First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Neil H. Wilson, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


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There’s No Hiding Place Down Here

~ Sermon ~ Sunday, July 2, 2017 ~ Pastor Neil Wilson

 

There’s No Hiding Place Down Here

Matthew 10:40 – 11:1

 

“We have it in us to be Christ’s to each other . . .

   to work miracles of love and healing as well as to have them worked upon us.”

Frederick Buechner writer, poet, theologian and Presbyterian minister made this assertion in A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces.  It could have been a commentary on our reading from Matthew’s Gospel. These closing words of Jesus’ instructions and warnings as he sends the twelve out like “… sheep into the midst of wolves”  (10:16)  

This passage contains the heart of Matthew’s gospel: a ageless call for the church to go out into the world in Christ’s name, as well as to receive and welcome the “little ones” of the world in Christ’s name.  

When we read of giving a cup of cold water to the “little ones” perhaps our first thought is serving or feeding the children.  Which is partially true, but mikros (Greek)refers not only to children but to those considered inferior and vulnerable. 

This term “little ones” if it sounds like something else Jesus said, it should, for later in Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 25) Jesus speaks of serving the “least of these.”  And Jesus will tell us that as we serve the “least of these” we are actually serving Him.  It is in this same chapter we get a clue as to what the “reward” will be for those who indiscriminately meet human needs: Jesus says they inherit the Kingdom.  The ones who have given food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited those in prison are the ones who will know blessing, who will have both encountered Christ and embodied Christ. 

Mother Teresa in her book Words to Love By reminds us that every day we encounter Christ in “distressing disguise.” We find Him in those “hungry not only for bread, but hungry for love; naked not only for clothing, but naked for human dignity and respect; homeless but not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection.”

Although our social and cultural context maybe vastly different from that of Jesus and then Matthew’s, the church’s call is the same: in spite of any and all opposition, we are to go out into the world, to alleviate human suffering and meet real needs.  And as we offer these miracles of loving and healing through the offering of hospitable deeds and actions equivalent to the cup of cold water, we also go as those open to having the miracle of hospitality “worked upon us.”

In other words, we are called to both represent Christ to the stranger and to encounter Christ in the stranger.

Often though, the church is thought of as a place where we can go to meet Christ, and find a time and place to receive comfort and restoration.  Which it is for sure. The church is meant to be a place where the hurting and wounded in body and spirit can find compassionate care and safety. The Church is after all referred to in Scripture as the body of Christ.  But as pastor and author Barbara Brown Taylor reminds the church, “we are not merely consumers but also providers of God’s love.” 

We’re not supposed to use the church solely as a place of to meet our own needs.  For time to time yes, we can and should find the church a place to find personal healing and wholeness.  But ultimately, Barbara Brown Taylor goes on to say, that the church is not a “hideout . .  not the place where those of us who know the secret password can gather to celebrate our good fortune,. . . ” 

When I read this I found myself humming  the tune of the old country, blue grass gospel song, There’s No Hiding Place Down Here.  One verse goes like this:

There’s no hiding place down here

There’s no hiding place down here

Well, I run to the rock just to hide my face

And the rocks cried out, no hiding place

There’s no hiding place down here

Just as I was writing these words, four young women came into the church.  They were employed at the Weather Vane Terrace as seasonal chambermaids.  Two were from Turkey the other two from China.  After working through some significant translation obstacles, I learned they were looking for affordable bicycles.  Two bicycles would be enough they could share. I made three phone calls and within 5 minutes had options of four bicycles for them.  They were not looking for much, just something less expensive than the retail price of bicycles at the local shops and stores.   Was this a “cup of cold water?”

You know one of the things I realize is that by having an office person and our church building open as much as we do, we often find ourselves as the church where things such as this happen.

We are the church whose purple doors are not locked! 

Now, I do not presume to know the complete mind of Jesus, but I think Jesus would have told his disciples, if it were the 21st century, to not lock your doors.  To be open for business, his business, to be what is talked about today as a “missional” church.  

 

In our Tuesday morning Bible study lesson we read about how with Jesus and the early church there seems to have been far more emphasis on helping and comforting, healing and  raising than on the exact words and teaching they (we?) should use.  More emphasis on the doing than on the saying, more emphasis on doing good that on holding the “correct” beliefs.  Later Church Councils would argue over the words and “correct belief”, for the time being the Holy Spirit would be enough.

There is no such thing as church that is not a missional church.  Inasmuch as the church in its local and denominational expressions has been preoccupied with institutional survival, rather than being God’s witnesses sent into the world to bless all people, we have essentially not been the church.

So it is good to have unlocked doors, not only does it allow others access, but more importantly, through them we are sent out into the world and out there we are to be witnesses of Christ and to be witnessed to by the presence of Christ in others.  Even the least of these, no,  especially the least of these! 

The church is not a place to play “hide and seek!” In the same way God found Adam and Eve hiding in the garden God will seek us out, out of the church and into the streets and homes and neighborhoods where there are little ones in need of a cold cup of water or maybe a couple of bicycles.

 

Listen to the Audio version below by clicking on “Download File” and enjoy.