I have to admit I don’t watch much cable news. Craig and I don’t have television, but (don’t get me wrong) we watch things on-line, we listen to the radio, we read papers.
Whenever I go to my parents I watch the news with them on T.V. It is actually a bit shocking. It is culturally really different not to be acclimated to the intensity of news broadcasts, of propaganda, advertising etc.
I always have to make an adjustment. I have to ask myself what is being portrayed, how is it being portrayed etc.
Well, this week I saw a spot on Sesame Street.
Maybe some of you also caught it…
I was a Sesame Street baby (born in the same year as its inception: 1969). Sesame Street has been a household name for more than fifty years. Some years ago, my niece was shocked to learn that her favorite muppet Elmo wasn’t on Sesame Street when I was growing up. She believed the whole show was built around him. He actually showed up in 1980 as a bit part who quickly grew to fame!
But I digress…
Sesame Street’s spotlight on the news was about their work with children in Ukraine; to help them cope emotionally with war. They made quick mention that Sesame Street also visited Iraq. I found this all so moving that I began researching Sesame Street.
Did you know that Sesame Street is working in 150 countries across the globe helping children to learn, and to cope with their environments?
I was surprised the newscaster said, the children in Ukraine are actually “blessed” with the advantage of media, technology and equipment for streaming and broadcasting.
She actually used the word “blessing.” (Good for her!)
It is a blessing. The Sesame Street website has images of children with puppets in refugee camps...places where they don’t all have internet. Sesame Street has programs in classrooms and clinics bringing lessons to over a million displaced children in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.
These programs build relationship; are life affirming, bringing consolation and joy to children. These are the avenues, the activities where God dwells.
In our Gospel today, Jesus is essentially saying, Whatever relationship you welcome, you will receive the fruit of that relationship.
TO repeat this short gospel:
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. …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.”
Essentially he is saying Love God, Love the Way, Love Doing Right, Even the smallest thing counts.
He is saying give to the “least of these”…
In Jesus day the idea of Giving something freely to a child you do not know made no sense. It isn’t an equal exchange. Giving to the “least of these” is somehow not going to be beneficial to me. What am I going to get out of it.…? Jesus has a lot to say about giving freely throughout the Gospels. It is his form of radical welcome.
We still struggle with this. What is fair, who deserves what.
We say our days are numbered. So in that time, in that ordinary time, let’s give what we’ve got.
It is not too little.
Love is not about getting what you want, but about giving all that you can.
We can help other people with the smallest deeds of kindness. In a deed of kindness are the seeds of both welcome and hope.
The Gospel passage reminded me of the earlier passage in Matthew in which Jesus speaks about loving your enemies. (Here he is reiterating to his disciples what he said on the sermon on the mount.)
What good is it if you only love those who love you? Even the tax collectors do that. If you greet only your brothers, what is extraordinary about you? Even the Gentiles do that….
No, Jesus’ way is one of extraordinary welcome and hospitality.
As Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Sin is that state when we are separated from God by our own actions.
We do things that hurt ourselves and one another and break that special life affirming and loving connection to our maker.
Here, Paul is speaking about sin, but also speaking about hope. Paul says in Christ you are no longer separated from God. Sin has no dominion over you. Now you have grace.
The sin of war we are experiencing today is a huge separation from God. We not only lose our minds at these times of war (lose our moral compass); our hearts are so broken that the space for God that dwells in our hearts is torn all apart.
We have created separation where there was once an effort for unity and communion…Jesus came for all of the nations, for all of the marginalized.
This week, in the midst of so much war and in the midst of so many controversial social issues, Sesame Street gave me hope.
It reminded me the blessing of welcome is ours to give even in the midst of the sin of war.
Hope can be found on a street that reaches out globally and in diversity.
A street where young children come to know people of all races and colors as mentors; and artists and musicians as teachers and guides.
Programs like Sesame Street bring light, they teach love, they teach tolerance, they teach welcome.
The puppets and their human companions teach us that
what color our skin is; What texture our hair is doesn’t matter.
As Jesus said last week, with consistent love and welcome, in giving away freely, we may find our life someday.
That day will come when not only the prophet preaches peace, but all of us strive to offer a little welcome, offer a bit of ourselves without anything in return…
The real reward will be great.
“For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever.”