It is not clear exactly who is meant; perhaps those new in the faith, perhaps those who are more vulnerable in our communities. But the theme is the same: Discipleship calls us to turn outward to others not in our own name but in the name of the wider community of which we are a part.
In accordance with the theme of our texts this week, such a turning requires both obedience and freedom, grounded in our trust in God, who is the source of grace in Jesus Christ.
Lord, help us to turn away from ourselves and join in the service of others as part of a wider community of prophets, righteous witnesses, and disciples who channel your grace into our world. Strengthen us to be obedient to your will, willing to freely choose the path of your grace, and help us to trust that you will travel with us on the path of righteousness. Amen.
The passages this week highlight several different themes. Abraham is put to the ultimate test. There is no denying how terrifying God’s request must have been, yet Abraham ultimately is commended for his faith. We will not face this same challenge, but are there things dear to our hearts that God is asking us to give up? The psalmist is in deep despair and weary from awaiting God’s deliverance, yet even now there is confidence. Paul continues to instruct the Romans about the necessity of living a new life, no longer being slaves to the desires of the flesh. Jesus teaches that when we receive those doing his work, we receive him. When we interact with pastors, missionaries, and even nursery workers, do we treat these servants as Jesus himself?
Read Genesis 22:1-14. What has this familiar story meant to you in your faith? How do you embody or struggle against this type of obedience and trust?
Read Psalm 13. When has your lament allowed you to move from anger with God to praise? How long did that process take?
Read Romans 6:12-23. How does the definition of death as a life cut off from God rather than a biological reality change your understanding of this passage? How might incorporating this definition of death change your life?
Read Matthew 10:40-42. Who is in your wider community of witnesses? How does their example prompt you to turn to others in service?
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