the 4th sunday after pentecost
the PRAYER. . .
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
the READING. . .
[Jesus said to the twelve:] “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
the DEVOTION. . .
The word ‘reward’ is an important one for Matthew. It’s used twenty-six times in the New Testament, half of which are right here in Matthew. Reward for welcoming a prophet. Reward for welcoming a righteous person. Reward for giving a cup of cold water. And that’s only a few. Always a transaction. Always a trade-off. Buy-and-sell. Something-for-something. This-for-that. God doesn’t give … unless. God doesn’t give … until.
Paul, on the other hand, uses the word ‘reward’ only four times. But the word ‘grace’ he uses seventy-four times! Grace! Charity! Love! A word that Matthew uses not even once. For Paul, it’s all gift! Free! Unearned! Undeserved! “What do you have,” he asks the Corinthians, “that you didn’t receive?” Of course, the answer he expects is, “Nothing!”
In both – in Matthew and in Paul – god gives. But in the former, god gives only after receiving. In the latter, god gives … period! Gives because that is who god is! Gives because that is what god does!
Bob Barndt, pastor