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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT Back to Basics - Matthew 10: 24-39

Corpus Christi, Trinity Sunday, Pentecost… the big celebrations are over. This week Jesus is back to teaching the basics. And what could be more basic than the theme of Christian discipleship.

But first the disciples need a quick shot of confidence. Jesus has called them to ministry. They have left families and livelihoods to follow him. Their decisions have not been universally praised. They sense a growing hostility to Jesus and a danger to themselves. Right after telling them that: He that loses his life for my sake shall find it; Jesus comforts them saying: He that receives you receives me, and he that receives you receives him who sent me.

Beyond encouraging the disciples, there is a timeless lesson here for clergy and for congregations. As Jesus teaches: There is a price for leadership. Shepherds lay down their lives for God’s flock. It is not a job or even a career. It is a vocation… a calling from God… a matter of life and death. Answering the call requires a complete commitment to serving God’s people.
In Christ to lead means to serve… and serve… and serve. In this gospel, Jesus also instructs congregations that they must make service possible. They must welcome and support his servants as they would welcome and support him. While history and even current practice is sometimes stained with abuses, it is Christ’s own model… created for his people, not for the angels. It works if we work it… if we are faithful… if we accept that all things come right in Christ.

The whole concept of hospitality in the gospel is a surrogate for Christian charity. How very human that much of the hospitality we offer is merely an exchange for the hospitality we receive or we anticipate receiving from others. Christian charity doesn’t work that way. It’s not transactional. And it is not selective. It is a witness to the unconditional love of Christ that lifts us up and saves all who would be saved. It is not reserved for family and friends, but deliberately directed to the least among us… or as Christ calls them in this gospel: these little ones. That’s the theory, anyway. What’s the practice like?

Sadly, the world is not awash with Mother Teresa’s. Too many of us hide out in gated communities and upscale zip codes. We only see poor people on television and promptly change the channel for happier faire. But despite an increasingly cynical, secular world, hope survives. Christ’s love is alive. It is all around us.
We have many proven, practical ways to follow Christ’s command. Call them parish outreach programs; call them community food pantries. They are the great unsung success stories of grassroots faith at work, not just for the obvious support they give to the neediest, but for the vehicle of love that they provide for the faithful.

For decades now, our churches have opened their doors to those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous and its offshoots rely on church hospitality. How many lives have been rebuilt around your parish coffee pot? And for those not free to come to us, we bring hospitality to them. Parish prison ministries take the love of Christ to the people and places that need it most.

Beyond all the political uproar on immigration, there are the basic human needs of the vulnerable strangers struggling in our midst. Christ didn’t speak English. He was hounded from place to place. See him in our undocumented brothers and sisters. Closer to home, sooner or later we will all take our turn in the ranks of the needy… in sickness, in bereavement, in turmoil.
We are the Body of Christ. Materially, emotionally, spiritually… help is here for the asking. Our open Church doors are the portal to God’s healing hospitality. In the heart of our parish family, you are never alone. We teach love here, because we learn love here. We give love here, because we receive love here.

These are the basics of Christian hospitality… no surprises… nothing fancy… just an active awareness that all these “little ones” are our guests of honor… the honor of Christ. Welcome them as you would welcome him. Love them as he loves you.
eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - Proper 7A: Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:8-20; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 10:24-39

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. - Matthew 10:39

Jesus reminds the disciples that a committed journey with God does not mean living an endless life of oozing, warm feelings. It does not necessarily mean living a popular, charmed, or pain-free life; nor does it mean that a formerly low-octane, earthly life suddenly becomes "Chariots of Fire," fueled by some ecstatic expression of the Holy One. Very often God's people are asked to take on a bit of hardship for the sake of the larger vision of the Kingdom, of a calling to be of service to the neighbor.

Challenge and Opportunity:

Many of us regularly declare -- silently or aloud -- that we want to be Jesus' disciples. But, at what price? We want reconciliation, sort of. We want Christian commitment, somewhat. We wish to be sent out to do the work of the gospel, conveniently. Like parenting, most of us have come to discover that being dedicated Christians is not always easy. But Jesus squares the cost with "finding our life." Wow... in serving Christ and God's world, we will actually discover our purpose, our reason for existence. Now that's worth it!

Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck Words of Wisdom from Uncle Matt

There's a slew of advice slung around this time of year. Especially for the freshly minted high school graduate. Some is inspiring, some is heart-felt, some is clichéd, some is unsolicited but either way, there no lack of it.

Whether through commencement addresses or notes to the graduates, the opportunities for doling out advice is legion. With my eldest son, Ben, graduating from Hingham High School this year, I'm particularly aware of the abundance of advice.

One of the endearing traditions at Hingham High is the presentation of the Red Envelopes at the graduation rehearsal.

Here's the deal:

"Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, clergy and friends may send their senior student a special note of congratulations on his or her upcoming graduation. We will carefully keep these cards and notes for each student and distribute them to the seniors during their graduation rehearsal."

I had a lot of fun writing Ben's letter -- as we all did -- and am proud of him and his 2017 classmates.

The best letter he received, however, was from my brother Matt. Uncles are great, right? They can say things parents can't and Matt has always had a great relationship with Ben. I asked Matt if I could share his letter with the wider world and I do think every high school graduate could benefit from Matt's wisdom. Feel free to share it with that special graduate in your own life.

Dear Ben,

You're a high school graduate! Hurray!

One more step to go in your academic career! Well, unless you're a masochist and choose more school after college. Either way, I'm here to congratulate, support, and give some free uncle-ly advice:

The real world is where the action is, and you're right to want to zoom through college and get to the good stuff. Sure, post college life also has rules, schedules, and responsibilities, but at least they come with a paycheck. And while at school you're rewarded for great performance with a vowel, out in the real world you get handed a bigger paycheck. I know what you're thinking. It's so close, you can almost taste the freedom.

But from someone who couldn't wait to get out there and start achieving, take a deep breath. Slow down. You're about to learn the big things that will help make you successful in the real world. And don't worry -- I'm mostly talking about things outside a classroom. Here's my list of things you need from college, things that will make you succeed when it's over, but
that you can't rush through:

1. Live without mom and dad. Seems simple, but it's an adjustment whether you believe it or not.

2. Manage your time. Successful people do this without teachers or parents nagging them.

3. Learn how to hold your liquor. It's better in business when the other guy is more drunk than you.

4. Learn internal motivation. The role of grownup as authoritarian is over. That's a blessing and a curse. Make it a blessing.

5. Make deep friendships. That just happens at college. And you'll need them. And they'll be there when you do.

6. Question stuff. But don't just ask why in a late night philosophical way. Ask how to change and improve. Then do it.

7. Don't date one person the whole time. But don't date a hundred people either.

8. Go abroad for a semester or a year. Just do it.

9. Don't drop out. No matter what. You need the piece of paper. 0.1% of the time it works out and you only hear about those.

10. Be a brash and confident kid. But eventually, be humble. And thankful. Arrogance doesn't win in the end.

Have the best time! I'll be visiting you and checking up on this list!

Congrats, Ben.


Uncle Matt

What's Matt doing these days? He's doing his usual entrepreneurial thing, currently serving as the Vice-President for Admissions at Smartly, the online MBA company. Previously he led the global growth strategy as Executive Vice-President at Rosetta Stone. Oh, and he went to Williams College.

Happy graduation season, everyone!

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